The Constitutional Consequences of Boris Johnson
Around ten days ago there was a conference in Bournemouth held by the Conservative Democratic Organisation or, as everyone else calls it, the “Bring Back Boris” faction of the Tory Party. Johnson’s most loyal MPs were all there – Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries, Andrea Jenkyns, and so on. It’s funded by former Conservative chair Peter Cruddas, who was ennobled by Johnson in 2020 despite the unanimous opposition of the House of Lords appointments committee. He donated half a million pounds to the party a few days later.
But the star of the show was missing. Johnson, despite attracting remarkable levels of loyalty from people throughout his career, never reciprocates. Without him the conference was a sad little affair filled with bathos, as per this portrait by the Sunday Times’ Charlotte Ivers. It was immediately overshadowed by the louder and madder National Conservative conference, essentially a platform for Suella Braverman’s post-election leadership campaign.
Just a few months ago the right-wing commentariat was talking up the possibility of Johnson replacing Sunak. I never thought it likely following his (eventual) decision not to challenge for the leadership after the Truss meltdown, but now only the truest of true believers are still talking about the prospect. Sunak has performed well enough, despite the very poor local election results, to make any challenge seem entirely destructive. But also Johnson has been unable to disentangle himself from the scandals that bought him down, with his partygate evidence session going down particularly badly, and yesterday’s news that he has been referred to the police over a new set of alleged rule-breaking. The resignation of BBC chair Richard Sharp over his help in arranging a secret loan to the former PM reminded colleagues that Johnson never passed a closet without depositing a skeleton in it.
The recent book “Johnson at 10” by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell gave the corpse of his future leadership prospects another kicking. Seldon has written a post-premiership review of every Prime Minister from Major onwards and this one was by far the most damning. The authors evidently struggled to find anything positive to say, occasionally trying to be nice by talking about his “razor-sharp intellect”, though never providing supporting evidence. As with all his books Seldon had access to the key players and serves up a relentless series of anecdotes demonstrating Johnson’s inability to stick to a decision, manage any of his team, or do the basic work required by the job.
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