Tag Archives: boris johnson

It’s time we gave the Civil Service independent communication!!

When a Government has been suspected of putting short term politics ahead of proper governance, we’ve often made functions independent. Suspicions that irresponsible monetary policy was being used to provide a short term boost to the economy ahead of an election led to us campaigning for the Bank of England being made independent. George Osborne’s distrust of the Labour Government’s own economic forecasting led him to create the Office of Budgetary Responsibility, to provide economic forecasts that were guaranteed to be free from political interference.

Following Boris Johnson’s assault on our political norms and institutions, and the rest of the Conservative Party’s subsequent descent into post-truth conspiracism, I feel that the Lib Dems need to add a new bullet point to our programme of constitutional reform: Give the entire Civil Service independent communication!

“Why is this even important?”

Civil servants tend to deal with the technical side of Government; establishing what the facts are, what can be done, with what risks and what costs. Our MPs then deal with political side; making and/or evaluating decisions, based on the facts and options provided to them by the civil servants.

It’s a good system, as the two require completely different skillsets. However, it’s muddied by the fact that the public don’t hear the facts from the politically neutral civil service directly. Instead, it’s communicated by Government ministers, politicians, who will often garnish it with political spin. (and even when they don’t, the public find it difficult to trust them, especially if they’re from a different political party).

And this was before Boris Johnson strode onto the scene.

His complete disregard for the truth rode roughshod over a system seemingly designed under the assumption that someone elected Prime Minister simply wouldn’t do that. It showed once and for all that our current system just isn’t built to withstand heavily partisan politics.

“So how would independent communication help?”

Allowing the civil service to directly communicate facts to the public would not only ensure that the public get clear information free from party political spin, it would also make it easier for the public to trust the information being given to them. It’s difficult to trust facts when they’re being delivered by a partisan politician that we deeply distrust.

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Boris – one last regal porkie

Our last PM but one cropped up this week performing a fake snore in an interview when he was asked about the details of his downfall. The country though, is not snoring, but still reeling from the unstable government and moral vacuum he represented.

The Partygate scandal and select committee report have understandably concentrated on the events that Boris Johnson did attend. But in early 2022 the Daily Telegraph broke the story about two events he didn’t. It emerged that there were two parties held at No 10 the night before Prince Philip’s funeral. The famous “Winetime Friday” suitcase had been trundled to the 24-hour Co-op on the Strand to collect the booze for this event and a bacchanalian time was had by all. The Sue Gray report later confirmed the dancing, broken swing and all the rest. This at a period of national mourning and continuing lockdown; a time when no more than two people were meant to socialize indoors and no more than six outdoors.

As the details emerged Johnson did an interview with Beth Rigby on Jan 18 2022:

He wears a blue disposable mask and hangs his head in shame as Rigby begins to interrogate. There is an audible sigh at 10 minutes 52 seconds in, and what appears to be abject sorrow as he listens:

Rigby: “Was having to apologise to the Queen about those parties the night she…she laid her husband of over 70 years to rest, was that a moment of shame for you?”

Johnson: “I deeply and bitterly regret what happened and can only renew my apology both to her Majesty and to the country for the misjudgments that were made”.

A Downing St press release said a letter of apology had gone to Buckingham Palace but Johnson’s response in the Rigby interview was widely reported as, and clearly meant to give the impression that, a heartfelt in person apology was made. He had nodded miserably when Rigby said: “was that a moment of shame for you”.

So, compare and contrast with an interview with Fiona Bruce, broadcast on September 14 2022 in tribute to the Queen, six days after her death:

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Commons vote puts Boris beyond the pale

Embed from Getty Images

It was very important that there was a clear vote in support of the Privileges Committee vote on Boris Johnson’s lying.

354 votes to seven sounds good to me.

But spare a thought for Labour Chief Whip Sir Alan Campbell. If he had not shouted “No! No! No!” in the Speaker’s Ear and then followed it up with the procedural obligation of a “no” vote (he was one of the seven), then there would not have been a vote, which would have been disgraceful.

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Observations of an expat: Bad week for populists

It has been a bad week for populists. Boris Johnson out of Parliament. Donald Trump arraigned on espionage charges and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi buried.

