Friday, December 8

Day of pleading and threats ends with Boris Johnson in post. just about | John Crace

EITHEROnly last week every cabinet minister was insisting that there would not be a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson. That such an idea was pure media confection. Imagine their surprise then to wake up this morning and hear Graham Brady announce that the number of letters to trigger a vote had been exceeded. Nice to have a government with its finger on the pulse. The rest of us had already had today inked in the diary. A fifth day of the jubilee celebrations.

Within minutes the Convict had drafted a letter to all his MPs with a list of his achievements. Largely imagined. He had got all the big decisions right. Apart from the ones he had got hopelessly wrong. It was time to move on from Partygate. It was what the public wanted. Apart from those militant monarchists who had booed him at St Paul’s.

POR FAVOR VOTE for I” it ended with a liberal sprinkling of bold capitals. Not forgetting the PS that everyone who voted for him would be guaranteed a ministerial post in the next reshuffle. At this rate the total number on the government payroll would be well over 300. Luckily, no one would be capable of doing the maths. No one became prime minister by underestimating the collective stupidity of their MPs.

Then came the threats. Anyone who didn’t immediately tweet their support for the prime minister would be sacked from whatever job they happened to hold. Almost immediately, Liz Truss duly obliged. Even though she was almost bound to vote against him. She still imagines she’s in with a chance of winning the leadership. Sketchwriters are backing her all the way. For the lols. Rishi Sunak was next to tweet, even though he knows everyone hates him and that he’s politically finished. But then he’s a bit pathetic and has no self-worth.

Other cabinet ministers followed throughout the morning. Even Penny Mordaunt, though her support from her was decidedly lukewarm. Her focus on her was on the anniversary of D-day. Remembering the sacrifices of others. Expecting Boris to sacrifice himself for the sake of the country and the Tories was clearly a non-starter. She also fancies her chances of her.

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Priti Patel was the one refusenik. She still hasn’t forgiven the Convict for depriving her of the sole responsibility for deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda. She misses the look of abject fear as people are put on the plane. But the overall message from the cabinet was that they were all completely shit and couldn’t be trusted to take over from a man who wasn’t trusted by the country.

A few of the rebels put their heads above the parapet. First Jesse Norman. Then John Penrose, Johnson’s own anti-corruption tsar. What took you so long, John? Which bit of industrial scale law-breaking did you miss? Lastly came Jeremy Hunt with his own leadership bid. Theresa May just purred quietly. This was by far her best day as an MP since she had become prime minister herself.

This was all too much for Nadine Dorries, who threw herself into her inamorato’s defence. Jeremy was just a complete bastard. Worthless. And he’d completely fucked up the health service which is why 150,000 people had died of Covid. A great start to Johnson’s “health week”. And could she just shout to the world: “I LOVE BORIS!” It was completely unhinged. She has no idea that every time she speaks she creates another couple of rebels.

Every time the Convict is in trouble, he makes a point of phoning President Zelenskiy. To ask for advice from someone who is genuinely loved by his country. Today was no exception. It’s turning into a very one-sided relationship. The Ukrainian president should start billing Johnson for therapy sessions. God knows what advice Zelenskiy gave him but by 4pm when Boris went down to address the 1922 Committee, he appeared to have completely forgotten that he was in deep trouble and needed the help of his MPs to bail him out of his latest fix.

There was a loud banging as Johnson entered the Boothroyd room in Portcullis House – there always is: duplicity comes as second nature to most MPs – but rather less noise on his way out. No one was going to publicly say that Boris had lost the room, but it was far from clear he had done enough to win back those intending to vote for a new leader. The never-shy-and-retiring Steve Baker was first out to speak to the media huddle. Enough was enough. The prime minister had broken the law and had to go. It’s no more than any organization should expect of its leader.

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As the other MPs made their way to various corners of Westminster, Johnson’s top spinner came to deliver the official verdict. An architect of chaos very much in the image of his master of him. It had been a complete triumph, he said. The MPs had fallen down to worship in front of their leader. Not that they had any choice because there was no one worth having as a leader instead.

This had been serious Boris, the spinner said. “There had been a lot of detailed policy stuff in there.” Though when pressed, he couldn’t remember any of it. Details. Details. There would also be tax cuts. But he hadn’t a clue what. More details. Details. He ended by saying that Boris really wasn’t sorry for anything. Least of all his lies from him. And that the vote was pretty much a waste of everyone’s time. A sociopath to the last.

“Who here doesn’t get pissed off? Who here doesn’t like a glass of wine to decompress?” I put my hand up but was ignored. Boris would go to all the parties again if he had the choice. It was totally tone deaf. No recognition of breaking the law. Contrite Boris was last week’s Boris. It was almost as if he had nothing but contempt for his MPs from him and was goading them to vote against him. An elaborate game of dare.

The queue was at a steady 12 meters long for the first hour, with almost every MP moaning at being made to wait. Ocado shoppers the lot of them. They were, though, surprisingly cheerful. Either they weren’t aware their party was suicidal or death was a merciful relief. Douglas Ross had just jumped ship for the second – or maybe – third time. He’s a man of flexible principles. But how could The Convict ever go into another election with all of his Scottish MPs at his throat?

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Edward Leigh muttered something about Banquo’s ghost. May came dressed in a ball gown. She means to party. Michael Gove insisted he had voted for Boris. So that’s one in the no column. Hunt chatted to me about his recent event of him at Hay. He reckons his talk with Rachel Clarke ended in a draw. He’d settle for a similar result today. Everyone had their phones confiscated at the door. No one trusts the whips not to demand proof of loyalty.

A rather troubled looking Convict emerged shortly after 7pm when the queue had died down. Perhaps it’s finally dawned on him that his entire premiership has long since stopped being a joke. That his options are rapidly running out. That the populist leader is no longer popular and has nothing left to offer anyone. That he has even lost the support of a large number of his most myopic constituency. His MPs from him. He probably voted twice – once for and once against – just for old times’ sake.

At 9pm on the dot, Brady announced the result. 211 for, 148 against. As expected The Convict had won the vote but lost the leadership. Worse even than the Maybot back in 2018. Johnson would say he was going to hang on – he’s a bad loser – but there was no coming back from this. It may be weeks, it may be months, but Boris is toast. And the Tories would spend the time fighting each other to the death. While the country is on its knees. At a standstill. What a legacy. Johnson must be so proud.

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