Boris Johnson is sinking into pig manure. Has he had his day?

Is Johnson about to book the removal vans and move out of Downing Street? His stint as prime minister over? Yes please. Bring the vans in and bring the tenure of this increasingly hapless “leader” to an end.

At first thought, keeping Boris Johnson is good for us Lib Dems. His incompetence helped deliver the stunning North Shropshire result and get us our 13th MP. But his incompetence is now damaging our country. After Partygate, Peppagate, backbench rebellions and today, the resignation of Lord Frost, he increased looks as though he is up to his neck in Peppa poo.

As Oscar Wilde didn’t say: “To lose one by-election Mr Johnson, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” And there is that sense about Boris Johnson. Carelessness. The sense of not having a grip on the public mood and on the mood within his own party.

Is it time for him to walk the plank?

Our Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran said last night:

This shock resignation is a sign of the chaos and confusion at the heart of this Conservative government.

The rats are fleeing Boris Johnson’s sinking ship as he lurches from crisis to crisis.

Even the prime minister’s once loyal supporters are now abandoning him, just as lifelong Conservative voters are switching in their droves to the Liberal Democrats.

At a time, we need strong leadership to get us through the pandemic, we instead have a weak prime minister who has lost the support of his allies and the trust of the British people.

I have only met Boris Johnson once and that was on a hill outside Oxford where we were launching the 50-mile Oxford Green Belt Way. This was two days before he announced he his candidature for London Mayor. The Daily Telegraph, which then paid him a substantial sum for a column, had sent a clutch of reporters and a photographer. BBC Radio Oxford sent its reporter only be told by the Telegraph team to go away. That is not quite what they said but this is a polite blog and doesn’t use the language of some national hacks. What struck me as I looked around the assembled company was the number of people who had turned out simply to ogle at Johnson. They were almost hypnotised by his presence.

That charisma has remained with Boris Johnson until now. For a while, he has looked tired and haggard. That is understandable. A new baby. A serious dose of Covid-19 a year ago. And one of the toughest jobs in the world.

Being the prime minister of our country is always a big challenge job but for Johnson it has become exceptionally tough. He has lost two by-elections to the Lib Dems. He has lost any moral authority he might have had with the public. Backbenchers are openly talking about letters of no confidence. The 1922 Committee is revolting.

Boris Johnson has had to be cautious on some measures to slow the spread of Omicron because his backbenchers won’t support them, with nearly one hundred voting against tighter restrictions. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, yesterday declared a “major incident” as Omicron yomped across the capital. Johnson has downplayed the obvious divergence between himself and Chris Whitty at a press conference on Wednesday. But it is obvious he no longer commands the respect of England’s Chief Medical Officer.

Backbenchers are now pushing Johnson to get a stronger team at No 10. Veteran backbencher Sir Roger Gale has said that Johnson has one last chance.

Like John Major before him, he must be thinking there are a lot of bastards out there. Major faced his critics down with a leadership election.

Is the resignation of Lord Frost enough to trigger a leadership election? Will Johnson resign or face down his demons across the party? Almost certainly not. But barely a day goes past without Johnson sinking deeper into pig manure.

But don’t mention Peppa the Pig!

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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33 Comments

  • Michael Hopkins 19th Dec '21 - 8:50am

    All of that is true, but we are likely to find almost any successor rather harder to compete against.

  • Jenny Barnes 19th Dec '21 - 9:15am

    liz truss is the favourite among the Con home activists. Strikes me as a very lightweight Thatcher wannabe. We need to be campaigning against the Tories, not their leader in particular.

  • Trevor Andrews 19th Dec '21 - 9:16am

    Don’t worry about Boris, put your energy into talking about our people and what we can do to regain power and change things. Boris has had his day.

  • It was always clear that the ultimate threat to Boris Johnson would be Boris Johnson. It is not for us to intrude on private grief.

  • Brad Barrows 19th Dec '21 - 9:33am

    The longer Boris can limp on, the more the Conservative brand is tarnished and Conservative support will ebb away. Since I would prefer the Conservatives to be led by a political liability then by someone who may propel them to re-election, I hope that Boris can somehow cling on as Conservatives leader by the skin of his teeth, leading a divided and demoralised party to a defeat similar in scale to what befell them in 1997.

