Johnson’s grubby statement
Boris Johnson’s statement that he wouldn’t be standing for PM against Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt is too grubby to be printed. It is in effect a declaration of intent to stand as leader in two years time at the next general election. It dismisses Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak for not wanting to withdraw their candidatures and it repeats the unsubstantiated trope that he has the support of 102 conservative parliamentarians.
Though the manner of his statement is disgraceful, it is still most welcome. Johnson, had he made it to 102 nominations, would have caused even more trouble and might even have won a vote of Conservative members creating the worst of all worlds, a parliamentary leader of parliamentarians who did not want him.
Thankfully, he couldn’t prove his numbers and that was because of the transparent behaviour of the majority of Conservative MPs who made their intentions clear. Johnson’s game was up when we saw him getting only a handful of supporters over the weekend.
Andrew Mitchell wisely pointed out on last night’s Andrew Neil show, that Johnson might well have won an unmanageable mandate.
Sadly, he now looks to be able to make life for the new prime minister as difficult as possible in his new campaign to get his premiership back.
How transparency won it for Sunak
Matthew Paris wrote in the Times over the weekend
“Momentum is being manufactured through creating an impression that Johnson is already on his way to victory. Mysterious reports .. suggest he’s surging ahead among those MPs who are declaring — but the identities of some of these are undisclosed. They will (we’re assured) reveal themselves “later”. The sense of movement this creates is giving those many Conservative MPs who still keep their own counsel the idea that this man is a winner, and (say quieter MPs to themselves), “we’d better declare for him early, as we know he rewards supporters and freezes out the rest”.
Even in his “grubby statement” , he was peddling an untruth. The FT reports this morning
In a statement released on Sunday evening, Johnson insisted he had the support of 100 MPs — plus a proposer and seconder — but he had withdrawn in the best interests of the Conservative party and country. “I believe I am well placed to deliver a Conservative victory in 2024 — and tonight I can confirm that I have cleared the very high hurdle of 102 nominations, including a proposer and a seconder, and I could put my nomination in tomorrow,” he said.
One member of Sunak’s camp countered: “That’s obviously not true.”
The desperate ploy didn’t work. Instead the momentum switched to Rishi Sunak. Such is the lack of trust in Johnson, Rees-Mogg and James “Dudders” Dudderidge who broke the news of Johnson’s return, that the lie blew up in their faces.
Those who tried to wear the “half and half” scarf found their opportunism foiled by the pace of events.
It is perhaps a little unfortunate for Nadhim Zahawi that this was published at the exact moment Boris pulled out. pic.twitter.com/9qxMa6zZJK
— Alan White (@aljwhite) October 23, 2022
Zahawi yesterday appeared simultaneously on the BBC list as a Sunak supporter and the Guido list – supporting Johnson. The sophisticated British electorate mind these matters.
That’s because ,thanks to social media, we now have a transparent system of declarations where everyone who has an intention, is encouraged to make it known. Thanks to Guido Fawkes, this means we know who supported Boris Johnson, there are 57 of them, there are 155 supporting Sunak and 25 supporting Mordaunt. In case Guido’s spreadsheet gets lost, you can see who’s who on this post.
This revelation was enough to show that there was no way that Johnson could have commanded the majority of the parliamentary party. Truss had tried to manage without support, it didn’t last long. I wrote that Johnson held all the “aces”, but he couldn’t show his hand, he had not the means to make it to the table as both Guido and the BBC called him on that.
The “undeclared” on whom Johnson relied.
The remainder (which includes pensions minister Alex Burghart but not DWP Secretary of State Chloe Smith (who came out for Sunak) are now able to make the easy decision to jump on the Rishi bus this morning. I hope that their reticence is noted.
Guy Opperman has been clear in his support for Sunak all along. It may have lost him his job, perhaps he can have it back. I have nothing against Alex Burghart but there is unfinished business that Opperman left in his out tray and it needs more urgent attention than it’s getting.
Sunak will win this afternoon, unless Mordaunt picks up an “anyone but Rishi” tide of support.
A Hunt/Sunak leadership will comfort the markets and while it won’t silence Johnson , Dorries and others on the backbenches, it will gain the support of the markets.
We have some tough news ahead at the end of the month, some cherished expectations will be dashed, matters we might have thought settled – such as the triple lock – may not have been, inflation linking of benefits will be the most sensitive of decisions. If I had to choose between inflation linking the state pension or pension credits , I would choose the latter though I hope it doesn’t have to come to that.
What is clear is that we cannot grow the economy on such an unstable platform as has been created this summer and autumn. We need to stabilise and then grow and at last we can be confident that we will have consistency between the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s offices.
We can be comforted disaster was averted.
In as much as a disaster has been averted we can be comforted.
The odds don’t just tell us that Sunak has all but won but that there is next to no chance that he will call a general election (which is the only remaining stumbling block to some peace and quiet).
We can rejoice because , once Sunak is in charge, politics will become predictable and sensible. It may not be the Labour Government that Starmer wants, but it is a Government that could and should include Starmer. I would like to see Sunak reach out towards the opposition and encourage them to work with him in a spirit of Governmental Unity
It would be good if the SNP and Welsh Nationalists could be included in such a Government. Whatever your thoughts on the Union, now is not the time for disunity, we need to get through the testing years ahead , continue to support Ukraine and minimise the harm to those most impacted by the cost of living.
By 2pm this afternoon , we should have taken one step back along the long cul-de-sac we have been treading this year.