Boris Johnson will struggle to recover from his admission about attending Downing Street drinks gathering

News Letter editorial of Thursday January 12 2022:

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 1:54 am
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 2:33 am
News Letter editorial

Theresa May became leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister in July 2016, after David Cameron resigned when he lost the Brexit vote.

Mrs May inherited a government with an overall majority and seemed to be confidently in charge of the country, yet she almost did not even see out one full year in office.

Her disastrous failure to win a Tory majority in the snap election that she called in June 2017 almost led to her being toppled from office straight after the vote.

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Yet Mrs May somehow managed to hang on as premier for three full years, despite being unable to get any of her Brexit plans through Parliament.

Almost the opposite scenario is panning out with her successor, Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson finally inherited the Conservative crown he had long coveted in summer 2019 and in the process inherited a government that was still in paralysis.

But he then abandoned his pledges to Northern Ireland against an Irish Sea border, struck a deal with a delighted Leo Varadkar, and called his own snap general election, on the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’.

This resulted in a hefty overall majority in Parliament that made him seem impregnable, and resulted in the complete loss of DUP influence in the House of Commons.

As this column observed yesterday (see link below), that victory if anything exacerbated Mr Johnson’s tendencies towards hubris.

Now, extraordinarily, his premiership hangs by a thread. While Mrs May stayed in post for three years, Mr Johnson will struggle to do reach the same milestone (due this summer).

His admission that he attended a Downing Street drinks gathering of 100 people cannot be explained away as easily as the PM tried to do yesterday and so is a development from which it will be hard to recover. The findings of Sue Gray, who is investigating the incident, are unlikely to be flattering.

Any such report will not of itself lead to his removal but will leave him at the mercy of Tory MPs, whose support for him last night seemed lukewarm.

There ought to be serious doubts about whether a prime minister should lose office over such a serious but specific transgression. But if he does, the cocksure Mr Johnson can hardly blame anyone but himself.

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