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Sleaze won’t bring down Boris What does the Prime Minister really want to do with power?

How long will Boris Johnson stay? Credit: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty

How long will Boris Johnson stay? Credit: ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty


November 15, 2021   6 mins

The wheels are coming off Boris Johnson’s premiership. Public disapproval with his government and the number of people who say the Prime Minister is incompetent are both on the rise. Newspapers are filled with talk of a Conservative Party civil war, while the polls suggest that a decisive shift is now sweeping through the country.

The Prime Minister who for much of the past two years has been used to cruising at 40% in the polls, has this week crashed into the mid-thirties. One poll over the weekend put the Conservatives on 34%, their lowest share since before the 2019 general election.

Contrary to widespread predictions of a second Johnson term and, in turn, the longest period of Conservative dominance since the early 1800s, Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have led in three of the last four polls. Labour is back to 40% and only this week scored their first (6-point) lead outside the margin of error since January.

To put this in context, if the polls remain unchanged, then Labour will emerge from the next election as the largest party, albeit short of an overall majority. The “crackpot coalition” between Labour and the Scottish National Party which Johnson warned his conference delegates about only last month now looks not only possible but likely.

What is driving this? The dominant narrative is that much of it reflects a growing public backlash against the return of what has long been the Conservative Party’s Achilles’ heel: sleaze. Amid the Owen Paterson debacle and continuing cronyism both in and around Boris Johnson’s No 10 operation, the British voters have finally woken up to the fact that while their Prime Minister Got Brexit Done, he also suffers from a glaring lack of character and integrity. It is only a matter of time until this realisation collides with an election and, once and for all, purges the body politic of Johnsonism.

Only, I’m not convinced. There is certainly no doubt that sleaze and corruption can have profound effects at the ballot box. One only needs to think about the tangentopoli scandal which engulfed Italy in the Nineties, paving the way for a total reconfiguration of the political system or, around the same time, the House banking scandal in America which saw nearly 80 politicians lose support or resign in shame. There is also no doubt that the British are, once again, utterly fed up with Westminster. Only this week, 80% of the entire country said there is “a lot” or “a fair amount” of corruption in British politics.

But there are also good reasons why the anticipated impact of the current scandal in Westminster will be much greater than its actual impact at the next election. For a start, consider what we actually know about the impact of past scandals, such as the parliamentary expenses scandal which erupted in 2009, dominated the headlines for months and was a far more serious crisis than the one facing Johnson today.

Contrary to widespread expectations at the time, namely that the scandal would pave the way for wholesale political change, studies since have found that its actual impact at the ballot box was minimal. While the scandal did lead to an unusually large number of MPs retiring at the following election, in 2010, with almost half of the worst offending MPs leaving office, there is also little evidence it changed people’s vote.

According to the most comprehensive study, by political scientists Andrew Eggers and Alexander Fischer, while MPs who were implicated in the scandal performed slightly worse at the ballot box than those who were not, the overall impact was limited. They estimate that the cost to MPs who were linked to the crisis was only 1.5 percentage points, which is certainly noteworthy but not exactly earth shattering.

Similarly, another study, by academics Ron Johnson and Charles Pattie, found that Labour candidates in seats where the Labour MP had been implicated and in some cases, such as Denis MacShane, had even been sent to prison, only lost 1.25 points while Conservatives lost only 1 point. Like others, they concluded that while the British were hacked off about the crisis, they also cared even more deeply about other issues, meaning that “the consequences — over and above some MPs’ premature retirement — though real were relatively muted”.

The key point I take from this research is that given the sheer size of Boris Johnson’s majority and the geographical problems that confront today’s Labour Party — the loss of Scotland, the fractured Red Wall and how the party is increasingly piling up votes in urban areas where it does not need votes, while losing votes in the small and industrial towns where it needs votes — then Johnson can, probably, ride out the storm.

He is also helped by leadership. We tend to forget this now but while the impact of past scandals was limited the few opportunities they generated were met by leaders of the Opposition who were strong, appealing and well placed to capitalise. In both the Nineties, when John Major’s Conservative government was beset by sleaze, and then again in the 2000s when New Labour and much of Westminster was implicated in the expenses scandal, the leader of the Opposition was credible and compelling.