But it has also been a bad 21st century for the anti-populists. Trump elected and threatening to return. Brexit, Johnson and Truss in the UK. Viktor Orban in Hungary. Putin in Russia. Bolsonaro in Brazil. Modi in India….

Electorate after electorate has fallen victim to a string of self-serving narcissists prepared to exploit irrational fears, issue empty promises and bend, ignore or break the law in blatant pursuit of power and self-interest.

Silvio Bunga Bunga Berlusconi led the way. He started his working life as a cruise ship crooner before moving into property development and the media. His Mediaset television empire broke the Italian’s TV’s puritanical mode with topless models and secured 90 percent of the viewing audience.

In 1993 Berlusconi formed his own political party; persuaded 33 of his advertising executives to stand with him for parliament and then harnessed his media empire to his campaign. The result was first of Berlusconi’s four terms as Italy’s prime minister.

Scandal and corruption dogged Berlusconi throughout his political career. By his own account he made 2,500 court appearances in 106 trials. Not all of the mud stuck, but enough did for him to be convicted of tax fraud and banned from holding public office for ten years.

This should have been the end of Berlusconi. But he bounced back to join the Senate and become the acknowledged kingmaker of Italian politics. He was a junior member of the current government of Giorgia Meloni. He is a clear object lesson of the political establishment’s inability to hold down the bad boys of politics.

Victimhood is one of the major weapons of the populist. Trump says he is target number one of “The Deep State”. Boris Johnson blames “The Blob” for his problems.  This amorphous political entity which can means anyone and everyone opposed to the populist has become the ultimate scapegoat for the evils of the world.

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Lib Dems react to damning report stating Boris Johnson misled Parliament

Well, that Privileges Committee report is a corker. It’s not just throwing the book at Boris Johnson, but encasing it in concrete and lead and dropping it on him. Most people will feel it is richly deserved.

Daisy Cooper has called on Rishi Sunak to strip Boris Johnson of the £115,000 he gets from the public purse to fund his office as a result.

She said:

This damning report should be the final nail in the coffin for Boris Johnson’s political career. It is completely unprecedented for a former Prime Minister to be found to have been a law-breaker and serial liar, who treated the public and Parliament with total disdain.

Rishi Sunak must cut off Johnson’s ex-Prime Minister allowance to stop him milking the public purse for his own personal gain. Anything less would be an insult to bereaved families who suffered while Boris Johnson lied and partied.

The Conservatives are so mired in sleaze and chaos that they are totally failing to tackle the problems facing the country, from the NHS crisis to the cost of living. Voters in Mid Bedfordshire will soon get a chance to send a message to this failing and out-of-touch Conservative government.

Other Liberal Democrats have said:

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One resignation doesn’t make a Summer

I’m sitting here in my shorts at barely 9am, fully suncreamed up. This, I can assure you, is an extremely rare state of affairs for Scotland, even at the height of Summer. It is also serendipitous that our warmest day of the year so far coincides with no Lib Dem meetings or other such commitments. So a day in the garden with books it is for me. And I need to take advantage because it is due to rain tomorrow.

To brighten my mood further, yesterday, two unpleasant right wing narcissists went at least some way to getting the come-uppance they deserved. The full details of Trump’s indictment are shocking. I’m sorry but nobody needs to keep nuclear secrets in their loo.

If Boris Johnson had stuck to the rules he imposed on the rest of us and not told Parliament things which were obviously untrue, then he wouldn’t be in the mess he is in.

But both men play to their bases with self-indulgent claims of victimisation. I don’t believe for a second Boris actually believes that the Privileges Committee outcome delivered to him on Thursday is a conspiracy between that wing of the Conservative Party that hates him, Harriet Harman and remainers, but he’s going to make himself sound like the victim. Unfortunately, too many will believe him. The chances of him being able to revive something of a political career out of raising a sense of grievance may seem slim, but I wouldn’t write him off completely. Give him a platform and a lot of someone else’s money and who knows where he will end up.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

UK

The appearance of ex-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the House of Commons Privileges Committee has echoes of the fate of Charles the First and James the Second.

Each of the above cases helped to establish the supremacy of parliament over the monarchy, or the executive.

