Boris Johnson’s leadership is at stake following the resignation of his chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid.
– What has happened?
Sunak and Javid highlighted leadership concerns in their resignation letters.
The now former foreign minister said that “the public rightly expects government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously” and “I think these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
He also hinted at divisions in economic policy, pointing to the need to “work hard, make sacrifices and make tough decisions”: a planned joint speech with the Prime Minister made it clear that “our approaches are fundamentally too different”.
Javid said the public had concluded that under Johnson the Conservatives were “not competent to act in the national interest” and that the prime minister could not offer “humility, grip and a new direction”.
– Because right now?
The Prime Minister’s judgment has been called into question once again for his handling of the Chris Pincher row.
The former deputy chief resigned last week after he “drank too much” and “embarrassed himself” at the exclusive Carlton Club, where he allegedly assaulted two male guests.
But Johnson was forced to humiliatingly apologize after admitting he knew about Pincher’s earlier inappropriate behavior when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019, but still made him chief deputy chief.
Asked if it was a mistake to give Pincher a role in his government, he said: “I think it was a mistake and I apologize for it.”
– Any other cause for concern?
Much. Last month, 41% of Conservative MPs said they had no confidence in the prime minister, with issues such as his personal style, economic policy and Sue Gray’s report on the Downing Street lockdown-breaking parties motivating rebels. .
Some Conservative MPs were prepared to back Johnson, who led the party to a landslide election victory in 2019, because of his popularity with voters.
But by-election defeats in Tiverton, Honiton and Wakefield, which led to the resignation of Conservative chairman Oliver Dowden, cast doubt on the idea that Johnson remains an electoral asset to the party.
– What’s next for Mr. Sunak and Mr. Javid?
Both have leadership ambitions and are in a position to inflict further wounds on the Prime Minister.
As ministers who resign, they have the opportunity to make statements in the House of Commons explaining their reasons.
Those with long memories in Westminster remember Geoffrey Howe’s devastating 1990 resignation statement that helped bring down Margaret Thatcher.
– Is it just the usual suspects that the Prime Minister has to worry about?
Jonathan Gullis, MP for the Red Wall seat in Stoke-on-Trent North and previously loyal to Johnson, has resigned as ministerial assistant.
“I feel like for too long we’ve been more focused on dealing with our reputational damage rather than providing for the people of this country and providing opportunity for everyone, which is why I entered politics,” he said.
But the prime minister could continue to count on staunch allies Conor Burns and Nadine Dorries, who gave public messages of support.
– So, is this the end?
It’s been just a few days since Johnson said he was looking forward to a third term in office that would keep him at No. 10 into the 2030s, so quitting doesn’t seem to be on his mind.
Unless the remaining Cabinet ministers tell him the game is up, the main source of danger to the Prime Minister may be another attempt by MPs to unseat him.
For that to happen, the rules of the 1922 Committee of Deputies will need to be changed to allow another vote of confidence within 12 months.
Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, vacancies on the executive committee could be filled by critics willing to change the rules.
Johnson’s allies warned that would leave any successor as Tory leader with a “gun to his head” and the prospect of a confidence vote at any time if the threshold of 15% of MPs calling for it is reached.
– Can he survive?
Under normal political rules, a Prime Minister in Johnson’s position would probably already be calling the moving vans to Downing Street.
But Johnson has made a career of defying political gravity and still commands a comfortable majority in the House of Commons.
David Cameron suggested that his fellow Old Etonian Mr. Johnson is a “greased sucker” and that the Prime Minister may yet find a way to save his bacon.