The knives are out for Boris Johnson: his leadership is finally crumbling
A coup inside cabinet has started. It’s difficult to see how Boris Johnson survives this challenge to his authority.
Rishi Sunak listens as Boris Johnson addresses his Cabinet (Getty Images)
He won the backing of a majority of Tory MPs in a confidence vote, and although it was by a narrower margin than the vote which fatally damaged his predecessor Theresa May’s position as prime minister in 2018, it seemed like the moment of real danger had passed.
As we’ve seen throughout his career, Johnson is cut from a different cloth from your typical British politician, believing that the rules never apply to him.
He appeared to be Teflon, beyond the usual moral codes. Rather like Donald Trump before him, his self-made personality cult rendered any attacks on him futile.
Another day, another scandal. Another bumbling excuse. A dead cat policy thrown into the mix for good measure.
Despite feverish speculation among Westminster hacks, it seemed foolish to predict his imminent demise. Not least because there was no procedural way to force him out, without changes to the rules of the 1922 Committee.
David Davis told The Telegraph back in January that “Boris will not leave Number 10 unless he’s dragged out kicking and screaming”.
He had a point. Johnson is famously power-hungry, and his fingernails were more likely to do some serious damage to the desk in Downing Street than any resignation letter being forthcoming.
It also seemed like his closest allies in government were prepared to stay in his corner, no matter how bad things got, no matter how much he trashed the integrity of his office. Yes, there were rumours of a leadership challenge, but they never amounted to anything.
Well, the tide has turned dramatically now, with the shock resignations of both the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, two of the most senior and loyal members of Johnson’s cabinet.
Both had stuck by Johnson through the worst of Partygate, despite their obvious misgivings - and despite Sunak being dragged into it with a police fine of his own.
But after months of this stuff, it appears that the PM’s handling of the Chris Pincher scandal was the last straw. It was this that seemingly prompted them to consult their moral compass.
The fact that government ministers were being sent out to defend Johnson’s increasingly ludicrous defence for approving Pincher’s appointment in February resulted in some extremely glum-looking faces around the cabinet table earlier today.
It is always dangerous to speculate on the fate of a political animal as unpredictable and singular as Boris Johnson, but it’s difficult to see how he comes back from losing two of his most senior allies (and a few lesser-known ministers and aides).