Thursday, 7th July, 2022

[Day 843]

It seemed inevitable like a Greek drama that today was going to be a day of great political drama and so it proved. As the number of junior ministerial resignations started to mount and reach a figure of about 35, it was evident that on the mathematics alone, there was no way that Boris Johnson could survive another leadership contest. At about 10.00pm last night, the news came through that Michael Gove, the ‘Levelling Up’ minister and a cabinet big-hitter had been sacked over the phone. The animosity between Johnson and Gove goes back over the years but this was perceived to be an act of sheer vindictiveness and did not go down at all well with Conservative MPs. As soon as my radio switched on at 6.30am, the junior ministerial resignations continued to rise and some more cabinet ministers had also withdrawn their support. It must have been evident to practically everybody, apart from the PM himself that he was doomed. I wonder, though, what was the influence of Carrie Johnson, Boris Johnson’s wife? Those who follow politics closely will know that it was Denis Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher’s husband who sat down on a sofa and gave a glass of whisky to his wife and said ‘Come on, Maggie – you must know the game is up’ Why the story is interesting is because Denis Thatcher liked to cultivate the image of a rather bumbling, gin-soaked, golf-club bore – hence the columns in ‘Private Eye’ under the title of ‘Dear Bill’. But actually, Denis Thatcher was no fool and had quite a sharp political brain. So I am speculating whether it is political spouses who give the final push at the tipping point. I think the news came through just after 9.00am that Boris Johnson had decided to bow to the inevitable and to resign as leader of the Conservative party whilst remaining as Prime Minister until a new leader is in place. However, this itself is massively problematic. One the one hand, we have to have some sort of more or less stable government in place so that crucial decisions can take place – not least because of the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation levels. On the other hand, the opposition parties and many in the Tory party feel that a discredited Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of his cabinet and parliamentary party does not deserve to be in office for a moment longer than is necessary. The solution may lie in the hands of the 1922 Committee of back bench Tory MPs who may decide early next week to rapidly accelerate the procedures for selecting a new leader so that the ‘runners and riders’ (of which there are many) can be reduced to the two front runners as soon as possible. When the field has been whittled down to two, the decision is then put to Conservative party members in the country and this is how the final decision is made. At this stage, though, there is likely to be one candidate who is a clear front runner as was the case in the run off between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt at the time of the last contest.

My son and I had an appointment with a financial advisor this morning, which was necessary to tidy up some details on a mortgage on my son’s property. The meeting proved to be very satisfactory and has the advantage that the location of the firm of financial advisors is easily accessible for us as well as having a very good reputation. Whilst we were there, the news of Boris Johnson’s resignation came through on our mobiles so when I returned home, I followed the breaking news on the news media and, in particular, the resignation speech which came a tad after 12.30. To my mind, this was quite an extraordinary speech with Johnson seeming to blame everyone but himself and with not a hint of contrition about it. In one memorable phrase, he indicated that ‘when the herd instinct takes over, the herd moves off’ which if you were to decode it is very insulting to the rest of the parliamentary party. The social historian Anthony Selsdon was interviewed and opined that Johnson would come to rue the day when, as the history books are written, it has become evident that Johnson has no capacity for self-reflection or indication that he may have made mistakes or even crass errors of judgement. Meg and I decided to treat ourselves to a Waitrose coffee but once we were safely parked in the carpark, we were approached for a soundbite by a reporter from BBC Hereford and Worcester for a soundbite about the Johnson resignation. On the spur of the moment, I mentioned my delight at Johnson’s resignation, and when pressed for reasons mentioned his constant lies, his desregard for any of the constitutional proprietaries and the total disregard for any norms of ethical conduct. The reporter mentioned to us that our little soundbite might be broadcast between 4.10-4.20 and although we are not regular listeners to Radio Hereford and Worcester, our soundbite was included as part of a collage of responses from members of the public in Bromsgrove. After lunch, Meg and I were glued to the TV to watch the sequelae of the Johnson resignation as the various manifesttions and reactions were gathered from interviews in Downing Street and in the lobby of the House of Commons.