As the Pincher Affair exposes Boris Johnson’s deceitfulness yet again and calls grow ever louder for his resignation, the UK cannot afford a third consecutive Conservative leader elected solely by the party membership.
From the moment the school report by Eton teacher Martin Hammond on Boris Johnson’s character appeared, it has been clear that Johnson is someone who thinks he has complete impunity for whatever he does, no matter what the cost to those who surround him.
Hammond’s report described him as believing he was “free of the network of expectation which binds everyone else.” This attitude has defined Johnson’s personal life and his marital and extramarital relationships. It marked his time as Mayor of London, notably with the saga of the Garden Bridge and the Routemaster bus. There was Brexit and that other red bus, Cummings and Barnard Castle and then Partygate. He has overpromised and under-delivered throughout his life.
People should have been aware of these tendencies and wary of the consequences when he became Conservative Party leader. As Maya Angelou advised, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
The last straw
And now we have the Pincher Affair. Yet another Conservative MP has been exposed as a sexual predator, but what is Johnson’s reaction? Predictably, it is to try and absolve himself of any responsibility for the situation. First he claimed that he didn’t know, that he wasn’t aware of anything, then anything specific, then anything seriously specific, before finally admitting that he did know about Pincher’s behaviour. But he chose to appoint him as a deputy chief whip – with particular responsibility for MPs’ welfare, would you believe? – anyway.
These shenanigans would appear to be the last straw for many Conservative MPs. More than one Johnson loyalist seems to have had enough of being lied to and made to look a fool. As this is being written, news is breaking that Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak have decided enough is enough and resigned from the government. There may well be more to come.
And then what?
What if Johnson does decide he’s run out of rope and steps down? It’s a possibility but the man is such a consummate liar and believer in his own legend, it would be no surprise to find he will try to ride out the storm even now. After all, it’s only two weeks to the summer recess, he could well bet that if he can get that far, the break will give everyone a chance to cool down and move on.
But when he does go – and it seems increasingly likely it is when, not if – for the third time in six years, the UK will be faced with the prospect of the leadership of the country being decided by the group of ERG MPs who pull all the strings in the parliament and a few thousand members of the Conservative party. A membership largely made up of the elderly well-off who put Johnson into power in 2019 because they wanted Brexit, and who have just been rewarded with a 10 percent hike in their pensions, to come into effect next year.
Is there anyone who seriously thinks that this is a democratic way for this mess to be sorted out? Not me, for one.
I may be wrong about this but I don’t think there has been any consideration of this scenario and whether it is remotely acceptable to the country. The rules of the Conservative party are one thing, but the inescapable fact remains that both Theresa May and Boris Johnson, who were appointed in this way, have been utter disasters for the UK. They have brought the country to its knees economically, socially and politically. The UK cannot afford to have another Conservative leader thrust upon it at the whim of the Conservative party membership and the ERG, least of all the likely successors from the government. To do so would be profoundly undemocratic.
Their unquestioned support of Johnson leaves the Conservative Parliamentary party tarred with his brush. None of them can be considered remotely trustworthy. If Johnson goes, the whole country must be asked for its verdict on this government and the Conservative party.
There must be an immediate sustained demand for a general election.