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Boris Johnson’s evitable inevitable downfall

My paper paper and the online version of the Times have different headlines this morning. Royalty fills the paper, but online the focus has returned to the Commons:

Politics live: Boris Johnson faces confidence vote tonight

  • Sir Graham Brady announces confidence vote in PM to be held at 6pm
  • Rebels fear they do not have 180 votes to oust Johnson
  • Memo from backbench MPs brands PM ‘Conservative Corbyn’
  • PM booed outside St Paul’s thanksgiving service for Queen

    Boris Johnson faces a vote of confidence in his leadership today after the threshold of Tory MPs calling for him to go was reached.

    In a statement Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, revealed that 54 MPs — amounting to a 15 per cent of the parliamentary party — had now lost faith in Johnson’s leadership and want to oust him.

    The vote will take place between 6pm and 8pm tonight with an announcement of the result to follow shortly afterwards.

  • Perhaps I should mention for foreign readers that this is an internal Party vote of Conservative MPs, not a vote of the House of Commons as a whole.

    Though the prime minister will – probably – win the vote, to be facing it at the hands of his own party relatively soon after winning a huge Parliamentary majority is an embarrassment. He has lost his magic, and for what? There might have been a sort of glamour about a prime minister throwing it all away to sport with Cytheris, but Boris threw it all away to sport with Secret Santa.

    I am fascinated by the question of whether his troubles were inevitable or not.

    At the start, of course, they were more evitable than Eva Duarte. Boris Johnson, like Agustin Magaldi in the musical, could have evaded all this bother simply by saying “No” to the offer of some illegal fun that probably wasn’t all that much fun anyway. But he said “Yes”. Repeatedly. Involving hundreds of people, all of whom had these new “mobile phone” thingies that have cameras.

    What an idiot! Could he not have foreseen that it was inevitable that someone would blab?

    Well, yes and no. In the end someone did, but it took long enough. The Ur-party took place in May 2020, but the first “Partygate” stories only appeared in the press in late November 2021. Am I the only person who is oddly impressed by this?

    22 comments to Boris Johnson’s evitable inevitable downfall

    • Johnathan Pearce

      I suspect that civil servants -most of whom are opposed to Brexit – wanted to bring him down. The long arm of Dominic Cummings is also suspected.

    • Natalie Solent (Essex)

      True, but both the anti-Brexit civil servants and the very pro-Brexit Dominic Cummings held off for a long time.

    • djm

      I’m not too concerned about the argument “they broke the rules”

      The most important point raised by the “Partygate revelations” is that the brightest & best informed people in the UK – with unfettered access to the best & most uptodate data – evidently decided that the threat posed by Covid was negligible.

      I’m concerned – and more than a tad annoyed – that the media are complicit with the political class in not highlighting this salient point

    • I find it more interesting how Boris Johnson is the only one of the hypocrites coming under political pressure.

      The Finnish PM went clubbing despite being a close contact; the Israeli PM told Israelis not to go abroad but sent his family on a vacation to Cyprus; lots of American politicians flout the mask mandates they inflict on everybody else; but somehow, it’s only thoughtcriminal Boris Johnson who is expected to face any consequences.

    • Daniel

      I’m not impressed by how long it took to be released.

      The news broke and was heavily promoted by the BBC right in time for the run up to the May local elections.

      It’s amazing how often an anti Tory story makes the headlines in the BBC just before an election.

    • Stonyground

      Partygate is an important matter for the reasons being outlined here but I think that Net Zero is a far more serious issue. If the insane impositons that are being implemented are not stopped we face certain economic ruin. The fact that there are no main parties standing against it means that there are no democratic routes to preventing this.

    • JohnK

      Stonyground:

      Isn’t it odd that the woke now denounce anyone born in the past for not having the social and environmental views of a 21st century social justice warrior? I wonder how people in the future (if there is one) will judge the current western groupthink about a harmless trace gas in the atmosphere? It’s like a modern version of the witch craze, and about as rational.

    • Patrick Crozier

      It is interesting to contrast the delay in this case – months – with the delay in Dominic Cummings’s case – days. I suspect someone has been sitting on this for a while.

    • Patrick

      Partygate is a factor. Brexit too. But is it not mainly that BoJO is a vision free, spendy, taxy, illiberal socialist? The trendy poodle of Carrie Antoinette? I think the Tory party wants a leader who is a bit more obviously a Maggie fan – not someone who is balls deep in net zero level tosh of various flavours.

    • JohnK

      Patrick:

      I’d like to believe that were the case, but somehow I doubt it. The Net Zero craze is the new state religion, imposed with suspicious rapidity across the West, and it allows for no dissent. Any new Conservative leader who reversed the proposed bans on petrol cars and gas boilers would be wildly popular, so why don’t they do it?

    • both the anti-Brexit civil servants and the very pro-Brexit Dominic Cummings held off for a long time. (Natalie Solent (Essex), June 6, 2022 at 9:48 am

      Indeed!

      Unlike Starmer et al, who were caught out via unwarned photos through curtains, etc. (and so should statistically be assumed to have done significantly more things they were not caught in), Boris’ incidents appeared (mainly, IIRC – please correct me if I am wrong) in the open – that garden party, surprise birthday party and others were reported at the time in the media who seemed strangely muted/unobservant of rule-breaking (especially odd in view of their earlier pile-on of Dominic Cummings, who had a defensible rule-exemption case for the main issue). Eighteen months and more afterwards, the PM’s reported-at-the-time garden party and etc. became a big news story and a scandal.

      – The delay doesn’t lessen any discrepancy between what was done and what the letter of lockdown law said was not to be done.

      – The delay does however raise a huge question. How come all these SW1 people notice now but did not notice them?