The modern-day British Prime Minister straddles both institutions. They must be a member of parliament and command the support of a majority of the House of Commons. But at the same time they are officially appointed by the monarch to represent them in parliament. They are accountable to both institutions, but as the 1689 Bill of Rights makes clear, more accountable to parliament which is “supreme.”

But if parliament is expected to do its job properly, it must be able to rely on the information that is provided by the executive branch (i.e. government ministers, including the prime minister). For that reason it is vital that ministers – especially the prime minister – do not intentionally or recklessly mislead or lie to the House of Commons or House of Lords.

To do so, completely undermines the principle of the supremacy of parliament and rocks the foundations of the British constitution. That is why Boris Johnson is in deep political hot water. It is not that he broke Covid rules. It is that he appears to have lied to parliament about it.

Charles I lost his head for challenging the supremacy of parliament and James II was forced to abdicate and fled to France. Boris Johnson is unlikely to suffer either fate. The worst that could happen to him is be suspended from parliament which is the 21st century equivalent of decapitation.

Such a move could easily split the Conservative Party. Boris has a strong personal following and Conservatives and despite the current ascendancy of the extreme right, they are divided between anti-European libertarian ideologues and one-nation tax-cutting businessmen.

France

State visits are a big deal. They require months, sometimes years, of careful protocol-driven planning. That is why the last minute cancellation of a state visit is an even bigger deal.

Next week King Charles III was scheduled to make his first ever state visit. It was to be to France to restore the Entente Cordiale to its pre-Brexit cordiality. On Friday it was announced that the visit had been postponed

For a change, the dramatic shift in protocol had nothing to do with Britain’s post-Brexit positions on Northern Ireland, fishing, immigration, Australian submarines or a thousand other potential Anglo-French flashpoints. It had everything to do with violent demonstrations sweeping across France in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s decreed legislation to increase the French retirement age from 62 to 64.

The result of the presidential decree has been a wave of violence and strikes across France. Rubbish is piling up in the streets of Paris. The entrance to Bordeaux Town Hall was set alight. 903 fires were started in the capital on Thursday, 400 people were arrested and police used tear gas against the demonstrators.

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Nepotism

I can’t remember an actual case of nepotism – strictly offering a leg-up to one’s nephew – but the spirit of nepotism lives on. The word was coined to refer to the practice of mediaeval popes when they appointed family members, usually nephews, as cardinals.  It is used more broadly today to include family members and friends, although cronyism is a variant that specifically refers to friends and associates.

Donald Trump famously practiced the art and gave White House and advisory posts to members of his own wider family (although he actually denied his nephew essential medical care).

Is there a word for favouring one’s father? Not paternalism, which refers to a benign form of dictatorship. Can we invent one, as it seems to be a thing? Maybe paterism?

Anyone in public office who offers jobs or awards to people close to them can expect to be ridiculed and criticised. This is true even where the recipient genuinely deserves the honour – those decisions should be left to others.

As a councillor I was well versed in the need to declare an interest when a proposal was being discussed.  That would certainly have included instances when members of my family or close friends would have been affected, for better or worse, by the outcome. If in doubt we were encouraged to take advice, if necessary from the Council’s Monitoring Officer (usually the Head of Legal Services). If the interest was substantial or pecuniary then I would remove myself from the debate and not vote. This is standard practice in local government.

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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:

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The fallout

Lib Dems have been busy today dealing with the fallout from the resignation of Britain’s shortest ever Prime Minister. I’ll rephrase that – the British Prime Minister who served for the shortest time in office EVER (although the original version is probably also true, if of no political significance).

First, all departing Prime Ministers are entitled to an annual allowance for the rest of their lives of £115,000 to cover office costs. This was covered in a press release yesterday, where Christine Jardine is urging her not to take it. Today Ed Davey told LBC radio:

Most people have to work at least 35 years to get a full state pension. I think working 45 days shouldn’t give you a pension that is many many times what ordinary people out there get after a lifetime of work.

