Thursday, April 11

West End Final: Flood of resignations swamp Boris Johnson


W

estminster is feverish. I’ve never seen the chamber so full for PMQs and I’ve never seen rumors race through the lobby so fast. Boris Johnson was on bullish, amusing form, but was flattened by Keir Starmer (a rare and telling occurrence) and bloodied by his own side.

Looking beyond the immediate – and it seems a matter of when, not if – I was struck by one thing in particular today. That was a letter of no confidence from an MP called Robert Jenrick.

Jenrick is mostly known for being sacked after two controversial, disspiriting years as housing secretary. But when he announced today on his Facebook that he no longer had confidence in Boris Johnson, he put the last piece in an important puzzle.

Three years ago a triple-bylined article in The Times provided a pivotal moment in the race for the Tory leadership. “The Tories are in deep peril. Only Boris Johnson can save us,” wrote Oliver Dowden, Rishi Sunak, and Robert Jenrick. Three rising stars who threw their lot in with Johnson, and signaled to others which way the wind was blowing.

Now, with Jenrick’s statement this afternoon all have turned away from the PM. This matters because what Boris Johnson did in 2019 was to unify a deeply fractured party. If (or when) Johnson goes, the Conservatives will find their party is just as fractured as it was. And they will find they have lost about the only person who could bridge those yawning divides. There was a reason the 2019 leadership election happened, and a reason Johnson won it.

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We should also remember how nonsense are the forces now ranged against him. The no-confidence vote was not co-ordinated. Oliver Dowden quit and nobody immediately followed. Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak resigned at the same time by chance (so they say). This is a divided party, even when many of them have the same enemy. And so without Johnson, there would be even less to bind the Conservatives together.

Don’t expect the chaos to come to a swift end.

In the comment pages, Alex Jones writes very amusingly about a London nightmare: being re-introduced to someone you dated. And not realizing who they are until they ask “don’t you remember me?”. Prepare for an eye-opening glimpse into the capital’s dating scene (think people wearing latex suits under A&E slacks and jilted lovers using letterboxes as urinals – I did say it was eye-opening).

The impeccably informed Robert Fox gives us the latest on Ukraine. The war is entering a third phase, Robert explains, and now we need a plan to help the Ukrainians as they dig and try to hold what they can.

And finally, for all of you newsletter-reading hedonists, David Ellis has the guide to the ‘shot girl summer’. And if your tastes are more refined, may I suggest our recent piece on which Prom to watch this summer, as chosen by Petroc Trelawny et al.?

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