The Prime Minister was swept into power, with little consideration for his suitability for the job, by the same forces now deserting him, reports Adam Bienkov

Boris Johnson is running out of friends fast.

On Tuesday, the Conservative benches in the House of Commons were almost entirely empty of members of the Government and on Wednesday morning not a single minister was put up for the daily morning broadcast interviews in order to defend him.

And as Johnson prepares for Prime Minister’s Questions, the front pages of almost every national newspaper are leading on his attendance at a party at Downing Street at the height of the first Coronavirus lockdown.

Senior Conservative MPs told Byline Times that Johnson’s position is now close to terminal and “impossible to defend” in public, with views in the party rapidly “hardening” against the Prime Minister.

“Ministerial colleagues are dreading being asked to do the morning [broadcast] round at the moment”, one senior Conservative MP told Byline Times. “It is impossible to defend, that’s the trouble.”

Conservative MPs have been venting their anger on private WhatsApp groups with many now saying that they are close to the point where they will need to ditch the Prime Minister.

“His position is not yet perceived by the party as completely irrecoverable but it’s close to it,” said one former minister. “He’s just taken a few more notches on the dial to irretrievability.”

Even if Conservative MPs do now believe that the Prime Minister’s days are numbered, there is little agreement on when and how his exit should be approached.

“It’s the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about,” the former minister added.

The Press Turns

While Boris Johnson is clearly losing friends in Parliament rapidly, it is his fall from grace among the British media that has been the most remarkable.

Although often lauded by commentators for his supposedly ‘Teflon’ ability to overcome scandal, the reality is that this ability was only afforded to Johnson by those sections of the press that were willing to allow him to overcome it.

His fall in recent months has come about, not through any noticeable change in his own behaviour, but through the fact that those parts of the British press that have long excused and facilitated his worst behaviour have, for whatever reason, decided that his time has now run out.

This shift has encouraged a pack-like mentality in the rest of the press, which has in turn freed the hand of some broadcast journalists to tread where they normally would not.

The shift in approach from the Daily Mail in particular, with its hefty print audience and huge online presence, has been particularly damaging for Johnson.

For years, it was fashionable for commentators to talk about the decline in the influence of the British press. Yet, for all these premature obituaries, the events of the past few months have shown that its influence on public opinion is as strong, if not more strong, than ever.

The Prime Minister is, in many respects, a creation of the media. A former political journalist himself, he rose to prominence through writing exaggerated, and in some cases entirely fabricated, reports about the European Union from his desk in Brussels. Later, his deliberately bumbling appearances on the BBC’s Have I Got News For You panel show made him a household name and helped propel him into office as London’s first Conservative Mayor.

Back then, his actual performance as Mayor was barely scrutinised by the British press or broadcasters, with almost all discussion focusing on his personal ambitions and rivalry with the then Prime Minister David Cameron.

When he later re-entered politics in Westminster, the focus remained on these personal ambitions and his poor performance as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May was barely touched upon. With so much focus placed on the question of whether Johnson would ever become Prime Minister, little attention was ever paid to the question of whether he should.

The result is that he was eventually swept into a position which it is now abundantly clear, even to many of his own supporters, that he was entirely unsuitable for.

Few will be shedding a tear for Johnson, not least in the general public – a clear majority of whom now say that he should resign.

However, if Johnson is ousted as Prime Minister by the same parts of the press that just two years ago lauded him as Britain’s saviour, then questions need to be asked about exactly how and why this was all allowed to happen.


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