  • John Marriott 19th Dec '21 - 9:42am

    Andrew Marr was christened it ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’. As for the departure of Lord David Frost, I offer the following words: rats, sinking, ship. As for our PM, I am REALLY getting fed up with seeing those daily photo opportunities with the dishevelled one wearing a variety of uniforms ‘meeting the people’ instead of sitting down and sorting out the tattered governance of our country. If he can’t organise his hair,m what chance has he with the Government.

    I see that ultra dry Steve Baker MP has ‘removed’ Nadine Dorries from his WhatsApp group for having the temerity to defend Johnson. Wow! Things are happening in the corridors of power. They are even now wheeling out the Vaccines Minister, Maggie Throup, (Maggie who?) so things must be getting desperate.

  • Barry Lofty 19th Dec '21 - 9:49am

    I cannot deny a large degree of satisfaction with the situation Boris Johnson finds himself in at the moment, he, in my opinion, has demeaned the position of Prime Minister of the UK but recognise that another leader will be harder for opposition party’s to oppose at least in the short term. Boris Johnson’s time in charge has managed to highlight the cronyism and corruption that seems endemic from people who have prominent positions in the governance of the country, perhaps?, this is one area that would resonate with the voters in the future?

  • Poor Boris. It must be difficult being a leader when you have no plan and no principles.

  • John Marriott 19th Dec '21 - 10:52am

    @Barry Lofty
    How does it go, Barry, “The captain of this lugger…..”? Cromwell’s speech to the Long Parliament comes to mind. On the other hand, Brad Barrows might be right in arguing that the Tories led by Johnson may be a better proposition for the opposition parties at the next General Election than a party led by a dark horse with a track record of honesty. I notice a couple of Tories have mentioned Tom Tugendhat as a possible successor.

    It reminds me for some reason of Maggie Smith’s character in Gosport Park saying to a fellow guest just after ‘Ivor Novello’ has finished a song at the piano, which went something like; “Don’t clap too loud. He might be encouraged to sing another song”.

  • James Fowler 19th Dec '21 - 11:08am

    Not yet. There’s no one plausible enough to replace him for the moment. Don’t forget that less than year ago he was the all conquering hero who had delivered victory in Hartlepool. The pandemic is a crazy rollercoaster of opinion that swoops and swings around in weeks, even days. North Shropshire was a magnificent victory, but it was a protest against a very specific set of events, not an endorsement of a coherent alternative liberal manifesto – no such document really exists. I strongly suspect that the 99 rebels and Lord Frost’s departure are by far the most telling problems, but they don’t have a leader – for the time being.

  • If the Conservative Party replaces Mr Johnson with almost any other person, it will be good for the country, which we should want.

    However I agree with Andy Boddington that the change would be bad for our Party, because it would be good for the Conservative Party.

    Purely electorally, the best thing for the Lib Dems would be for Johnson to stagger on, with fresh sleaze allegations seeping out daily. Sadly that would not be good for the UK.

  • John Marriott @ John, I love that line from Gosport Park and the “Captain of the lugger” has really messed up this time. Unfortunately for the country the group of right wing Tories who used Johnson will probably have a large say in who takes over from him, if it happens???

  • Boris Johnson; the gift that keeps giving!

    I suggest a round of applause (with ironic cheers) for the man who almost single handedly presented the opportunity that was North Shropshire..Without his botched intervention Owen Patterson would have ended the last parliamentary session as MP for North Shropshire.
    Johnson has surrounded himself with look-alike (politically speaking) cronies and purged the cabinet ( and as far down as Parliamentary Under Secretaries), of competent alternatives.. Any replacement will not change his political direction (except to move further to the right on human rights, immigration, etc.) and will not carry the same burden of sleaze and incompetence so, although I despise the man. I want him to remain in No.10..

    Andy Boddington…”Boris Johnson has had to be cautious on some measures to slow the spread of Omicron because his backbenchers won’t support them, with nearly one hundred voting against tighter restrictions”…….

