What Next?

BY JON ALEXANDER

As Partygate continues to engulf the Tories, rumours now persist that a leadership challenge is likely to take place in the near future as it’s claimed that the 54-letter threshold has been breached to trigger a leadership challenge.

The Tory faithful has started recycling all their old arguments used to keep Theresa May in post following her disastrous 2017 which saw her cobble a minority government together with the DUP:

“You can’t remove her, she’s the only one capable of doing the job”, “Ditch May and lose Brexit”, “This isn’t the right time to change Prime Minister, there’s no one else”, “Do this and you’ll have victory to Labour” they cried endlessly.

The truth is, there’s never a good time to change leader this way, but sometimes it’s necessary. It’s most likely that Boris will survive a vote of no confidence and carry on until quitting later this year, I find it unlikely he’d be able to go into an election knowing a swathe of MPs are not on his side. I suspect we’ll probably have a few more minor issues blown out of all proportion because of his inability to deal with the basics before the year is out. It very much feels like he’s on his way out, regardless of what the party may think.

For someone to go from impervious in 2019-2020, to now where literally every strike hits, is quite remarkable. Gone is the Tory party that controlled the narrative, stayed in tune with the majority every step of the way and promised us a new direction. Now we regularly have scandals, resignations and finger-pointing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Tory party is its own worst enemy. A leader that doesn’t fall apart after 18 months would be a start in reversing this downward trend, but as Labour found out, a broad church isn’t always a good thing. You can’t please everyone, but you can negotiate and use your political skills to agree compromises and unity – all this seems to be passing our current prime minister by.

Another issue that may prove more of a hindrance to the PM is the party loyalists. They have a remarkable knack of emulating both the Far-Left and the SNP when it comes to protecting their dear and glorious leader.

If I were to listen to them and take onboard their defence, it would seem we have the best PM since Thatcher that is doing amazing things for the country whilst simultaneously being unable to do anything because his hands are tied. It really is quite the stance to take – reminiscent of the Scottish Independence arguments from Sturgeon and her cultists. One example to justify why Brexit was bad, would be another example of why independence would be so amazing. “You can’t abandon the EU, it’s our biggest trading partner” they’d cry, whilst also explaining that leaving the UK would open up opportunities for Scotland to thrive on the world stage.

Current Conservative parroting tactics are to tell us the PM is the victim of a vicious media smear campaign.  Yes, they are determined to bring him down, they’ll never forgive him for seeing Brexit over the line. But if we didn’t let Jeremy Corbyn use that excuse, can we really use it ourselves? Another defence is that the PM isn’t responsible for others. Maybe, but did we let Corbyn, Sturgeon or Starmer get away with that? The PM couldn’t possibly abandon his climate change agenda to appease the Right-Wing of the party, he has international treaties to uphold and laws to abide by. Yet in the same breath they’ll tell you how he got Brexit done, which undid 40-odd years of treaties and laws.

“The PM just doesn’t have the time to tackle everything” I hear. He finds time to do things that rile up the core voters, maybe he needs to refocus his efforts somewhat?

I hear a lot of defenders tell us the media is cutting through with Partygate, yes they are. People were unhappy with him and the Tories already, I suspect a lot of what we are seeing is supporters on the ground telling him they want a change of direction. Boris was largely given the benefit of the doubt over Covid, but many were rightly disgusted over the changing of goalposts with the vaccines.

I still maintain Boris can turn this around, but he needs a full reboot of his premiership – that means returning to the popular policies he was elected on, installing a top team focused on moving beyond the pandemic, packing his wife off to Chequers, re-engaging with the voters who put him into the job in the first place. I doubt he will stage a fightback though, too much like hard work – it’s much easier to stumble around and make even basic, simple things, seem uphill.

Jon Alexander is one of the three founders of Country Squire Magazine.