They went too soon

Did the rebels try to topple the Prime Minister too soon? Jim speculates on the chances of Boris Johnson leading the party into the next election.Also,as the Jubilee bunting comes down Jim reflects on the relationship between the Queen and her fourteen Prime Ministers.

Jim Hancock

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“If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it was done slowly”…to misquote Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The Conservative rebels moved too fast and have now given the Prime Minister a possible path to fighting the next election. Many think he is toast and pray in aid previous votes of no confidence in Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May which failed but led to their demise soon after.

However, in 1990 Michael Heseltine was a clear alternative to Thatcher as was Johnson to May in 2019. I prefer to look at the John Major case in 1995. When he called a vote of confidence in himself, there was no really credible alternative. Norman Lamont had been sacked as Chancellor and Michael Portillo was being successively promoted by John Major. The Welsh Secretary John Redwood resigned to fight and lost.

John Major then continued as Prime Minister for two years. Battered by EU rebels certainly, but he stayed in office for exactly the period still available to the current Prime Minister.

It is, of course, possible that forces will gather again to oust Johnson, but it is noticeable that relatively few Tories in the North West have joined the rebels. Many got in on Johnson’s coat tails and are either grateful or hopeful that he can win again. Meanwhile how about this scenario? Incredibly defeat in the Wakefield and Tiverton by elections is already expected, so the shock is dissipated. Then we have the Standards inquiry into whether he knowingly mislead parliament. I don’t expect that committee to conclude that he did and anyway Downing Street has reportedly declined to confirm that he would quit if found guilty.

What is more important than party gate and by elections in determining Johnson’s future is the cost of living. If the government can get a handle on that then his chances of survival increase.

By going early, the rebels have possibly saddled themselves with a leader weighed down by scandal with the possibility of losing an eighty-seat majority in 2024.

THE QUEEN’S PRIME MINISTERS

The political infighting broke out the day after the nation united to celebrate the Queen’s service and it led me to reflect on the relationship between the monarch and her fourteen Prime Ministers.

She began with Winston Churchill who was charmed by the young Queen. The next three Tory leaders, Eden, Macmillan, and Home saw her establish herself on the throne.

It is often presumed that the monarch struggles with Labour Prime Ministers. All the evidence was that the Queen got on well with Harold Wilson, less so with the rather stiff Ted Heath. Wilson made a welcome return followed by Jim Callaghan before the pairing of the Queen with Britain’s first woman Prime Minister. By all accounts it was a difficult relationship. John Major had to handle the divorce of the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana before the new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had to handle the Queen’s most difficult moment only months after coming into office.

He had to persuade the Queen to come from Scotland and share the nation’s grief after the death of Diana having called her the People’s Princess.

Brown, Cameron, and May followed before the current Prime Minister took office. We should never forget the position she was put in to prorogue Parliament when the EU storm was at its height in the autumn of 2019. The fact that it was subsequently found to be an illegal move, must have left the Queen wondering what would have happened if she had refused prorogation. The Queen’s impeccable impartiality is something we should all be grateful for.

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