    If, as you suggest, Johnson’s ‘forced’ caution is a bad thing in slowing the spread of Omicron, why did our MPs march through the lobby with those Tory MPs who forced that caution? .

  • nigel hunter 19th Dec '21 - 1:31pm

    Whether he stays or goes.The party has to build up and consolidate the MPs we have. Conservatives will learn lessons and be back for the election.The seats that we are 2nd in have to be built up with our ideology of what we stand for and build up of council seats Surveys on what those constituencies need and campaign on those issues.Equally they should tie in with a national strategy.It has struck me that what we stand for is not in evidence nationally ,that has to change.We can celebrate now but there is a hard slog ahead.

  • I’d be a little careful what we wish for here. Yes, Boris is obviously lazy, somewhat incompetent, and has ended up with a Government embroiled in sleaze. But remember, a big part of why many Tories no longer like him is that they perceive him as too left wing. He’s raised taxes in order to spend more on health and social care. He’s stood up for green issues – something that’s not always a popular thing to do in the Tory party. (That Peppa Pig reference attracted a lot of mirth. I actually took the trouble to watch the whole CBI speech online – he actually spent a huge part of the speech talking about the need to transition to a green economy, something we can surely applaud, but which most commentators have missed). He’s also gone along with lockdowns and social distancing restrictions to protect the NHS during the Covid crisis – that’s something else that’s not very popular on the libertarian right.

    If Boris goes, it’s a fair guess that any likely replacement will probably be more competent (that’s good), less sleazy (good), BUT also simultaneously harder to fight electorally, more right wing in terms of being committed to a low-tax, low-regulation economy, and also being much less committed to zero-carbon and green issues.

  • William Wallace 19th Dec '21 - 2:32pm

    I don’t think it hurts the Liberal Democrats that David Frost has resigned because he thinks Boris Johnson isn’t sufficiently right-wing – and that a significant number of Tory MPs agree with him.

  • Graham Jeffs 19th Dec '21 - 2:48pm

    A week ago I posted the following:

    “I fear that Conservative angst with this [BJ sleaze and incompetence] stems too much from being ‘caught out’ rather than a real concern about ethics and integrity.

    The problem from their perspective is that they need a leader who has the skills to be more accomplished at subterfuge. I doubt that a change of leader shall bring about any improvement in the main thrust of their policies – it’s just that it won’t be so obvious.”

    So we do need to take care in portraying current circumstances as almost exclusively a result of Boris Johnson’s actions and approach. We need to be making the points that in many instances it is the Conservative Party’s approach and policies that are at the root of the issues that we are encountering at local and national level. If we do not make that linkage – coupled with positive and credible solutions of our own, the electorate (most of whom don’t share our interest in politics anyway) can quickly be persuaded that the problems are being swept away by a change on Conservative Party leadership. We know that isn’t the case, but we need to be explaining that vocally before the event rather than after it.

  • BJ is a well known abbreviation. Maybe it would have been better for everyone if he’d have stuck to his initials when it comes to passing the time rather than messing up the whole damned country. Just sayin’.

  • John Marriott 19th Dec '21 - 3:57pm

    Apologies, it was of course ‘GosFORD Park’! On the subject of where we go from here, despite such a marvellous victory, I still maintain that the only way to get rid of this wretched government is for Labour, Lib Dems and Greens somehow to work together. The public would surely see through too overt an ‘agreement’ so a much subtle approach is required. But please, please, don’t get on your high horses as you did in Autumn 2019!

  • Tristan Ward 19th Dec '21 - 7:42pm

    I think we will be stuck with Johnson for a wee whe yet whether that is good for the country or not.

  • Andy Boddington 20th Dec '21 - 12:10am

    This was issued by the Lib Dems yesterday evening.

    Liz Truss Brexit appointment: PM setting up leadership rival to fail

    Responding to the news that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will take over Lord Frost’s Brexit responsibilities following his resignation, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

    “The Tories are tearing themselves apart under Boris Johnson. The Prime Minister is more interested in setting his leadership rivals up to fail than doing what’s right for the country.

    “Liz Truss has shown time and again that she doesn’t care about the national interest – she’s only interested in appealing to Conservative party members. That is a disgrace.

