Boris Johnson’s statement is full of poison

If I were Rishi Sunak, I wouldn’t feel too happy about Boris Johnson’s statement tonight. The disgraced former PM said that he had 102 MPs willing to nominate him, though only a few shy of 60 have been willing to own that publicly. However, he said that he was not going to submit his nomination because:

You can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in parliament.

There’s an undercurrent of “and neither can you, Rishi.”

He is showing the likely soon to be PM that he is going to have some shenanigans to deal with in the parliamentary party.

And look how he puts in people’s minds that Rishi is a wee bit short of democratic legitimacy:

I have been attracted because I led our party into a massive election victory less than three years ago – and I believe I am therefore uniquely placed to avert a general election now.

A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.

Whether his group of acolytes would actually force a general election remains to be seen, but he’s making sure that Rishi knows that he could if we wanted to.

Some will think that this was his cunning plan all along – to show off his own power.

This way he gets to lie on Caribbean beaches when he should be in Parliament, and make a fortune on the speaking circuit in the States, while being a thorn in the side of his successor. He might consider that a good position to be in.

For the rest of us, it signals more political chaos and distraction from what the people of this country need.

Our Deputy Leader, Daisy Cooper, has repeated our call for a General Election now, calling the Tory leadership contest a farce:

The Conservative leadership contest has become a total farce.

This is a humiliating climbdown for Boris Johnson and all the Conservative MPs who wanted to put him back in Number 10 after he lied and broke the law.

The public will rightly be furious that they’re set to endure a third Conservative PM in just as many months.

While people are struggling with their spiralling bills, the Conservatives look set to appoint a former Chancellor who lost the country billions.

Our country doesn’t need another Conservative coronation, we need a General Election.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • One lie too many did it for Boris. For that alone rejoice

  • I am a little worried that a General Election may not lead to the stability we need. The current Electoral Calculus model suggests Labour would win 507 MPs and the Official Opposition would be the SNP with 52 MPs. Surely such an outcome would enable the SNP to create great mischief and make the break up of the UK more likely…

  • Peter Davies 23rd Oct '22 - 10:51pm

    The SNP might be the official opposition but the real opposition would be the other factions in the Labour party.

  • Martin Gray 24th Oct '22 - 8:03am

    Sadly people vote for him, & in large numbers …
    We can call for a GE as loud as we want – with an 80 seat majority there’s not a lot we can do …

  • Alex Macfie 24th Oct '22 - 8:24am

    @Will Munro: I wouldn’t try to predict the outcome of a snap GE until the campaign proper starts. I don’t know the details of the Electoral Calculus methodology, but unless it takes some account of local factors it’s unlikely to be very useful. Even on 10% of the vote the Lib Dems are likely to win far more than 19 seats in the event of a Tory meltdown due to targeting and tactical voting.
    @Martin Gray: Had Johnson been able to get enough MPs to nominate him he would have undoubtedly have won the membership ballot. But he’s no longer an election winner among the wider electorate, and hasn’t been for quite some time. Even the 2019GE victory was down to Brexit rather than him personally, and he was disliked by almost everyone who didn’t vote for his party. And the Tories have flopped in Parliamentary by-elections, not winning a contested by-election since OB&S last year. And even in the one they did win, the Southend West phoney by-election, there was a record number of spoiled ballot papers, most comments on which were said to have been directed at the then PM.

  • Johnson…”A general election would be a further disastrous distraction just when the government must focus on the economic pressures faced by families across the country.”

    This from the man who has, almost single-handedly, emasculated rational government for a whole year…
    From ‘Paterson’, parties, operation ‘Save Big Dog’ and ‘Pincher’ effective goverment has been in limbo. A prolonged internal election and Truss’s ’15 minutes of fame’ has added to the chaos and the Johnson ‘comeback’ was just more madness..

    Morally the country needs a GE but, as Martin Gray says, that is not in the wider country’s power to achieve..

  • George Thomas 24th Oct '22 - 9:31am

    Rishi Sunak becoming PM breaks down further barriers, not just for us short men, but we can focus on his political decisions in short time as Chancellor: it was he who decided to entertain Great Barrington Declaration mob on covid, he who decided to cut overseas aid budget so savagely at time of greatest need and he who boasted about moving money away from deprived areas into Turnbridge Wells.

    So many mistakes in such a short space of time and yet we’re meant to believe it’s him who has good sense over the economy.

  • How would the Tories feel if Labour won the next election and then got rid of Starmer and replaced him with Corbyn after a few months? Many people vote for the leader rather than the party and (love him or hate him) Johnson had that mandate, Sunak doesn’t. There should be a General Election.

  • It might be argued that the system has actually worked reasonably well, though more by chance that design. Johnson’s mandate was based on the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto.

