The Gist: A Crisis of Confidence

After the Johnson crisis of confidence, vapourware policy announcements, minority-blaming and petty cruelty are all that is left to him. A fitting, if unpleasant, end for the Brexit Tory project.

The Gist: A Crisis of Confidence
The State of Ship

Let’s all move on.
-Every Tory Minister

Determined to contribute their share of gaiety to their nation’s jubilee celebrations, Tory MPs triggered a vote of no confidence in their Prime Minister, the Bacchus of the Break Room, Boris Johnson.

Apparently, seeing a public hopped up on jingo and bunting still moved to boo the man set to lead them into a general election where they, themselves, might lose their job caused these MPs to reflect deeply on the needs of the nation.

Even as the trifles and tiaras festival continued, it was announced that some 54 of the Conservative MPs had now written in looking for a vote of no confidence. This being the magic number to trigger one, there followed a day of low farce and high drama respectively from the Johnson and anti-Johnson sides.

For everyone looking on, it was hard to know who to back. Since his election Johnson has been exactly what he always has been, but now as Prime Minister. Whereas his opponents are driven by a range of conflicting impulses, interests and IQs. Some are upset at the parties he had while the rest of the country was locked down, unable to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Some want to try to get Britain back into the Single European Market, having found Brexit increasingly indigestible. And some are upset he hasn’t cut taxes, this being the alpha and omega of their entire political universe.

As all sides are made up entirely of Tory MPs none prompts any natural sympathy. Which makes the end result all the more amusing for everyone not a sitting Tory MP.

Having spent the day predicting that they would break into three figures the rebel alliance discovered they had far more support than even they suspected. 148 votes were cast against the Prime Minister retaining his job. Removing everyone actually paid to support him (the “payroll vote”) this meant that 75% of all his backbenchers had voted to heave him overboard.

After the Deluge

He responded by trying to win over as many of these disparate and conflicting factions as possible. He hurried forward promised legislation to break international law on the Northern Ireland protocol, and then had it be known that his Foreign Secretary was trying to break the law too much with her latest draft.

He promised tax cuts as imminent, while also assuring his Labour-nervous Red Wall MPs that he was also going to spend more on the services their voters depended on.

In other words he stuck resolutely to the model that got him elected -  promising everyone what they want to hear while treating the actual delivery of those promises as an irrelevance.

As there is no way that a man like this just resigns from a job that gives him power and money, and the Tory MPs have blown a hole in his authority below the waterline, we are faced with perhaps the most entertaining of all worlds.

Those Tory MPs now realise they are also aboard the Johnson ship of state but having failed to sink it at this attempt they can’t try another escape for a further twelve months, even as it keeps taking on water.

As the UK Labour Party continues to look as effective and incisive as a  stiletto made of cottage cheese, it may take all that extra time for it to persuade voters that they represent a liferaft worth the try.

For the rest of us onlookers, we can consider this leadership challenge result to be the effective end of the Johnson Government. Nothing it announces can be reliably enacted from now on, and nothing it does can survive internal factional challenge.

Vapourware policy announcements, minority-blaming and petty cruelty are all that is left to them. A fitting, if unpleasant, end for the Brexit Tory project.

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