Second, traditionally Prime Ministers can hand out peerages and other honours in a resignation list. Boris Johnson has only just honoured 29 people in that way. Another tranche following so soon from Liz Truss would be completely inappropriate. Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem Chief Whip, has written to the Chair of Parliamentary and Political Service Committee:

As you know, it is traditional upon a Prime Minister’s departure from office for them to issue a ‘Resignation Honours’ list. This list signifies individuals who are to be rewarded with an honour from the King which, in turn, would be considered by your committee.

However, because of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Liz Truss’s tenure and resignation, I am writing to urge you and the committee to reject any Resignation Honours list put forward by her.

Liz Truss will be the shortest serving Prime Minister in British political history. It is possible that by the time she formally resigns, she will not have held office for more than 50 days.

I do not believe that it would be appropriate for Liz Truss to be permitted to issue a resignation honours list, given the extremely short length of her tenure.

I urge you to make it clear that you and your fellow committee members would not sign off on any such honours, which would be the second list in a matter of months.

Third, there is a lot of concern that Boris Johnson is thinking of entering the leadership contest. This was, of course, the Prime Minister who was only persuaded to stand down after 50 ministers resigned. As also mentioned in press releases our MPs have now tabled a motion to stop anyone who has broken the law while in Government from ever becoming Prime Minister. It reads:

That this House believes that the upholding of standards by its Members is of vital importance to the functioning of UK democracy; believes that it is vital that the Prime Minister and Ministers uphold these standards; and therefore resolves that any honourable or right honourable member that is found to have broken the law whilst in Government should be barred from holding Prime Ministerial Office.

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Another day, another new Conservative Prime Minister to muck up our lives

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are in for an absolute treat today. It’s more of a faff to get to Balmoral than a quick spin up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, but the journey from Aberdeen through Royal Deeside is absolutely gorgeous. The heather in the hills round about Aboyne is particularly stunning, even if it is, as forecast, tipping it down.

I am so glad that they are going north to see the Queen. The 96 year old monarch has earned the right to say that they should come to her.

I wonder what arrangements have been made for Boris and Carrie to get back from Balmoral. Normally the outgoing PM gets a taxi from Buckingham Palace. Will the estate manager drop them in Ballater so they can get the bus back to Aberdeen to catch the Easyjet back down south? Probably not, but it’s an amusing thought.

Much has been said about the new Prime Minister’s bulging in tray. Competing economic, energy, international and health crises require urgent action. I don’t think we are emphasising enough, though, the extent to which all these issues have been made worse by the foolish actions of the Conservative Party in Government since 2015.  From David Cameron’s ill-advised pledge to hold a referendum on our EU membership, to Theresa May’s and Boris Johnson’s choice to pursue the most extreme form of Brexit, they have helped create much tougher economic circumstances than in similar economies.

Sectors like social care are falling apart because of their anti-immigrant ethos. As care workers went back to the EU, our disabled and elderly friends and family found that the help that they relied on disappeared.

Boris Johnson’s boasterish farewell speech this morning didn’t mention this. He didn’t get Brexit done. He left a predictably impossible situation in Northern Ireland and the new PM intends to take the nuclear option of breaking international law rather than find a more pragmatic solution.  Deaths from Covid in the UK are the highest in Europe and the long term consequences of their pretence that the pandemic is over are being felt by too many people.

It takes some brass neck to deliver such a bullish speech when you have been forced from office in disgrace after the resignation of half of your government. Tim Farron summed it up this morning:

Jo Swinson said back in 2019 that the worst thing about Boris Johnson was that he just didn’t care. He simply couldn’t be bothered to understand how his Government’s actions affected people. Liz Truss, similarly, shows no sign of giving a damn and she doesn’t have anything like the charisma of her predecessor.

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Those Votes of No Confidence – latest

Earlier today we reported that the Government had refused to allow time for Labour’s Vote of No Confidence motion.

There has been a surprising development in the last hour, according to the BBC.  The PM has allowed a different motion of confidence specifically in the Government, not in him personally, which will be debated next week.

Lib Dems have been quick off the mark and announced that they will table an amendment to the motion, to allow MPs to vote on whether they have confidence in Boris Johnson staying on as Prime Minister.

Our Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain, said:

These are desperate tactics from the Conservatives who are looking to duck scrutiny for propping up Boris Johnson.

