Boris Johnson’s Spell Over the Conservative Party has been Broken
Johnson’s authority over his party and the country is rapidly draining away – as was evident at another difficult Prime Minister’s Questions, reports Adam Bienkov
You could almost see the authority drain away from Boris Johnson’s Government as the former Conservative MP Christian Wakeford crossed the floor of the House of Commons chamber flanked by Labour MPs on Wednesday lunchtime.
His dramatic defection to the Labour Party, timed for the start of Prime Minister’s Questions, came as Johnson’s opponents in the party say they are close to toppling him.
One Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister told Byline Times on Tuesday evening that things were “unwinding pretty fast now” the Prime Minister.
They said that, while some MPs were waiting for the publication of Sue Gray’s report into the Downing Street parties before submitting their letter calling for Johnson to resign, the consensus was that a challenge is now a question of “when, not if”.
Among those now publicly calling for him to resign is the Conservative MP and former leadership candidate David Davis who stood up in the chamber today for one of the most dramatic interventions in parliamentary history.
Quoting Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain, Davis told the Prime Minister: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”
Johnson replied – unconvincingly for a biographer of Winston Churchill – that “I don’t know what he’s talking about”.
It is moments like these that mark the end of political careers.
For years now, Boris Johnson has managed to convince people that he has an almost supernatural electoral ability. Much of this reputation has been ill-deserved.
His two electoral victories to become Mayor of London were against a candidate, in Ken Livingstone, who was coming to the end of his political career; and his subsequent return to national politics was against one of the most unpopular opposition leaders in modern history.
But, whatever the worth of this reputation, Johnson has now destroyed it. In recent months, he has presided over a truly calamitous series of self-inflicted crises. His botched handling of the Owen Paterson affair, multiple U-turns and his lies about parties in Downing Street have all combined to destroy his authority both in the Conservative Party and the country.
This current challenge against him may not succeed. Conservative MPs may decide it is not yet the time to depose him, just as they initially did with Theresa May.
But, whatever happens in the next few days and weeks, the spell that Johnson has long held over his party and the country has been broken. It is surely only a matter of time before he is forced to walk away.