Having survived last week’s confidence vote, Boris Johnson’s focus is now on nothing other than his survival in office. Every move he makes, every announcement, every undeliverable promise, the whole lot of it will be designed to protect himself.
The Prime Minister and the lickspittles who make up his bottom-of-the-barrel cabinet may tell us that, having drawn a line under “partygate”, they are getting on with the people’s priorities. They are doing no such thing.
Every last breath of their effort is expended in supporting Johnson. How grotesque.
It is widely assumed that Johnson may run out of road if - as expected - the Tories lose the Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield by-elections on June 23. Having listened to Johnson and his acolytes in the aftermath of the confidence vote, I’d be surprised if even the most humiliating results had the slightest impact on the PM.
Johnson’s supporters were utterly shameless in the aftermath of Monday’s vote. Possessed ventriloquist’s dummy Jacob Rees-Mogg said that a win in the confidence vote by one would be enough to ensure the PM’s survival. Back when he was plotting to bring down Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, Rees-Mogg was adamant her conclusive victory in a confidence vote meant she had to go. The Prime Minister had lost the support of the majority of her backbenchers and the jig was up.
Rees-Mogg, a hypocrite who would never have made it into cabinet under a serious Prime Minister, changed his tune when his sponsor did worse than May. Any suggestion that having lost the support of the majority of his backbenchers, Johnson should go was poo-pooed by Rees-Mogg.
If you preferred your wildly over-promoted cabinet minister with a bit more spice, there was Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary who gives the impression she’s perpetually clinging to the edge of sanity. In a textbook example of saying the thing you’re only supposed to think, Dorries appeared on TV to explain the party stood to lose as much as £80million in donations if Johnson was deposed.
Going on telly to argue that the Conservative Party should jump to the tune of wealthy donors was a bold tactic.
It doesn’t matter to Johnson that neither Rees-Mogg nor Dorries (nor any number of members of the cabinet) are entirely unqualified for the positions they hold. Their value to him is in their low self-esteem which allows them, time and again, to step up and defend the dismal, illegal, immoral actions of our wretched Prime Minister.
There is nothing in anything Boris Johnson has ever said or done to suggest he’ll go quietly if the Tories lose those forthcoming by-elections. Rather, wouldn’t you expect him to dig in deeper?
There’s a widespread assumption that, should Johnson cling on to lead the Tories into the next General Election, he will lose.
Polls certainly suggest that would be the case but we live in strange times and it would be reckless to completely write-off the Prime Minister.
With this in mind, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have some serious talking to do.
Keir Starmer and Ed Davey should, at the very least, be giving serious thought to how - in three-way marginal seats - they can co-operate to ensure the Johnson era is brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible. Both should be willing to stand down candidates where necessary.
It’s often said the electorate doesn’t much care for parties trying to game the system but I wonder whether they might make an exception in this instance. Labour and Lib Dem candidates campaigning under a shared “Boris out” message might find, in these divided times, there’s already a tribe ready to line up behind them.
The Tories use the idea of a Labour-Lib Dem-SNP coalition at Westminster as a campaign message. Perhaps the most potent ingredient in that mix is the SNP. English voters are entitled to think the nationalists, having had their referendum, might pipe down for a moment.
But Labour and the Lib Dems, working together, would be under no obligation to offer the SNP anything. If, through an electoral pact, Labour and the Lib Dems came up short on the numbers to form an administration, nationalists would ask for a second referendum as their price for support. A lot of senior SNP figures see this as the most likely route to Indyref2.
What, though, if this situation arose and the SNP’s request was rejected? What would the party do then?
Would it put the Tory Party back in power? Of course, it wouldn’t. The SNP holds a weaker hand than its supporters might think.
If Labour and the Lib Dems could find an accommodation which maximised their chances of outnumbering the Tories, they would be doing the country a great service. Johnson and his hangers on have done nothing but debase our democracy, shifting the line of what is deemed acceptable.
Should this hypothetical coalition form a government, its first task should be the passing of a bill introducing a proportional representation voting system to Westminster elections.
The UK is not Boris Johnson and his values-free supporters but first-past-the-post voting can give the impression that it is.
Has there ever been a better time to think about about a proportional representation system which would encourage coalition agreements and discourage cult-of-personality leaders?