Tuesday June 07, 2022
Boris survives no-trust, but not safe
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson survived a Conservative Party no-confidence motion, where 211 voted for him and 148 against. He needed 180 votes. It has been claimed that he has won by a good enough margin, and he plans to go ahead with the business of governing, and deal with the economic crisis facing the country.
He is expected to make a joint address with Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak to address what has come to be known as ‘cost of living crisis’. He then heads to Rwanda to attend the conference of Commonwealth countries, to Germany for G7 summit and to Spain for a Nato conference. Whether this busy international schedule will keep him safe at home is in doubt. He won a decisive election two years ago, but Johnson has been bogged down by a series of gaffes, and the most notorious is that of ‘Partygate’, where during the Covid-19 lockdown, parties were held at 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minister, which turned out to be drunken reveries at a time when people were dying and were suffering acutely due to lockdown restrictions. That the people are not happy with the Conservatives is reflected in the by-election losses, especially the safe Conservative constituencies. But Johnson maintains a buoyant spirit, brushing aside criticism. He said, “Today, I pledge to continue delivering. We are on the side of hard-working British people, and we are going to get on with the job.”
It has generally been the case that whenever a Conservative prime minister faced a no-trust vote and won it, like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May did, and they won it with a much better margin than Johnson, they had to ultimately resign. Tobias Ellwood said, “This is far from a conclusive result – it’s not a defeat, but it’s not a win.” Ellwood had been demanding Johnson’s resignation for quite a while.
The Conservatives cannot move another no-confidence motion for a year, and that takes Johnson nearer to the next election in 2024. So, there is a possibility that he will complete his term as prime minister despite the bumpy ride. William Hague, the indomitable Conservative leader who succeeded John Major in 1997, wrote in The Times newspaper, “Words have been said that cannot be retracted, and votes have been cast that show a greater level of rejection than any Tory leader has ever endured and survived. Deep inside, he should recognize that, and turn his mind to getting out in a way that spares party and country such agonies and uncertainties.”
Johnson has blustered his way into conservative leadership on the issue of Brexit after remaining undecided on the issue during May’s tenure, and then jumped on to the bandwagon with the zeal of a new convert. But he has not convincingly addressed the problems involved in Brexit. He has however been trying to project Britain as the power that which it is not anymore.
He has chosen the Churchillian mantle for himself and he has fashioned his rhetoric in the Churchillian mould. But he has not managed to establish himself as the great Conservative prime minister that he wants to be. His words and his actions have fallen far short of the grand gestures he has been trying to make.
Most interestingly, he has been hugely unpopular with his fellow-Conservatives, mostly because the airs he has put on of being the leader in the grand mould. Johnson might complete his term, but Conservatives seem to face a certain defeat in the 2024 general election. His rhetoric seems to fail him and his effort to be the big leader is reduced to an act of flailing his hands in desperation.