The Bitter End
It’s fitting that the worst Prime Minister this country has ever had is being forced out in such a dysfunctional and undignified way. It really is only a matter of time now; either further cabinet resignations will make his position untenable or he will be pushed out, early next week at the very latest, in a second confidence vote.
That he has stayed until now reflects an unprecedented level of delusion and risks a constitutional crisis in the coming days. No Prime Minister has ever tried to carry on with large numbers of empty Government positions. Parliamentary Bills going through the Commons have had to be suspended because there are no Ministers left to speak to them. But there is also no straightforward mechanism for removing a PM who simply won’t resign. It would require a vote of confidence in Parliament with 40+ Tory MPs voting with the opposition parties. That wouldn’t necessarily lead to an election. The Queen would appoint an alternative PM who could command a majority but Tory MPs would be very loathe to do this. The Queen could in theory ask him to leave without a vote but the last time a monarch intervened directly in removing one was when Queen Anne was on the throne.
The mechanism to remove him as Tory leader is another confidence vote, and this will happen if needed. But this doesn’t technically remove him as Prime Minister. In theory he could try and stay on or attempt to call an election. Again at this point the Palace would have to get involved and prevent him from doing so under the Lascelles Principles – which were sent, anonymously, by the King’s private secretary to The Times in 1950 following an election where Labour won a slim majority. Such is the patchwork nature of the British constitution. That Johnson would even consider forcing a 96 year old monarch into dealing with these constitutional questions is beyond belief. But that’s where we are.
In extremis he could split the party and try and continue with a rump of MPs but it’s hard to believe that more than a tiny handful would sacrifice their own careers on the altar of his overweening vanity.
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