On the cusp of the 1997 election and against the backdrop of sleaze, more than half the country, 51%, felt satisfied with how Tony Blair was doing his job as leader of the Labour Party. And on the cusp of the 2010 election, in the shadow of the expenses scandal, 53% felt this way about David Cameron. Today, just 25% feel the same way about Keir Starmer, whose ratings still trail Johnson’s.

Blair had a net approval rating of +22. David Cameron had one of +32. Keir Starmer is currently on -25 (read that again, minus 25). This is why Labour’s current poll lead, to me at least, looks far from convincing. Today, it is fashionable to point out oppositions do not win elections — governments lose them. But at no recent election has a leader of the Opposition with ratings as weak as Starmer’s gone on to win power. His weakness is simply making Johnson’s life much easier than it ought to be.

The much bigger threat to Johnson, is not so much the stench of sleaze which he can probably navigate but other dark clouds gathering on the horizon. What ultimately swayed voters at the first election after the expenses scandal was not their outrage about the revelations in Westminster, but their utter exasperation with 13 years of New Labour rule, confusion over what Gordon Brown actually wanted to do with power, intensifying concern over immigration, crime and security and, amid the global financial crisis, the highest level of concern over the economy ever recorded.

Today, similarly, what will ultimately sway voters at the next election will not be their concern over Owen Paterson or which MPs do or do not have second jobs, but rather their growing concern an array of other issues: the cost of living, dissatisfaction with how the government is managing a spiraling healthcare crisis, frustration at its inability to define and articulate how the country is being levelled-up and a general sense of confusion over what Johnson actually wants to do with the power he now has. We are nearly two years into this premiership and still it remains unanchored from any guiding philosophy or framework, drifting around with no real sense of purpose or mission.

This is especially visible on his right-wing flank, among his most ardent supporters, where there are once again resurgent concerns about legal and illegal immigration as well as new worries over the government’s failure to push back against the excesses of wokeism and how it is managing core conservative issues, such as the economy and taxation. While the Right still leads the Left on the economy, since early 2020 the percentage of voters who back the Conservatives to manage the economy has crashed by 10-points (and this is before any squeeze on living standards). Meanwhile, some polls suggest the Conservatives have now lost their image as a party of low tax.

The effect of these wider problems is already visible. Drill into the data this week and you will find that only a little over half of the Conservative’s 2019 voters would vote again for the party at an election tomorrow. While one in 20 has jumped ship to Reform a much larger number, nearly one in three, now say they would not vote or do not know who to vote for. Since the start of 2020, the percentage of Leavers backing Johnson has crashed from 76% to 58%. At the end of the day, all Johnson needs to do to retain power is keep hold of the Leavers who pushed through the realignment. The fact their support is now waning should be ringing loud alarm bells in No 10 — assuming there are people who have an interest in ringing these bells, of course.

These issues, rather than sleaze, are the far more pressing problems facing Johnson. Unless he gets to grips with them it is not hard to see how, much like John Major in the Nineties and Gordon Brown in the late 2000s, his premiership will go down in the history books for not only being stained by sleaze but for being a rather brief affair.


Matthew Goodwin is Professor of Politics at the University of Kent. His new book, Values, Voice and Virtue: The New British Politics, is out on March 30.

GoodwinMJ

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Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

They do need to do something about illegal immigration. People get bloody furious when 1000 migrants arrive in one day by dinghy from France. By next year this could be 5000 a day! Obviously Labour won’t do anything about it but it could lead to Nigel Farage returning to squeeze the Tory vote.

I know there is legislation going through the house which would make some actions easier. An UnHerd analysis of the bill and its potential would be very interesting.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I won’t vote tory again. Illegal immigration is the deal-breaker for me as well.
If a trucker arrives with stowaways in the back of his truck he gets fined ÂŁ2000 per head. The RNLI and border force bring exactly the same people ashore every day without penalty.
In 1940 we festooned the south coast beaches with barbed wire to stop an invasion. Why not now?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I don’t actually want all the South Coast beaches covered in barbed war! That would be the ultimate admission of defeat.

What is needed, but it will be much harder, is for the government to grow some cojones and face down bleating left liberal opinion and change ‘human rights’ laws if necessary. The navy and border force should interdict and intern all illegal immigrants AWAY from the mainland, rather than act as a free taxi service TO it! This is what Australia does.