Conservative MPs risk a major public backlash if they refuse to listen to their constituents who want Johnson gone now. Voters across the Blue Wall will not forgive Conservative MPs who continue to stand by Boris Johnson after all the damage he’s done to our country.

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PM blocks Vote of No Confidence

Politics Home is one of the many media platforms covering Boris Johnson’s reaction to the Vote of No Confidence motion proposed by Labour, and supported by the Lib Dems.

It quotes Erskine May:

By established convention, the Government always accedes to the demand from the Leader of the Opposition to allot a day for the discussion of a motion tabled by the official Opposition which, in the Government’s view, would have the effect of testing the confidence of the House.

Instead, the Prime Minister has refused to allow the debate.

Although it was unlikely that the motion would have been passed, it was seen as a marker of the concern felt by many over Boris Johnson’s continued presence in No 10 over the summer.

It seems the refusal to allow the motion is based on a rather legalistic interpretation of the rules. The actual wording of the motion is this:

That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government while the Rt Hon Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip remains Prime Minister.

A Government spokesperson claims that it isn’t valid “because the Prime Minister has already resigned”. Well, we all know that, but clearly the motion is referring to the interim arrangements – the two whole months between his resignation and the installation of a new Prime Minister. This transition period can work smoothly in the hands of a person of integrity, and I include many former Prime Ministers in that, but is a dangerous period for democracy in the hands of someone shown to lack any moral compass. No wonder he has been compared with Trump – which is exactly what Ed Davey said in response:

This sounds more like Donald Trump than a serious British Government.

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Seeing ourselves as others see us

I’ve been a big fan of the Crooked Media organisation’s stable of podcasts for a few years now.

Crooked was set up in 2017 by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor in the wake of Trump’s victory to provide a progressive media outlet that encouraged activism to restore the Democrats’ fortunes. Its growing team and stable of podcasts informs and entertains about all aspects of US politics. Its Hysteria podcast, hosted by journalist Erin Ryan and former White House Head of Scheduling and Advance Alyssa Mastromonaco aired the day Justice Anthony Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court, paving the way for last month’s overturning of abortion rights and had to be re-recorded.

If you haven’t already, you might like to listen to their perspective on the events leading up to Boris Johnson’s long overdue resignation in the Boris Johnson Brexits edition of their Pod Save the World podcast presented by former national security spokesman Tommy Vietor and foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes. They have an interview with David Lammy who is their go-to Labour person. They could do with a go-to Lib Dem as well but Lammy pretty much covers all the bases on this one.

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Observations of an expat: Boris

The rules, the law, other people… they were of little or no concern to Boris Johnson. At least not until this week when his contempt for parliamentary convention, constitutional law and common decency resulted in his being dragged kicking and screaming to the exit door of 10 Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s lack of moral fibre has wreaked havoc on Britain’s unwritten constitution; the social contract between rulers and ruled; Britain’s position in the world and the country’s finances. The Conservative Party has been mortally wounded by the decision to elect him Party leader and to stand by him for three scandal-riven years.

He won them votes with his unruly mop of hair, boyish charm and extraordinary skill with the spoken and written word. But winning votes is only part of the job. A Prime Minister needs to be able to govern. Boris Johnson’s incompetence, laziness and skewed moral compass made him unfit for the tenancy of Downing Street.

The success of the British parliamentary system relies heavily on the “Good Chap” theory of Government. Politicians are expected to act with honesty and integrity. If they are caught in a lie – especially a lie to parliament – they have to be relied upon to do the honourable thing and resign.

This is not the law. It is a parliamentary convention which has been observed for centuries. But Boris is not a good chap. He is a bad chap. He cares not one jot for parliamentary convention. Parliament – as far as Boris was concerned – was an obstacle to be overcome rather than a political tool to be used.

For the past 50 years successive British prime ministers have tried to shift their role from that of  “First Among Equals” in a cabinet of high-achieving individuals to a more presidential type of government. This meant circumventing parliament as much and as often as possible. Boris embraced this trend with vigour and disastrous consequences.

It started with British membership of the EU. His lies narrowly swung the British behind Brexit. But then when parliament balked at the terms he negotiated with Brussels he illegally attempted to prorogue the legislature. That was followed by effectively booting 21 rebel conservative MPs out parliament, thus ensuring that his post 2019-election majority would be comprised mostly of fawning acolytes.