    When Truss and her bunch of libertarian fellow travellers took control of the party they threw out that manifesto and started to implement policies that would have been overwhelmingly rejected by the voters if they had been presented in an election. This was – in effect – a coup. And Truss is now in the history books as the shortest serving PM in history.

    Sunak has been very explicit in saying that he intends to return to implementing the 2019 Conservative manifesto, thus attempting to reassert the Conservative mandate.

    But the whole episode has caused a dramatic loss in public confidence in this government and it can only be remedied by fresh elections. I will be marching on November 5th.

  • Peter Watson 24th Oct '22 - 11:23am

    @Paul Murray “But the whole episode has caused a dramatic loss in public confidence in this government and it can only be remedied by fresh elections.”
    I’m a little uncomfortable with the party’s calls for a general election, though I can certainly understand the motivation behind them.
    We have a parliamentary system in which we elect individual MPs rather than the prime minister (or even a party, in theory), and rely on them to make decisions on our behalf. Certainly, that was a justification used by Lib Dems when it suited them to defend anti-Brexit Tory defectors in 2017-2019 against calls for by-elections. And it’s not controversial round here to support proportional representation and more coalitions which would regularly deliver a government – much like in 2010 – for which nobody actually voted but which our elected representatives have cobbled together as best they can.
    In some ways that is what we have now: if an MP can command a majority of support in the House of Commons, then they have a right to be Prime Minister. We certainly want/need a more proportional and representative system in Parliament, and a general election would hopefully rid us of this awful government, but – reluctantly – I can’t help but feel that the Lib Dem calls for a General Election are simply opportunistic and have a whiff of hypocrisy about them.

  • Peter Watson: it is true that the calls by the Liberal Democrats for a General Election maybe construed as opportunistic and hypocritical but isn’t that how all political party’s play the game, not to say anything would be even worse given the mess the country has been subjected to over the last few years.

  • Paul Murray 24th Oct '22 - 1:54pm

    @Peter Watson – There are now plenty of Conservative MPs and peers saying the same thing. Earlier today Zac Goldsmith said : “I don’t see how we can have a 3rd new Prime Minister – and a policy programme that is miles away from the original manifesto – without going to the country. Conservative MPs understandably won’t want to and are legally not obliged to, but it will be morally unavoidable.”

    My view is nothing to do with whether it is in the narrow partisan interests of the Liberal Democrats to have a General Election at this point – it is about the loss of public confidence in the processes of government due to the chaos of the last year.

    In a recent poll only 7% of the public approved of the performance of Liz Truss as Prime Minister – this is approaching the percentage of the population who believe that they have personally been abducted by aliens.

    If democratic consent is to mean anything it must mean that a new government forming after so much self-inflicted chaos has a moral – though not a legal – responsibility to go back to the nation.

  • Pound to a penny BJ didn’t have 102 votes. It’s just a nice, convenient, almost believable number. To say exactly 100 would have looked suspicious and anything much more would have been easy to disprove. But what do we expect from a man who doesn’t know the difference between truth and a lie, and doesn’t really care. He threw in the towel because at 2.00 today we would have found out the true number (probably about 75-80) and he would have looked silly. Ok, even more silly.

  • Peter Watson 24th Oct ’22 – 11:23am………..We have a parliamentary system in which we elect individual MPs rather than the prime minister (or even a party, in theory), and rely on them to make decisions on our behalf………

    ‘In theory’ is right.. Since Boris spearheaded the Brexit vote everything has been about ‘how Johnson can/has/can win/won/win the election”..Even yesterday the only reason for Johnson’s return was how ‘he can win the next GE’..Conversely, it seems that because Starmer is seen as ‘boring’, that is THE reason for not voting for the Labour party..

    The idea that the electorate vote for THEIR local MP in a GE is long dead..The UK GE’s have become ‘presidential’ in all but name..

  • nvelope2003 24th Oct '22 - 4:26pm

    Many voters seem to see the political system as another branch of celebrity culture. A few people seem to have a vague idea that politicians are there to serve the public but many see Boris Johnson as an amusing celebrity whose views are unknown and even irrelevant whilst Starmer is considered to be a complete bore with no discernible views and they have never heard of Ed Davey or any other politicians and don’t care. Interesting that a businessman, Gregg Hands, blames Brexit for much of the chaos in Britain and the growing poverty among many people and wants it renegotiated. Lord Frost on the contrary seems to be motivated by the past and is obsessed with Brexit despite its obvious failure which he almost seemed to acknowledge if only he did not live in the past. I fear the new Conservative leader may scupper our hopes of a resurgence in support for the Liberal Democrats if he is successful. There has been little sign of increased support for the party in recent local by elections where Conservatives have even made gains.

