The ‘Second Coming’ of Boris JohnsonShows the Conservatives are a Party Woefully Out of Ideas
That the scandal-prone former Prime Minister is even being discussed as a replacement for Liz Truss proves how out-of-touch with reality the governing party now is, writes George Llewelyn
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Liz Truss’ resignation speech was much like the rest of her premiership – haphazard, uncomfortable to watch, and almost comically short.
Unlike her predecessor, her dispatching at the hands of Conservative MPs was decidedly undramatic. She came to power, tanked the pound, and was swiftly removed. That the pound bounced back almost immediately after her one minute and 30 second resignation speech is perhaps the most embarrassing part of the whole sorry affair.
The speed and efficiency of her defenestration seemed uncharacteristic of a party that has come to be defined by chaos. Had the Conservatives learned their lesson, after the tales of manhandling in the House of Commons lobby the night before, and finally understood how to behave with dignity in public? There was a glimmer of hope. And then everyone started talking about Boris Johnson.
Nobody, with the exception of the frightfully unserious Nadine Dorries, wants to see this man return to Downing Street (and the less said about her the better). But two things are unfortunately the case: one, any candidate who secures more than 100 nominations from fellow MPs will automatically become the next Conservative leader; and two, according to both Guido Fawkes and Sky News, Johnson appears to be mounting an early lead (although some are contesting these counts).
Donald Trump fundamentally changed the US Republican Party forever by snatching its most respected scalps one after the other in a series of ever bloodier primary debates in 2015. In 2019, Boris Johnson did the same – only he did it quietly and behind the scenes. He quickly cast out the party grandees, many of whom had experience governing, and replaced them with inexperienced and almost uniformly incompetent loyalists.
The result was a slew of Conservative Cabinets consisting of politicians nobody had ever heard of and none of whom were any good. This has undoubtedly been the cause of much of the chaos we have seen form the Conservatives in recent years – much of it playing out in front of real conservatives like Dominic Grieve and Peter Oborne, who have been watching from the sidelines in horror, as one might watch an ex spouse burn down your house.
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Boris Johnson so successfully gutted the Conservative parliamentary party that there was simply no decent option to replace him. This fact held his MPs at bay for a while but ultimately even that wasn’t enough – and so we ended up with Liz Truss. As awful as she seemed and then turned out to be, according to Conservative Party members, there was no one better available.
So if Truss was the best the party could do last time around, where could it possibly go next?
Whispers from the lobby suggest that both the pro- and anti-Johnson MPs are equally convinced he will reach, and perhaps even exceed, the threshold to bypass a members’ vote and become prime minister once more. There is also a good chance he would win a ballot of party members in any case. And this is the real danger facing the Conservative Party.
The very fact that Boris Johnson is even a contender, let alone being hailed in whispers as a plausible winner of this leadership race, shows that this is a party completely out of ideas. How, for some of its MPs, neither Rishi Sunak nor Penny Mordaunt would be better replacements is hard to understand. There is no one credible left and nowhere left to turn – except for Johnson. The Conservative Party has run aground a mile off shore and it can think of nothing else to do but keep running the engines at full steam.
There is a chance that Johnson could win and may even use the opportunity to do a proper job (as much as Boris Johnson can do a proper job) and save his legacy. But I doubt it. In the end, he might not win, but the fact we’re even discussing the prospect says it all.
The death knell has sounded for the Conservative Party, it sounded a long time ago and so many times since that the remix is going viral on TikTok. But joking aside, with Johnson at the helm or not, the best thing for the Tories would be a long stretch in opposition – about 12 years should do it.
George Llewelyn is the co-creator and co-producer of ‘Byline TV’