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12 January 2022

Boris Johnson’s missing policy achievements make him more vulnerable

Unlike most weak prime ministers, Johnson doesn’t have a record of delivery to compensate.

By Stephen Bush

Is this death? Boris Johnson faces what may be the most difficult PMQs of his premiership, as details continue to emerge about the government’s lockdown parties.

In many ways, the worst has already happened: there is both photographic and written evidence that parties took place during lockdown in Downing Street, and it stretches credulity past breaking point to think that the Prime Minister could possibly have been unaware about these parties taking place in his own garden. Today’s PMQs may be embarrassing, but Johnson’s real problem isn’t anything that Keir Starmer may say or do today: it’s what his own MPs may do in the near future.

Chatter about the next leader – Rishi Sunak? Liz Truss? Steve Barclay as a unity candidate? Jeremy Hunt’s second coming? – is already growing. And one problem facing Johnson is that it’s not like he has done anything: his government is weakened, but unlike most governments in this position, he doesn’t have anything to show for it. As one Conservative MP quipped to me: “If you’re going to trash your reputation and go down in flames, at least get caught trying to bug your opponent’s campaign office or conspire to invade Suez with Israel and France.” While another despaired that holding a lockdown party has sapped the energy that might have been better spent on planning reform, or deregulation, or any number of Conservative causes.

And that may well be Boris Johnson’s biggest problem: that if his government does want to do anything significant with its parliamentary majority, he may well find that he has used all his political energies on a BYOB party.

[See also: Tory MPs only have themselves to blame for this farce]

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