The cabinet he appointed has – with a few exceptions – been chosen not on the basis of competence but on personal loyalty to Boris Johnson. It is generally regarded as one of the most – if not the most – mediocre cabinet in British history.

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Support grows for a no confidence vote in Parliament

Last month, around the time of the Tories’ own internal no confidence vote, Ed Davey called tabled a no confidence motion in Parliament. At that stage it had no hope of succeeding, but was clearly stating the Lib Dem position on Boris Johnson as PM.

Today Angela Rayner is publicly voicing support for the idea.  She says Labour will call for a no confidence vote if Boris Johnson is still in post on Monday. Ed Davey has said he will back it.

Of course, the motion will only succeed if it some disgruntled Tories vote for it – but there are quite a few of them at present.

All this is designed to put pressure on the Tories to do the decent thing and make sure Johnson exits No 10 at the earliest opportunity. Here is Ed speaking this morning on Sky News.

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The whole bus cheered but where do we go from here?

It’s a long and winding bus journey from Ludlow to Shrewsbury and like many of the passengers this morning I was beginning to doze. Then. “He’s gone!” a man at the front of the bus shouted. Everyone cheered. Brian, the bus driver turned on the radio. People startled into awakedness stared earnestly at their smart phones. The bus briefly buzzed with chatter.

The excitement faded as I caught a second bus to Shirehall with a sobering thought: how do we get out of this mess? I think that was the thought on the mind of the forty odd Conservatives who had assembled in Shirehall who were for the most part unusually subdued, though not of course humbled.

The debate over Boris Johnson’s survival as prime minister has dominated political thinking for many weeks. Sapping political energy that is desperately needed to tackle the cost of living crisis and the creaking NHS.

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Davey: He has shredded the public’s trust in politics

Ed Davey has been writing on the Guardian website. He lashes out at Boris Johnson but reserves his main criticism for the Tory MPs who have kept Johnson at the helm for far too long:

He broke the law. He lied. He has failed disastrously to tackle the cost of living emergency or the crisis in our NHS. He has shredded the public’s trust in the government and in politics.

But Johnson didn’t act alone. For three years, he has been backed to the hilt by more than 350 co-conspirators on the Conservative benches. They nodded along to every shameful lie. They gladly went on TV to defend the indefensible and excuse the inexcusable. They willingly trooped through the voting lobby in support of every disastrous policy.

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Boris Johnson to resign – reactions

Unbridled joy? Schadenfreude? Anger?

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One wheel on my wagon and I’m still rolling along…

The government spent Thursday stuck in quicksand. The prime minister was in sand up to his neck. But he still blundered and blustered on regardless through PMQs and a parliamentary committee most people had not heard of. More than forty members of the government have resigned, some from the top table, some the servers who usually bow and scrape. Michael Gove was sacked.

I write this article in the early hours of Thursday before heading off for a lengthy day battling in a Tory dominated council. Will Boris Johnson still be prime minister when I leave the council chamber? Will there be more resignations as dawn breaks?

Boris Johnson has always been in denial of reality. He has always lived in a fantasy world. His world is centred around himself. He is stuck in Slogan Land. Sound Bite Land. Anything but Resigning Land.

When watching Johnson perform at PMQs yesterday, a song from my youth randomly popped into my head. “Three wheels on my wagon, and I’m still rolling along…” The song was nonsense and hasn’t aged well. The same might be said of Johnson. For all the sense he made yesterday, he might have been chanting the New Christy Minstrels’ chorus: “I’m singing a higgity, haggity, hoggety, high. Pioneers, they never say die.”

That’s Johnson. Never say die. Never say resign.

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The Greased Piglet

Thought you might enjoy these whilst we wait for further developments.

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What Lib Dems are saying about the resignations

What a night. Boris Johnson apologised for appointing Chris Pincher demonstrating not for the first time his distance from the real world most of us live in. But then a man who doesn’t know when a party is a party is unlikely to have a grasp on when a grope is a grope. The resignations of the chancellor and health secretary, followed by a slew of junior resignations would have left most prime ministers considering their position. But it seems that all Johnson cares about is his own survival.

