Yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions were arguably the most dangerous period in Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister. The nation’s fury at the hypocrisy of Boris Johnson attending a (or multiple) parties/social gatherings – combined with MPs opportunism left his premiership near collapse. However, with the Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defecting to Labour despite being seemingly opposed to them likely to hold onto his 400 vote majority, the threat of an immediate Conservative Party coup seems to have subsided – for now. Whether he will face a leadership election with the publication of Sue Gray’s report – or at some other point – remains to be seen. The fundamental question for Conservative Party MPs is whether the Prime Minister deserves to go.
Last month, I wrote that it was time for Boris Johnson to resign as Prime Minister. Based on his actions before the summer of 2021, it was my assumption that he would take the nation into what happened in the rest of Europe, the non-England parts of the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of the United States- namely COVID passports, lockdowns and eventual mandatory vaccination. However, to my pleasant surprise, Boris Johnson (with the help of many in cabinet and stalwart backbenchers) did not impose COVID restrictions further and was vindicated with the mildness of Omicron. Now, his government is ending all restrictions – including on masks. Because of his leadership, England has been the freest country in Europe since July – and will in one week be the most free in the entire Western world – bar some US states. You can watch his announcement in parliament here.
Are we seeing the return of freedom loving Boris? It is possible – or he may be begging his original right wing supporters to save his premiership with “operation red meat.” Likely the answer to the questions is a little bit of both, but whatever the reason does not really matter if he becomes the guardian of freedom for the people. Undoubtedly, Boris continues to preside over a government that is doing many mad things – such as the kamikaze drive to net zero and the rising of taxes when British people are dealing with rising inflation. But if he is no longer a threat to freedom, but rather the man standing in the way of politicians (like Gove or Hunt for example) who would without question do what SAGE says and the man who is going to unpick the Northern Ireland Protocol – would it be wise to remove him now?
There is another point for Conservative MPs to consider when determining whether to put in a letter to Sir Graham Brady. What affect would removing the third Conservative Prime Minister have on the way the public view the Conservative Party? Yes, Boris is unpopular right now. But most Prime Ministers in their mid-term are- look at Thatcher and Cameron for example – yet they went onto win at the following general election. Would voters think the Conservative Party is incompetent and chaotic for being unable to pick and stick with a leader? Probably so. Do people vote for parties they view as chaotic and incompetent? Rarely.
That is not to say that MPs should never remove their leader. May undoubtedly deserved to be removed and should have been removed sooner. And I stand by my belief that Truss or Baker and many other MPs would be better Prime Ministers than Boris Johnson. But there is no guarantee MPs would offer the members a true conservative choice. Would a Hunt v. Sunak choice really be better than Boris? For some reason, a squishy technocrat with no charisma aren’t going to help retain the red wall gains.
Boris has made many mistakes as Prime Minister. He should not have locked down for as long and hard as he did and he should never not followed the rules he himself set. Further, he should not have embraced the net zero agenda and big government generally – with all the tax rises and hardships that has given the British people. But he did deliver Brexit and he kept England free when everyone was telling him not to. Those “big picture” points mean that I have changed my mind and I believe Boris Johnson should stay – at least for now – though he needs to follow Lord Frost‘s advice and get a better circle of advisors if he is to make his premiership work.
Everyone deserves a second chance – Boris must now be given a second chance to govern as a Conservative.