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6 July

Boris Johnson’s refusal to resign is a shameful final disservice to the country

Every government action will be dictated by his battle to survive – including tax cuts fuelling inflation during a cost-of-living crisis.

By Martin Fletcher

No prime minister can survive this. A staggering 69 per cent of the public, including 54 per cent of Tory voters, want Boris Johnson to resign, according to a snap YouGov poll last night (5 July). His approval rating has plunged to an astounding -48 per cent. Roughly three quarters of his backbenchers (stripping out the ministerial payroll vote) supported the recent no-confidence vote in his leadership. Two months ago he presided over the loss of nearly 500 council seats. Two weeks ago he suffered the biggest ever by-election majority overturn in British history. And now his Chancellor, Health Secretary, party chairman and Solicitor General, plus a bevy of junior ministers and ministerial aides, have quit with excoriating attacks on his moral delinquency.

Johnson may once have been the Heineken Tory who reached parts of the country other Conservatives could not. He may once have amused and entertained the nation. Not any more. He now inspires widespread anger, hatred and disgust. He is reviled and ridiculed. If he was genuinely interested in carrying out “the people’s will” he would go. Now.

He won’t of course. He has let it be known that it would take a “panzer division” to drag him out of No 10. That “panzer division” is coming. It may take the form of a crushing defeat in a second no-confidence vote, or a delegation of Tory grandees, but in the meantime our deluded Prime Minister is performing a disgraceful final disservice to a country on whose economy, social cohesion and global standing he has already visited so much destruction over the past three years.

He is now so bereft of moral authority, so politically enfeebled, so mired in sleaze and scandal, that he cannot begin to tackle the multiple crises facing the UK at a time of unique national and global turmoil: the soaring cost of living, plunging living standards, collapsing services, escalating strike action, a falling pound, the war in Ukraine.

On the contrary, he and his government’s every action is dictated by his own battle for survival, not the national interest. As Chancellor, Rishi Sunak managed to curb Johnson’s determination to simultaneously slash taxes and ramp up public spending in a reckless populist splurge. With Sunak gone, and the more pliant Nadhim Zahawi replacing him, Johnson may well now get his way regardless of the immense further damage this would do to the economy in the form of rocketing inflation.

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For that reason alone Johnson’s removal should now be a matter of national urgency. The cabinet – shorn of Sunak and Javid – will not do the deed. Why would it? It is stuffed with mediocrities promoted only for their loyalty to Johnson, and ideological zealots such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries to whom no sensible prime minister would give the time of day.

But the wider Conservative parliamentary party is slowly but surely preparing to dispatch the greased piglet to the abattoir. An honourable few are doing so because they are genuinely appalled by his lies, obfuscations and utter scorn for the rules and standards of public office. Most backbenchers are doing so because they have belatedly realised that they and their party are heading for electoral oblivion under Johnson’s leadership.

[See also: How much longer can Boris Johnson survive?]

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