    “Under David Frost, our relations with Europe were already teetering on the brink of a trade war. Families and small businesses up and down the country will now be seriously worried about what the future holds for our trade with Europe.”

  • It definitely seems as if Johnson has no plans to resign soon. The Truss move is telling.

    It’s also depressingly predictable that the media seems to be accepting that Lord Frost resigned because of tax policy, and not because he’s realised, like his predecessors, that there isn’t any good Brexit deal to be had and this is a convenient time for him to make a ‘principled’ exit.

  • The worst PM ever however don’t the opposition parties actually want Johnson to remain, namely as a sitting duck for their rifles.

  • Simon R “If Boris goes, it’s a fair guess that any likely replacement will probably be more competent (that’s good), less sleazy (good), BUT also simultaneously harder to fight electorally, more right wing in terms of being committed to a low-tax, low-regulation economy, and also being much less committed to zero-carbon and green issues.” I think this is a very good summary of the dilemma … also a conflict between what is good for the country and what is good for the opposition parties.

  • Neil Hickman 20th Dec '21 - 9:38am

    Truss, of course, has an interesting back story (apart from speeches about cheese and about pork products).
    I think the story should be circulated that actually she has spent the period since she was President of Oxford Uni Lib Dems in 1995 (http://www.theweepingcross.co.uk/fould_officers.html) working as a very deep mole…

  • Barry Lofty 20th Dec '21 - 9:55am

    Ian Sanderson(RM3)@ Your description of our PM is right on the nail, any policy that he advocates at any given moment is primarily to give him the maximum amount of personal publicity but with minimum amount of thought for the repercussions.

  • We are still being taken for fools..

    ‘Parties’ have morphed into ‘gatherings’ and now. according to Raab (he of the sunbed office), ‘gatherings’ have become ‘after work drinks which, with ‘pickies’, don’t break any rules…
    I’m only surprised that eye tests were not being done; after all, that would have made the party/gathering/after work drinks absolutely OK..

  • @theakes. Johnson will be gone by the next election. He has too much baggage and continues to collect it and the Tories won’t risk him at the helm for the next general election, and I doubt he has much interest in it either.

    What he’d like is to stand down when it suits him, and what the Tory party would like is for him to keep on collecting all of the baggage from their disastrous Brexit.

    His replacement may well be more competent and will result in an initial boost to their polling. It will be the responsibility of the opposition parties to ensure that the new leader doesn’t get to claim they had nothing to do with the failings of this government under Johnson. It will be our job to ensure they take responsibility for the stuff that happens once they take over.

    Tempting as it is to enjoy the Tory’s plummeting poll ratings as Johnson clings to power, it’s meaningless if we know that they’ll be reversed as soon as he’s replaced.

    We need the new person to take over early enough so that they can be held to account for what has happened under their direction.

  • Peter Hirst 20th Dec '21 - 2:10pm

    Cabinet responsibility depends on the majority being able to influence the PM of the day. Like much in British politics its success depends on processes working as they were imagined when first used. Its archaic methods need updating so we have a more concensus driven, less authoritarian first minister and are less personality obsessed.

  • James Fowler 21st Dec '21 - 7:08pm

    @Fiona – That’s interesting, but isn’t it getting a bit too close to the next election already for him to step aside? Granted, the election could be postponed until almost 2025, but my gut feeling is that they want to go earlier (irrespective of further lockdowns) as people are just going to get poorer and poorer between then and now (inflation, tax rises). I can’t easily see that ‘good moment to fade out’, plus on the campaign trail he’s still got that raffish, British-is-best, feel-good factor that none of the others have, and, as we know to our cost, can magnetise a surprising number of people.

  • Alex Macfie 22nd Dec '21 - 5:26pm

    Replacing Johnson would not necessarily help the Conservatives, especially if it happens towards the end of the Parliament. We might Canada 1993 is a case in point. Long-serving PM Brian Mulroney had become deeply unpopular. He was deposed (the Canadian Tories presumably being as ruthless as their British equivalent), but his successor Kim Campbell could not cast off his long shadow and she led her party to an electoral rout in which the Tories won just 2 seats and she lost her own seat. Her tenure as PM was so brief she never faced PMQs.

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