SARAH VINE: Boris Johnson will soldier on, despite being badly wounded
SARAH VINE: Boris Johnson will soldier on, despite being badly wounded… The great blusterer needs a reboot. But there’s still no one who would do the job better
Personally, if I were the Prime Minister waking up yesterday morning having received a resounding slap in the face from my own MPs, I would be thinking: ‘Oh sod it.
‘If you lot reckon you can do a better job of navigating Brexit, getting the country through a pandemic and dealing with a swivel-eyed lunatic laying waste to Ukraine, then be my guest.
‘I’ll have the summer off and then go back to living a normal life where I don’t have to put up with everyone telling me how to do my job all the time, and where I never have to speak to that ocean-going bore Keir Starmer ever again, or pretend that anyone, least of all me, has any interest whatsoever in what William Hague thinks.’
That would be the sanest response. The one that, were I in Carrie’s shoes, I would be lobbying for. Just think: no more hacks breathing down your neck, the kids can grow up in relative privacy and you can make rude hand gestures at people when they cut you up at roundabouts.
In short, get your life back and let someone else have a go, since they clearly think they’re hard enough.
But Boris will soldier on, despite being badly — possibly fatally — wounded, for the simple fact politics is an addiction. It’s like gambling: you can be down to your last penny, but there’s always that voice in your head saying: ‘If I can just have one last throw of the dice, one tiny bit of luck, one win, I can turn this thing around.’
What he should really do now is fold. But since he won’t, the only option is to put everything on black. And I really do mean everything. After all, what does he have to lose?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson seen speaking at a reception of Falklands veterans on Tuesday
If Johnson is to have any chance of surviving this vote of no confidence, he needs to completely re-think his whole strategy and style of leadership.
He needs to take a long hard look in the mirror, acknowledge his weaknesses — and embark on a radical overhaul of everyone and everything, starting with his attitude to the job.
The mistake he has made — and, to be fair, it’s a mistake lots of politicians make — is to think you can be Prime Minister and not let it change you.
In Johnson’s case, he has tried to retain his trademark shambolic, Devil-may-care, lovable ruffian persona — one that may work fine in journalism, or as a constituency MP entertaining the troops at a Friday night rubber chicken dinner, or even as Mayor of London. But when you’re running the country, it just doesn’t wash.
This attitude is what lies at the root of pretty much all his problems, both current and historical, and it has made him a lot of enemies along the way.
Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, announces that Boris Johnson has survived an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader. The secret ballot was won by 211 to 148 votes
It arguably lost him his most useful adviser, Dominic Cummings, who, despite being someone who takes everything too seriously, was instrumental in getting him elected.
Cummings’s main criticism of Johnson is that he didn’t take the job seriously enough. But that’s not quite true. The problem is — and always has been — that Boris doesn’t take himself seriously enough.
It’s his laissez-faire approach to life that has caused him the biggest damage of his premiership, from not paying attention to what sort of wallpaper was being planned for No10, to not wanting to be a party-pooper and failing to enforce what were, let’s face it, his own rules on social gatherings.
All his life he’s played fast and loose with the rules, and he’s upset an awful lot of people. And now, for the same reasons, he’s upset the people who really matter to a PM, that is to say the voters.
None of that can be fixed now. The only way Johnson can ever hope to atone for those misjudgments in the eyes of the public is if, instead of trying to sweep the whole thing under the carpet and generally obfuscating, old-Boris style, he shows that he understands the depth of his failings and is willing, and able, to make radical changes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson chairs a Cabinet meeting at No10 on Tuesday after he survived an attempt by Tory MPs to oust him as party leader following a confidence vote in his leadership on Monday evening at the Houses of Parliament
He should appoint his own guardian, someone stern and suitably terrifying, to act as his moral compass and to independently oversee the office of the PM. I’d favour Sue Gray. She has the authority, and she certainly has the experience.
But that alone won’t be enough. While he needs to convince the public that he can do better, in terms of the Tory party itself he won’t get anywhere by being conciliatory.
He needs a reshuffle, of course, but one that doesn’t just move the same tired old pieces around the board but brings in new talent (and allies) from the 2019 intake. And he needs to exact punishments. Theresa May was ruthless in this respect when she was in No 10; he should find a way of giving her, and the rest of the rebels, a taste of her own medicine. Believe me, there are numerous ways a PM, even a weakened one, can make a backbencher’s life miserable.
For Johnson’s one advantage, the ace he does still have up his sleeve, is that unlike former prime ministers in his position, there is no obvious replacement behind whom the party can unite. No one has any positive plan, save to unseat him.
Equally, the Opposition is, despite all the bluster, truly abysmal. No one save the most ardent Labour voter could possibly think that Starmer would be any better at tackling the problems facing the country.
But that won’t stop people voting for him if the Tories don’t get their act together.
Sarah Vine, journalist and columnist for the Daily Mail
The Prime Minister must stop faffing around with high-vis, dog-whistle initiatives, such as bringing back pounds and ounces and packing illegal migrants off to Rwanda, and show the voters he is serious about the things that really matter to them — namely the fact their shopping bill has trebled and they can’t afford to run a bath.
Politics is a toxic, hopeless business, one where it doesn’t matter how many things you get right or how many disasters you avert. All anyone ever cares about are your mistakes.
Boris Johnson is far from perfect. But I am yet to be convinced that anyone else has either the stomach or the ability to do better.
Veteran football commentator Martin Tyler has been forced to apologise after he referred to a player as ‘soldiering’ on following an ankle injury. No, I didn’t get it either, until my son painstakingly explained the problem: the player in question was Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan.
Apparently using the word ‘soldiering’ is ‘culturally insensitive’. As if a country busy giving a bloody nose to the nastiest tinpot dictator on the planet would care.
‘Getting my skin tightening on my stomach, getting ready for summer,’ gushes model Abbey Clancy on Instagram, as some sort of glowing probe glides across her stomach. What? Why? She already has a stomach like a washboard. Or is she just reminding us how vastly superior to our own wobbleboards hers is?
Are Brad and Angelina shaping up to be the next Johnny and Amber? Brad has accused Ange of trying to damage him by secretly selling her stake in his French vineyard to ‘a Russian oligarch’ with ‘poisonous intentions’. Oh dear. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn into another ‘mega pint’ of wine situation a la Johnny Depp.
Interesting that the Queen reportedly refused to have a photographer present for the moment she met baby Lilibet. Her Majesty may be 96, but she’s still sharp as a box of tacks. She knows the value of a picture like that to the Sussexes; perhaps this time she decided not to play ball. After all, it’s not exactly as though Harry and Meghan have shown they can be trusted to be discreet about private royal moments.
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