Boris Johnson's future: when will bewitched MPs decide it's the end of the road? – Ian Swanson

Any other Prime Minister would have resigned long ago.

By Ian Swanson
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 4:55 am

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Boris Johnson is being investigated by the police for potential criminal offences; he is widely seen as having misled parliament; the ongoing row is distracting him and others from vital issues; a growing number of his own MPs think his time is up; and most voters say he should go.

But it seems this Prime Minister is determined to carry on regardless. He thinks he can survive the Partygate scandal and continue in office as if nothing has happened.

However, the drawn-out saga of the Prime Minister breaking the rules he made for the whole country, Number Ten staff partying while others made heart-breaking sacrifices and Mr Johnson’s apparent disregard for the outrage they now feel is already damaging his party’s standing and threatens to undermine politics as a whole.

If rule-breaking by the powerful becomes acceptable and politicians can repeatedly tell lies with impunity, what sort of governments can we expect in future?

Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, the spectre of war in Ukraine and countless other issues are all relegated while Mr Johnson tries to save his own job.

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Boris Johnson won the Tories an 80-seat majority in 2019. Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images

And despite plenty Tories, including almost all Scottish Conservative MSPs, urging him to quit, the number of the party’s MPs at Westminster ready to push him out is still thought to fall short of the 180 needed for him to lose a vote of confidence.

Too many Tories, it seems, are bewitched by Mr Johnson. He is, after all, the man who won them an 80-seat majority at the last general election and went on to “get Brexit done”.

He’s the party’s Heineken politician who reaches parts of the electorate other Tories can’t reach. He’s the teflon Prime Minister who has already survived numerous controversies from the illegal prorogation of parliament to the lavish redecoration of his Downing Street flat.

Tory MPs are desperately hoping he still has that “magic” touch and it will somehow be back with full vigour in time for the next general election and save them their seats.

Looking at the alternatives expected to be on offer, they don’t see how anyone else can quite match his record.

Despite providing billions of pounds for furlough and other support during the pandemic and being a self-proclaimed Thatcherite, Rishi Sunak is not seen as having the same appeal as Mr Johnson.

And although Liz Truss is an eager convert to Brexit, a right-wing free marketeer and another admirer of Margaret Thatcher, she does not quite cut it either.

But the polls suggest the voters have now seen through Mr Johnson. People in the Red Wall seats, loyal to Labour for decades but won over because he could portray himself as different from other politicians, now see a different side of him.

No longer someone they can relate to because he speaks his mind and tells it like it is, but a privileged politician showing a callous disregard for other people’s sacrifice and suffering. Surely they are not going to vote for him again.

Boris Johnson has jollied and joked his way through his political life but this scandal isn’t funny. And even his own MPs may eventually conclude the magic has gone.

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