This was first posted on Facebook on 19th July 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.
I’ve seen several people sharing an article by Nick Cohen on Boris Johnson. Nick Cohen is someone whose politics I pretty much entirely disagree with, except on Brexit.
Let me pull out this paragraph:
“Conservative politicians talk about Johnson with a venom few socialists can match. It’s not that he’s a criminal like Putin, they say. He doesn’t have the balls to be truly evil. Rather, he is a pathetically insecure narcissist who turns on you if you don’t feed his craving for applause. “He’s an abject, hectoring, incompetent show-off,” said one. “If you don’t love him or can’t fake a love for him, he will go for you.””
Now first of all, Conservatives who have supported austerity and benefit sanctions over the past ten years have a different notion of what constitutes “truly evil” than you and me. Under the Tory government they have supported, the UK has been investigated by the UN for human rights crimes against disabled people.
But secondly, and perhaps more to the point:
At any time, 55 of those Conservative politicians who supposedly hold Boris Johnson is such contempt could trigger a leadership election.
Consider that. At any time. Fifty-five Tory MPs writing secret letters to the chair of the 1922 Committee can trigger a leadership election. Thereafter, it takes 182 of those Conservative MPs who supposedly hold Boris Johnson in such contempt, to ensure he loses a vote of confidence.
And, even if Johnson were to stand in the subsequent leadership election, if Tory MPs stood together and kept their heads, it’s up to them to decide which two candidates go to the membership, it is not up to Boris Johnson to claim the right to go on the membership ballot (though I think he might try).
The fact that these Tory MPs understand Johnson’s incapacity and yet will not act is much more broadly stated by Matthew Parris (also a Tory, and unfortunately an admirer of Margaret Thatcher) writing in The Times:
“But his colleagues always knew his shamelessness from his personal history. That he isn’t even clever, however, they are only now discovering. If competence shone through then I think the shamelessness would remain an embarrassment that his colleagues would be prepared to suppress. But he’s losing, and the combination of incapacity and shamelessness is beginning to curdle.
“Boris Johnson’s colleagues see, and for the most part shrug, look away, or bite their tongues.”
After Boris Johnson goes – and he is bound to go, sooner rather than later, since he is not the stuff to fight a losing election against terrible odds: if his colleagues don’t have the grit to sack him, I think he will resign before 2024 and accept a seat in the House of Lords as an appropriate culimination to what he doubtless sees as a splendid career – I am sure the Parliamentary Conservative Party will try to explain that honestly, they really truly hated Boris Johnson even more than the rest of us, but he was their leader, what could they do?
Well, unlike anyone else in the country, they can vote him out of office. But they won’t.
And while I think a part of that is certainly that no Tory MP with the capacity to do the job wants to be sitting in the hot seat while Boris Johnson’s Brexiter pals make her take the blame for no-deal Brexit and the coronavirus crash: a large part of it is that Conservative MPs can see the disastrous situation we are in, and rather than take steps to mitigate it as far as possible, they have decided that Boris Johnson and his coterie should be in place to take all the blame – no matter how bad it gets for you and me, Tory MPs don’t care about that.
So in the future, when a Tory PM sitting on the front bench – I do wonder if the Tories will do what they did in the political emergency of the 1970s and again post-Brexit, and vote a woman in on the basis that they don’t care much if she destroys her career and her reputation clearing up the mess – that future Conservative Prime Minister is undoubtedly going to lay all the blame right back on Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave coterie at the top of government. (What they can’t blame on Jeremy Corbyn, that is.)
But the fact is: Nick Cohen and Matthew Parris talk to more Tory politicians than we would, and they know – Cohen and Parris – that Tory politicians know how bad Boris Johnson is, right now. How inompetent. How corrupt. How shameless. How stupid.
They know. But they won’t take action to get rid of him. Even if that saved lives – that’s not what they care about. They put Boris Johnson in to win the 2019 election: they will kick him out at the right time to win the 2024 election: they don’t care how bad he is for the country, for you and me
The Conservative Party has achieved political success for over two centuries by essentially, not having any political convictions except “People like us should be running the country”. Every other party in the UK has some political convictions besides the need to win a general election and gain power; with the Tories, it’s pure and simple – they believe they are the kind of people who should run the country, and while individual Tories may have their personal political convictions, that’s all the party itself has always been about.
Tory politicians may loathe and despise Boris Johnson. But they voted him in anyway to get power: they will get rid of him only to get power again.