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.

There will now be days if not weeks of analysis of Johnson’s polarising legacy with all the usual spin from politicos. Did he get Brexit done? Sort of. Just like the decorator who says they will come back to finish the details next week but disappears with trace. Did he get Covid done? Sort of but with staggering incompetence at times. Billions wasted and far more importantly, thousands of people who might not have died or developed long term illness if Johnson had acted earlier.

Johnson was a world leader on the Ukraine crisis. That is to his credit. Indeed, Ukraine is perhaps the only place in the world he now has any credibility.

But this discredited leader plans to stay until a new leader is elected and, by default, becomes prime minister. We won’t know the rules of the Tory election until next week. There are likely to be a lot of candidates. There is talk of speeding the process up. But Boris Johnson could be prime minister for months.

If that happens, he will be a prime minister without power, without authority, without morality. A prime minister that forgets awkward events when it suits him and fails to tell the truth. He is a prime minister without respect. He doesn’t respect the electorate and the electorate doesn’t respect him.

Today, Boris Johnson equalled Neville Chamberlain’s tenure as prime minister: two years and 348 days. It should not last a day longer.

But it will. That will damage the Conservative Party. Not unwelcome from our perspective. But it will also damage the country. Going rudderless into the winter with the expected price hikes for energy, with inflation soaring and queues at food banks lengthening, let along deteriorating security as the war in Ukraine feeds Putin’s ambitions.

And it is likely that the new leader will want to go to the country to seek a fresh mandate. An October election perhaps? That will suspend effective government even longer. There could not be a worse time for government in this country to be absorbed by internal politics and that not the challenges we are facing now and will get worse in the coming months.

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

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13 Comments

  • Yet again Johnson treats the UK as his private fiefdom and a spineless Conservative party allows it..Who the hell allowed Johnson to ‘go’ on his own terms?
    He has already ‘booked’ Chequers, in late July, for a lavish marriage party..

    How can the country allow a man who has lost all support from his own party (and the nation) to remain in office with a rag-bag group of ‘replacement’ ministers?

    The most banana of banana republics are more professional..What a sad reflection of ‘great’ Britain we have become..

  • What is a Deputy PM for if not for caretaker duties?

  • Now the excitement is over we face the reality of a new Tory leader, a significant rise in support for them and it will be back to the old struggle to wine extra seats.
    Doubt if we will get 20, maybe 15 if fortunate. We will need something different to the others, possibly rejoining the EEC but not the EU.
    Once again it will get harder to make our presence felt.

  • Media headlines are making much of ‘No new policies’ from Johnson..What he actually said was that he will not introduce “major changes of direction”…

    This from the man who descibed the proposed ripping up of the NI protocol as ‘trivial changes’…

  • Steve Comer 7th Jul '22 - 9:54pm

    This is the probl;em with the wonderful British “unwritten constitution.” Nothing is defined, nothing is clear, and precedent is OK until you find something unprecidented!
    In Ireland after the 2020 election delivered ‘no overall control’ of the Dail, the position was clear. The outgoing government stayed in post as a caretaker administration until a new Taoiseach was elected, after which he appointed Ministers who were sworn in by the President.

  • Steve Comer 7th Jul '22 - 9:55pm

    This is the problem with the wonderful British “unwritten constitution.” Nothing is defined, nothing is clear, and precedent is OK until you find something unprecidented!
    In Ireland after the 2020 election delivered ‘no overall control’ of the Dail, the position was clear. The outgoing government stayed in post as a caretaker administration until a new Taoiseach was elected, after which he appointed Ministers who were sworn in by the President.

  • Paul Barker 8th Jul '22 - 11:18am

    One thing I have not seen any journalists comment on is the sudden shift in the Polls – all the last 3 Polls show the Tories down 4% with Labour up 2% or 4% & Libdems up 1% or 2%.
    We have to wait & see how much of that shift sticks – if it does then Labour are in line for a solid majority – demolishing the Tory “Coalition of chaos” line.

  • I recently saw a front page in the Daily Mail trying to represent the cooperation between LD and Lab, in voting for each other’s candidate in the simultaneous by-elections, as shabby and shocking. Surely we must therefore try to expand such disgraceful behaviour, in any future election under FPTP?

  • Paul Barker 8th Jul '22 - 4:37pm

    OK The last Four Polls all have the Tories down 4%. Over the four the average is –
    Lab 42%
    Con 30%
    LDs 13%
    Of course this may not last, we will have to wait & see. Or Johnson may do even more damage to his Party.

  • George Thomas 8th Jul '22 - 5:44pm

    I’m worried that Tories will drop what Boris got right (recognising need for net zero, for “levelling up”, to invest in public services and actually supporting Ukraine) and we’re left with a professional Tory who otherwise carries on everything he got wrong (policies which attacked devolution, created even wider wealth inequality, took hostile environment up a notch, didn’t address need for net zero, wasted time on pointless culture war etc. etc.) who faces off against opposition who are trying to make friends with the press/political influencers who protected Boris Johnson and created the environment for him to ascend to leadership in the first place.

    The immediate next step is probably that Rishi Sunak is our next Prime Minster and whoever it was who has bought private tennis lessons from him at the recent Tory auction ends up with more influence than they imagined when spending their hundreds of thousands on that prize.

    Some way down the line, we’ll then see if the public are done with the conditions which lead to Boris or just Boris as an individual.

  • Richie Sunak (that is not a typo) would continue to look after the other mega-rich people.

  • Alex Macfie 8th Jul '22 - 11:48pm

    theakes: Not necessarily. The new leader’s political honeymoon is likely to be short-lived (as they generally are), after which the reality will sink in that not much has really changed beyond a change in the person at the top. The best hope for the Tories would be to elect a leader who had never served in Johnson’s government. A Gove or a Javid would find it hard to escape Johnson’s shadow, as they would have to explain their previous statements in support for him.

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