      In a more judicious world, it would be a (strange and partial) excuse for Boris. Yes (he could say), I did not notice the rules casualness that a lot of you ordinary chaps would likely have noticed if there – but neither did the reporters who wrote it up in brief, mild stories the next day, nor the opposition leaders and staffers who read those stories and saw no opportunity in them at the time, nor the whole SW1 crowd. How could I (he might ask) be expected to notice what they, who had more motive, did not? How could I, who kept telling people to use common-sense in interpreting the rules, be expected to notice what my enemies, who complained incessantly that my lockdowns were too mild, did not?

      This, I think, is part of the explanation of what puzzles Natalie. (But if I am missing something, by all means tell me.)

      The problem for Boris is that the story of our supposed betters enforcing rules on us but not themselves has achieved that elusive “cut-through” that politicians want much more often than they get, and for both the legitimate reason that things focus on the Prime Minister and the illegitimate reason that many of the usual suspects want to keep the focus on him and off them, he is in the most limelight.

      I do not want to see the deep state carry out a successful operation, especially by this grossly hypocritical means. I can easily imagine a better leader of the Tory party than Boris, but can yet more easily imagine a Tory party too incapable of Tory principle to choose such a one.

    • John

      If this nothingburger story had been released earlier and resulted in a leadership change before the May elections the damage to the ruling party would have been partly assuaged. Hence the timing was critical.

      As for tonight remember that despite an 80 odd seat majority Boris still presumably doubted his ability to win a vote on implementing the boundary commission recommendations due to self-seeking MP’s preferring to protect their own seats at the expense of prolonging a historical 20-30 seat bias to labour.

      That same naked self-interest will save him for now but throw him to the wolves sometime in the next 18 months when the effects of his complete mismanagement of both economy and immigration will necessitate a new leader. At that time you’ll need the Hubble telescope to find anyone who admits to having supported him.

    • Natalie Solent (Essex)

      Boris won the confidence vote by 211 votes to 148. So he survived, and gains a year’s breathing space. (Conservative party rules say that no confidence vote in the party leader can be held within a year of the last one.) However Theresa May won her confidence vote by a greater margin, 200 to 117, but still did not last long after it.

    • I dislike Boris because (1) his policies aren’t conservative (2) he backs the utterly insane NetZero (3) he refuses to permanently rule out another idiotic lockdown ever happening.

      But hardly anyone outside the bubble really gives a flying fuck about “PartyGate”

    • Lee Moore

      Let us hope, now he knows that only 32 more backstabbers will have him out on his ear, in 366 days time, but that in the intervening year he can’t be shifted, that he now tries to enjoy himself, stops being a civil service puppet, and terrifies the bejasus out of the Blob, the remainers and the EU.

      Better to go out with a bang than a whimper.

    • Natalie Solent (Essex)

      Perry, I believe polling says that quite a lot of people do give a fuck about “Partygate”. (Who would have guessed that half a century after Watergate we would still be using the “gate” suffix for political scandals?) I give a fuck about it. I was willing to cut him a lot of slack about demanding Covid precautions, even though I thought they were excessive, because I thought he’d come near death himself and it was affecting his judgement of how dangerous the disease was. I thought he was sincere. Turns out he wasn’t.

    • As you know, I have my doubts about most polls, Natalie. If you ask someone what they think about an issue they generally don’t think about much, they will provide an opinion because they were asked for one.

      I have an opinion too: Partygate just proves what I always thought, Boris is a hypocrite who believes in one law for the plebs and another for him and the elect… making him a typical politician. But the idea that Partygate will bring him down, rather than the insane NetZero or the lockdowns or lunatic money printing leading to inflation, things that *actually* have a profound impact on everyone, seemed implausible to me. Partygate doesn’t have any tangible effect on anyone outside the bubble, it just annoys people a bit.

      I thought he was sincere. Turns out he wasn’t.

      I have always assumed Boris was not sincere about anything & responds to urges and pressures.

    • Roué le Jour

      I’m entirely with djm on this one. Boris knew perfectly well the lockdowns were political not medical because he was the person that imposed them.

    • Alex

      I don’t give a flying fuck about “Partygate”; as a cynic I assumed such rank hypocrisy was going on from the beginning.

      However, when walking the dog in the morning I usually have a chat with a local farmer. He is about as far out of the Westminster bubble as it is possible to be, he has strong opinions pretty often 180° away from the mainstream media, he doesn’t use the internet and has only an old Nokia mobile phone so he is completely disconnected from “social meeja”. He is hopping mad about “Partygate”, probably because he naïvely thought that a Tory PM would put the interests of the country first. So I don’t agree that this is a squall in a Westminster teacup, unfortunately.

    • So I don’t agree that this is a squall in a Westminster teacup, unfortunately.

      Must depend on the circles you move it. Everyone I know who loathes Johnson, which is most of the folk I know to be frank, do so for very different reasons than Partygate.

    • Patrick Crozier

      The problem is that despite Partygate, the lockdowns, inflation, HS2 and Net Zero, Johnson is still a lot better than most of the likely alternatives. He was right about Ukraine. He did end the restrictions before most other countries. He got us out of the EU albeit in a botched way (not entirely his fault). The opposition parties are dreadful. He is surrounded in his own party by a large number of personality-free zones. Of the likely successors only Rees-Mogg and possibly Patel inspire any confidence. Well, there’s Steve Baker but I can’t see him winning.

    • Lee Moore

      I agree with Patrick Crozier.

      I never expected probity or sincerity, or even competence, from Johnson. That’s not who he is. It’s possible that the Tories could depose him and come up with someone less bad (for the country.) But the odds against are shocking.

      The worst is not, so long as we can say “This is the Worst.”

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