Eventually the clock ran out both on that parliamentary term and on 13 years of Labour Government. They have been in opposition ever since.
On Monday evening, following the tight confidence vote in his parliamentary party, Boris Johnson’s time in office entered a similar phase. His lawbreaking and lies have diminished the great office he holds and inflamed a civil war within his own party. For everyone’s sake he has to go, but he shows no sign of doing so of his own volition.
The outcome of Monday night’s vote is catastrophic for the Scottish Conservatives and Douglas Ross who has nowhere left to U-turn.
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The last few months have seen Ross hold no less than four positions on the future of the Prime Minister. He called for the PM to go then reversed that position in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties, he attempted to harmonise those two positions by saying that Boris should go, but only after the war had ended. On Monday, he abandoned that line and voted against the PM. That’s not just a U-turn, it’s more of a W-turn.
Privately, Tory MSPs are in despair. They see their Scottish leader as weak and impulsive, but there is no immediate appetite to replace him. Nobody wants to captain a sinking ship, especially not when it’s anchored to Boris Johnson. Last month’s council elections saw the Tories lose significant ground. It’s a pattern that has been repeated again and again in recent opinion polls.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats made big gains at those local elections. Door after door and street after street, I could see opinions changing. People feel taken for granted. The results showed that the constitutional knot which has defined Scottish politics for so long is finally starting to fall away. The pretence that anyone needs to vote Conservative to beat the SNP is evaporating.
For too long Scotland has been caught between a clash of nationalisms. If it’s a choice between the nationalism of the SNP and the Brexit nationalism of Boris Johnson’s Conservatives then everybody loses. Indeed, the Tories can’t claim to be an asset in the defence of Scotland’s place in the UK when they have become a demonstrable liability.
Every household in Britain faces eye-watering energy costs and sky-rocketing food prices. NHS waiting lists are getting longer and longer. Everyone needs ministers who are focused on what really matters right now. Unfortunately, a shoogly vote of confidence will mean an already self-centred Prime Minister is more focussed than ever on saving his own skin.
The UK parliamentary conservative party have created a trap for Douglas Ross from which he will struggle to escape. It is possible that Boris Johnson will remain in power until the next General Election, in which case Douglas Ross will be forced to change his position on the PM yet again as he hits the campaign trail and asks you to put a proven liar in Number 10 for another term.