After Health Secretary Sajid Javid and ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak quit within ten minutes of each other, Conservative vice-chair Bim Afolami, trade envoy Andrew Murrison, parliamentary private secretaries Saqib Bhatti, Jonathan Gullis, Nicola Richards and Virginia Crosbie, and solicitor-general Alex Chalk followed.

Overnight Lib Dems have been reacting to the unfolding events. Here is a selection of comments.

 

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Johnson: Imperious, impervious and delusional

Our prime minister is beleaguered, only he doesn’t know it. He told the press pack in Rwanda that he intended to remain as prime minister until the mid-2030s. With members of his cabinet scheming against him and negative approval ratings in opinion polls, that looks unlikely.

Both Johnson and some Conservative MPs are in denial about the message sent by the government by the public in Thursday’s twin by-election defeats. At least two of Tory MPs have blamed the Tiverton and Honiton defeat on the “girls” (MPs to you and me) that shopped Neil Parish for his tractor porn antics in the chamber. Another said they didn’t see the defeat coming because “people were lying on the doorsteps”. How out of touch can the Tories be?

Other MPs recognised that the bond of trust has been broken between the prime minister, the Conservative party and the voters: “People think he’s a liar and a shady bugger.”

As Richard Foord said on Thursday: “It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.” The departure of the “shady bugger” is long overdue.

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Why does the PM need an Ethics Adviser?

Yes, indeed.

This reminds me of a question posed to my husband when he was Mayor. He was visiting a school and the Mayor’s attendant that day was also a children’s entertainer, and some of the children recognised him. One of them asked “Why does the Mayor need a magician?”.

But back to the Prime Minister. The role of an Ethics Adviser (technically the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests) was established in 2006. The adviser is appointed directly by the Prime Minister.

The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests is appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him on matters relating to the Ministerial Code. The post holder is independent of government and expected to provide impartial advice to the Prime Minister. (Terms of reference)

The previous Ethics Adviser, Sir Alex Allen, was asked in 2020 to investigate bullying claims against Priti Patel and had found that she had broken the Ministerial Code, which would normally result in resignation . Boris Johnson backed Priti Patel and stated that he had full confidence in her, so Alex Allen resigned.

And now a second Ethics Adviser appointed by Boris Johnson has resigned. Lord Geidt informed the Prime Minister of his decision on Tuesday and last night his resignation letter was published (after some anger at its delay).

The trigger for his resignation was when Boris Johnson asked him to approve a plan to extend tariffs on steel imports, which would have broken World Trade Organization rules.

Here is the key extract from Lord Geidt’s letter:

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Paddington Bear for ethics adviser after Geidt goes?

Wendy Chamberlain was being ironic last night when she said the only person who would now take on the job of ethic adviser to Boris Johnson’s government would be Paddington.

Last night, Lord Geidt’s resignation was a bit of a mystery. It was known that he was unhappy in his role because of the antics of the prime minister, Boris Johnson, who is his boss. Geidt had an uncomfortable session on Tuesday when he told the public administration and constitutional affairs committee it was reasonable to suggest the prime minister may have breached the ministerial code when he was fined during the Partygate scandal.

Today, we have the full correspondence between Lord Geidt and Boris Johnson. In his resignation letter, Geidt said he was being asked to judge on Johnson’s intention to risk a “purposeful and deliberate breach of the ministerial code” and he was not prepared to do that.

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Benefits to Bricks and Boris Bluster

This government is stuck on the letter “B”. Build Back Better. Bus Back Better. And now Benefits to Bricks. And, of course, there is the perennial Boris Bluster. The speech Boris Johnson gave in Blackpool on Thursday seemed to be more about keeping Johnson in his home at No 10 than getting others into homes. Although billed as a “housing speech” it was more a rambling justification for Johnson’s position. Although the main topic was meant to be housing, we heard of olive oil and bananas, Suez and Ukraine, inflation, policing, health, cost of living, riots and much more on the way to mortgages and a right to buy for social housing tenants.