  • Peter Watson 24th Oct '22 - 4:42pm

    @nvelope2003 “I fear the new Conservative leader may scupper our hopes of a resurgence in support for the Liberal Democrats if he is successful.”
    For me, that highlights why I would like to see electoral reform and proportional representation. Not because of some notion of “fairness” but because the thing that most depresses me about the current partisan, “oppositionist” system (might not be the right word!) is that it is so terminally negative. It’s all about attacking the government, opposition for its own sake, talking down the country, etc.
    As you identify here, while it is in my interests – and the UK’s – for any prime minister to be successful, it is not in the political interests of opposition parties.
    I like to think that proportional representation, and coalition being a normal part of government, would lead to a more positive and collaborative approach to governing the country.

  • nvelope2003 24th Oct '22 - 4:49pm

    Will Munro: Would the break up of the UK be such a bad thing, apart from sentimental reasons. English taxpayers have to find £billions to subsidise Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland so that they can have a higher standard of living than would otherwise be possible despite many, if not most of them, wanting to leave the UK, yet large parts of England suffer poverty which could be partially alleviated by keeping the money for the benefit of those who do not want to leave. It is time to get rid of the last remnants of colonialism.

  • nvelope2003 25th Oct '22 - 2:45pm

    Alex Macfie: Tactical voting is normally helpful but if Labour maintains its present lead they would actually win many of the seats usually gained by Liberal Democrats because of tactical voting. The map in today’s Polling Unpacked is very disheartening showing them winning many seats in our former heartlands where they have hardly ever won before, including my own constituency.

    Peter Watson: I very much agree with your thoughts on the “oppositionist” system. When I hear speeches in the House of Commons it usually fills me with despair that adult people can behave like that. One of my reasons for opposing the abolition of the monarchy is that an elected head of state would almost certainly be a known party politician and the election would be on party lines whatever the rules said. The Police and Crime Commissioners were supposed to be non party but almost all of them are party political figures, sometimes little Boris in their own areas and the turnout is abysmal, as it would probably be for an elected President. The late Queen was admired by most people as a national symbol partly because she was not a politician. Whenever I mention anything political I get looks of despair and even anger most of the time, except when I criticised Miss Truss’s policies when they suddenly brightened and there were murmurs of approval. Maybe the Tories really are finished and people have had enough. Some of the elderly Conservatives interviewed would be enough to put anyone off.

  • Alex Macfie 27th Oct '22 - 9:02am

    nvelope2003: “[Labour] would actually win many of the seats usually gained by Liberal Democrats because of tactical voting” that assumes Uniform National Swing. In reality who wins a constituency will depend on the ground campaign, which mid-term national polls don’t generally pick up. Incidentally, even MRP polling methodologies need critical examination, as some of them (e.g. Focaldata) seem to give a lot of weight to so-called voting “tribes” at the national level but fail to consider local factors.

  • nvelope2003 27th Oct '22 - 2:28pm

    Alex Macfie: I hope that you are right but what the party really needs is a big idea which appeals to voters and a leader who can put it across and become a national figure like Jo Grimond, Charles Kennedy or Gladstone. Even flawed Jeremy Thorpe attracted a great deal of interest. The polls 2 years before the 1997 election won by Tony Blair showed support for Labour similar to that now but by the time of the election it had fallen to the mid forties and the Liberal Democrats did quite well for the next 3 elections until the disastrous coalition after which all the gains were lost and the Tories scrapped all the reforms we introduced so it was pointless, yet still we hear talk of coalitions and what we should ask for in return for the support Labour is unlikely to need or want.
    One reform which would be very popular and not cost much money would be to end British rule in Northern Ireland where we pay politicians huge sums of money to do nothing because one party wants to cancel a protocol supported by the majority of the voters just to vent its anger because Sinn Fein won the election for the first time in 100 years and here we are quibbling because a few thousand paid up members of the Conservative party could not vote for the leader of their party and they would not hold a general election when no other party would when it faced almost certain annihilation.

  • Alex Macfie 30th Oct '22 - 8:14am

    nvelope2003: Unfortunately it was Thorpe’s character flaws that got the most attention during his leadership, especially the latter part. It didn’t harm the party as a whole anything like as much as did Clegg’s elementary political errors. Evidently voters tend to attribute a poitician’s personal flaws to the person rather than the party, while political failure can hang about a party like a bad smell.
    But as I keep saying, the error wasn’t going into coalition, but how it was done. As the late David Beckett, formerly of this parish, put it, it should have been conducted as a business arrangement, not a love-in. We may have to work with Labour in the next Parliament. We didn’t after the 1923 GE, when both Liberal factions let Ramsay MacDonald form a minority Labour government, but they were punished for it anway in the 1924 GE when the government fell.
    As for Northern Ireland, I’d be happy for it to break off and become part of the Irish Republic if that was what a clear sustained majority of the population wanted. This scenario has only been made more likely by the behaviour of the DUP and the Conservative and “Unionist” Party. Meanwhile, I hope the Alliance Party does well in the forthcoming Stormont election.

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