Boris Johnson is Leaving Downing Street& Bringing All of Us Down with Him
The Prime Minister’s disgraceful long exit from Government is damaging both his own party and the country, reports Adam Bienkov
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Nothing became his premiership like the leaving of it.
Boris Johnson’s decision to throw his long-term critic, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, out of the Parliamentary Conservative party on Tuesday is just the latest episode in the Prime Minister’s increasingly disgraceful long exit from Downing Street.
Ellwood, who was one of the first Conservative MPs to call on the PM to resign back in February, was expelled by Johnson after the MP failed to turn up for a confidence motion in the Government.
Ellwood was among a total of 12 Conservative MPs who didn’t attend the vote on Monday evening, yet was the only one stripped of the whip.
His non-attendance does not appear to have been a deliberate snub. The MP was due to meet the President of Moldova as part of his role as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. Other Conservative MPs who were also abroad during the vote were not similarly stripped by Johnson. Sources close to Ellwood suggest that he was unable to get a flight back in time for the vote.
In the past two weeks Johnson, and his supporters, have been deliberately engineering a myth that he is somehow being undemocratically removed from office… Like Trump
However, the decision to strip him of the whip does have the happy consequence for Johnson of depriving Penny Mordaunt of one vote in the Conservative leadership contest. This means that the Prime Minister’s preferred successor Liz Truss’ chances of making the final round have now increased.
Despite publicly stating that he would keep out of the race to choose his successor, Johnson has been deeply involved. From the start, he made it abundantly clear that he is determined to prevent the current frontrunner, Rishi Sunak from winning, with allies briefing that he wants “revenge” against the former Chancellor.
A Vengeful PM
The gap between Johnson’s rhetoric of wanting to remain in post to “serve” the country, could not be more distant from the reality of his recent actions.
This morning, as Johnson moved against Ellwood, his Cabinet presented him with a gift in order to “thank him for his service to the country”.
Yet as Johnson continues his protracted exit, it is now overwhelmingly clear that he is only interested in serving himself.
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Today temperatures in the UK reached the highest levels ever recorded. Yet in the last week, Johnson missed multiple emergency COBRA meetings on the record-breaking heatwave. On Saturday he failed to attend one such meeting in order to instead take part in a photo opportunity aboard an RAF jet. Later that weekend he invited friends and family to a private party in his grace and favour mansion in Chequers.
Following the party, Johnson went on to miss another COBRA meeting on Monday afternoon, with Downing Street unable to provide any explanation for where he had been instead.
Asked why the Prime Minister was able to find the time to take a joyride on an RAF jet, but was not able to find the time to attend emergency meetings to deal with the heatwave, his spokesman made the ludicrous claim that it was important for the PM to get a first-hand experience of the work of a fighter pilot.
When the Prime Minister did eventually reappear, late on Monday, it was in order to call a confidence vote in his own Government. During the debate he embarked on a long and graceless speech in the House of Commons, in which he once again attacked the independent judiciary, and falsely accused the leader of the opposition of somehow being in league with the “deep state” in order to undemocratically cancel Brexit.
This language, which echoes words used by the former US President Donald Trump, is deeply irresponsible. In the past two weeks Johnson, and his supporters, have been deliberately engineering a myth that he is somehow being undemocratically removed from office. Like Trump, who spread the idea that the presidential election had been stolen, which then led to the storming of the Capitol, there is no basis for Johnson’s claim.
In a parliamentary democracy, voters elect individual MPs, but the Prime Minister is ultimately elected by members of the governing party. It is misleading at best, and dangerous at worst, for Johnson and his supporters to be encouraging the idea that there is anything undemocratic about the method of his departure. The Prime Minister lost the support of his party and so had to quit, just as Theresa May did, and just as many other former premiers did before them.
When Starmer finally rose to respond to Johnson’s statement, he set out in great detail exactly why the Prime Minister had to go. Johnson’s long record of lies, broken promises and scandal meant that he no longer had the trust of his party or the country. Yet as an increasingly red-faced Prime Minister listened to him, arms folded, the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries sat beside him shouting “you’re boring” at the Labour leader.
When Boris Johnson first became Prime Minister back in 2019, he promised that he would be an outward-looking, liberal and “one nation” Conservative leader.
He has instead shown himself to be an authoritarian, disgraced and entirely self-obsessed premier, who has shown willingness at every turn to undermine any institution that threatens to put even the slightest check on his powers.
One of those institutions most damaged by the Johnson era has been the Conservative Party itself.
When his successor ultimately does take office, they will inherit a party that is more divided than at any point since John Major was Prime Minister. With a general election due to take place within two years, it is this legacy above all else that may prove to be what he is most remembered for.
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