We were told we are living in good times: “People don’t face the misery of the 1980s or 1990s”. Johnson failed to mention that all but three years of those decades were under Conservative governments. And that there wasn’t then a food bank in every community. And when he said, “Everyone can see and feel the impact on household budgets”, I briefly fantasised that he too was flat broke and was facing the cruel choice between fuel, heating and food.

This government is out of touch with how hard times are for many people. And that shows in its current announcements, including Benefits to Bricks.

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LibLink: Ed Davey says Tory MPs are now responsible for Johnson’s behaviour

The Guardian has a round-up of views across the political spectrum (although, not surprisingly, no loyal Tory MPs have contributed) under the headline “Boris Johnson survived the no-confidence vote. Can he cling on to power?“.

Ed Davey writes:

Tory MPs are now responsible for his behaviour

After months of defending the indefensible, Conservative MPs had a golden opportunity to finally put an end to Johnson’s sorry premiership. Instead they doubled down, narrowly choosing to put the career of a lying lawbreaker over the good of the country.

The scenes prior to yesterday’s no-confidence vote made clear that the Tories are headed for a civil war while this desperately weak prime minister attempts to cling on to office. This will mean a summer of discontent for the rest of us. For Johnson, the cost of living crisis and spiralling NHS waiting times are merely collateral. His entire focus is self-preservation. His selfishness is hurting our economy and harming families up and down the country.

In spite of the spinelessness of most Conservative MPs last night, what is clear beyond all recognition is that the people of Britain have lost confidence in Johnson. They recognise that he is not fit for office. So why can’t Conservative MPs? Liberal Democrats are fighting this Conservative government in seats across the country. The people of Tiverton and Honiton will speak for Britain in giving their verdict on Johnson in two weeks’ time – the Conservative party will have no choice but to listen.

And here is Ed in a reflective mood, but with the same message.

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Lib Dems to table motion of no confidence in Johnson (updated)

Early this afternoon, Lib Dem MPs will table an Early Day Motion of no confidence in the prime minister Boris Johnson.

Earlier Davey tweeted:

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That Tory memo calling for “Conservative Corbyn” Johnson to go

Over the weekend, a memo circulated among Tory backbenchers setting out the case for Boris Johnson to go. It is striking how scared the Conservatives have become of the Lib Dems, with the memo writers predicting that we could take seats with Conservative majorities of up to 20,000 in the Blue Wall.

The memo writers also suggest that if Johnson survives by a slim majority, he will call an early general election to restore his personal mandate.

We should make the Conservatives paranoia a reality by ensuring we win in Tiverton and Honiton. Please help this weekend if you can. We must ensure that Richard Foord is elected on 25 June and drive home the message that the Tories are not fit to govern. There are both volunteer activities in the constituency and regular Maraphone sessions.

The full Tory memo is below.

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Wendy Chamberlain slams PM’s “appalling attempt to rig the rules”

You would think, wouldn’t you, that when the culture of your Government has been slammed in a report which outlined disgraceful behaviour, you would be absolutely mortified and would make sure that your actions showed that you were truly sorry. Especially when you had been saying so at length and you knew that nobody believed a word of your apology.

Well, you could think that of virtually any other PM than Boris Johnson. But the current incumbent’s capacity for brazen disregard for rules or accountability is second to none. We saw this when he tried to change the rules to save his mate Owen Paterson last Autumn.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson watered down both the Ministerial Code and the role of the so-called “Independent Adviser.” The Guardian reports:

The prime minister faced a barrage of criticism after he amended the rules on Friday to make clear that ministers will not always be expected to resign for breaching the code of conduct. Under new sanctions, they could apologise or temporarily lose their pay instead.

Johnson also blocked his independent ethics chief, Christopher Geidt, from gaining the power to launch his own investigations, and rewrote the foreword to the ministerial code, removing all references to honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.

Our Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain is reported as saying that this was an:

appalling attempt by Boris Johnson to rig the rules to get himself off the hook.

It seems the Conservatives have learned nothing from the Owen Paterson scandal.

It has been clear for some time that the Government doesn’t care that accountability and justice are seen to be done where its own behaviour is concerned. With these moves they are effectively giving themselves the right to mark their own homework. The legitimacy of any Government depends on having some sort of check on its power.

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