‘Sinking ships fleeing the rat’ – tarnished Tories abandon Boris Johnson

Commentary Downing Street Opinion

Downing Street’s ‘greased piglet’ is losing his grip on power with the growing list of ministers abandoning Boris Johnson now standing at 27 (*and likely to be past 30 by the time this article has been written).

Is this the first case of “sinking ships fleeing the rat?” mocked Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today (July 6), during what another MP opined could well be Johnson’s last in the leading role at PMQs.

But he won’t go without a fight. Johnson will have to be forced out, may be even dragged out of Downing Street. Because, Johnson, as history shows, will never relinquish the top job or give up his life’s ambition while he perceives there remains a chance, no matter how slight and imperceptible to any other observer, that he can hang on. He’s been hanging on for months, kicking multiple cans down the round while lying about all his previous lies.

However, the momentum has very obviously shifted. The mass resignations of ministers – kicked off by health secretary Sajid Javid last night, quickly followed by chancellor Rishi Sunak’s letter to quit – has sounded the death knell for Johnson’s premiership. Calls for the 1922 committee of Conservative backbench MPs to change their rules to allow another no-confidence vote in the PM are escalating as fast as the number of resignations from government.

What will bemuse many non-Tories, is, what has taken them so long? Why have they suddenly decided en-masse that now is the time to act?

Despite the lies, Johnson won the no-confidence vote

Just five weeks ago Johnson’s cabinet supported him in the no-confidence vote he won despite some 40% of Tory MPs voting against him. Their prime minister, their leader of their party of law and order who had been fined by the police for breaking Covid law, who lied to the Queen the country and anyone else with ears was still, in their eyes, fit to be leader. Bolstered by their backing, an emboldened Johnson was given 12 months before another confidence vote can be held – unless the 1922 change their rules.

The likelihood that they will is increasing because since that vote, the Conservative party has been vanquished in two by-elections and Labour’s lead in the polls is growing. Johnson’s lies about ‘Pinchergate’ – devastatingly exposed on Monday by Lord McDonald’s unprecedented intervention – has been described as the straw that broke the camel’s back. But that camel was crippled long ago by the weight of lies and misconduct that’s defined Johnson’s government. That camel was only still standing because of the significant number of Tory MPs slavishly holding it up.

As such, they are all tarnished. By association with and their long support of a prime minister whose debasement of politics was warned about even before he toppled Theresa May.

If we, ‘the plebs’ knew, they knew better than anyone what Johnson was, is and will always be. And yet they have supported him and his corrupting influence until now. They exclaimed he “got Brexit done” and “got all the big calls right”. Because, they believed, he would win them another election and thereby preserve their own parliamentary seats, political careers, salaries, pensions, expense accounts, second jobs, media appearances and status from having influence on the levers of power. As well, of course, as their continued access to all the tax-payer subsidised bars in Westminster.

As the Northern Ireland protocol row shows, never mind the failure to introduce checks at Dover, Brexit remains far from done. The “big calls” have resulted in myriad crises across every part of society and industry. The economy is tanking while the cost of living becomes too much for too many to bear.

And now the cabinet is falling apart, with those remaining ministers nothing more than “a z-list cast of nodding dogs”, as Starmer said in PMQs.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, told MPs he was wrong to have recently likened Johnson to Monty Python’s Black Knight. “He’s actually the dead parrot – an ex-prime minister,” Blackford told MPs.

Except he isn’t. Not yet. Because even after all the resignations and calls for him to go from his own previously loyal backbenches, a bruised Johnson told today’s Liaison Committee meeting  he will still be PM in the morning. Of course he won’t quit.

Javid’s fear of existential threat to Tories

In his resignation speech that immediately followed PMQs today, Javid told the Commons that he has concluded the “problem starts at the top” and that “enough is enough”.

Javid – like Sunak and all the others who have suddenly developed backbones and followed suit with resignations and demands the PM quits – aren’t acting in the interest of the country. If they were, they would have done all this months ago. Indeed, they would never have allowed a charlatan like Johnson to have taken over their party and by virtue the country, had they the merest concern about what is best for the country. They are only acting now out of pure self interest. Just like Johnson is and has always done.

Tellingly, Javid – who will be a candidate to be the next PM – revealed his fear of the existential threat to the Conservative party, telling MPs during his speech of his concerns about how the next generation will view the Tory party.

Hopefully, it will be with clear memories – not just about the current prime minister but also about all those Conservative MPs and right wing journalists who put him into the highest office of the land – and who have full-throatedly backed him for so long, causing immeasurable damage to this country.

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