Unfortunately I see no political will whatsoever to do anything along these lines, Boris just wants to be liked and has no backbone at all.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The government’s legal adviçce seems topsy turvy. Asylum law, we are told, have priority. Could we have an explanation why? The UK’s security is being infringed. That is a cast iron right, embedded in the UN Charter. Supranational law does not override it.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Priti Patel speaks about it but actual action is thin on the ground. There are genuine cases of assylum but the government is not good at spotting the real and the bogus cases. I commend them for helping the real cases but most illegal immigrants come here just because.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

We can’t be the first safe country ‘genuine’ asylum cases enter , unless they’re yellow vests fleeing Macron

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

You’re right . Too many of the people he knows and hangs out with , probably including his wife , would be horrified . For similar reasons Lionel Shriver ended up endorsing Joe Biden
There’s just a slim chance he’ll come to believe winning the next election depends on sorting this out . The whole of Europe is moving to the right on this issue . By being the first European leader to get tough , he may come to seem a pioneer in a Europe wide movement to defend national borders . It could make him astonishingly popular in the UK and through out Europe !

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

It is largely forgotten that in 1918 we began construction of an anti U-Boat barrier across the English Channel from Folkestone to Cap Gris Nez in France with 12 towers and steel booms and nets stretched between them. The finished barrier would allow friendly shipping through but prevent the enemy from passing. It was cancelled part way through construction due to the armistice.

If we could do that 100 years ago – and given our experience in at-sea oil, gas and wind turbine construction in the intervening years – surely a barrier at the start of our territorial waters is possible. You only need to block the shortest routes from France as dinghies can’t travel that far. You would need a system to allow cross-channel traffic to pass while stopping unauthorised boats.

No need for barbed wire on the beaches.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

What no commenter seems to get in the threads about illegal immigration is the unfortunate fact of you being dependent on what France does. Which, currently, is just letting people go. Macron and his government, being pro-EU – will never be criticised in the European media, even though they are essentially acting the same way as Lukashenko (thereby quite nicely undermining the EU in its own fight against illegal immigration – but that’s another issue).
The UK is up against a very hostile, biased narrative here which is going to be very difficult to reverse. If you dip into the comments sections of articles on this subject in the German/Austrian media, the attitude is one of continued disbelief that migrants to the UK are still being referred to as “fleeing” – the view that the French government is acting in a hostile, mendacious fashion hasn’t really pushed through yet.
If the UK and France doesn’t come to an agreement (highly unlikely), the only thing which will make the French border police put their foot down again is if too many bodies wash up on the beaches of Normandy. If migrants continue to cross in the coming weeks, that might happen sooner than you think. France will of course try to blame the UK but there’s only so long they can push this without exposing themselves as purveyors of Putin-like narratives.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Assume you are correct. The UK steers boats back to where they came from, supervises disembarkation, arrests gangsters if needed. What is France going to do? Object? Do it again, and again, and again, and again, until the message sinks home.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Story

Because France (and possibly the EU) will throw a wobbly and commence a negative PR onslaught so massive and so comprehensive it will make the AUKUS ruckus and the Internal Markets Bill fracas look like minor ripples in comparison. Because people are primed to believe the worst of the UK, this would cause you more damage than it sorts out.
In other words, wait for France to lose control of the trap it set itself and falls into it…hopefully with the opprobrium it deserves.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

At Calais the French are letting people leave France that they did not want to enter and stay in France. Would the UK not do the same? What do you want the French to do?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Perhaps we should work out why migrants prefer to move on to the the UK from France (almost certainly about entitlements ) and change things so they wish to stay in France

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

So if illegal immigration really is an intractable problem why does he not just come out and explain it to us – instead of platitudes and empty promises. A bit of transparency would not go amiss. We are not children.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

This is the question every person in Europe is asking of its politicians. It is obvious and yet somehow the words are impossible to say.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The barbed wire was presumably backed up by machine guns . Nowadays there would be mobile units of barbed wire cutters and caterers with warm (halal ) snacks

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
2 years ago

“It’s about the migration stoopid”
 and it always has been since Blair and Portes flung the doors open. It’s staggering that the cosmo-Westminster class still doesn’t get it. Throw in frustrations about woke and the refusal to tackle the UK’s shadow Islamic state and the Conservatives have a permanent majority for as long as they can hold their noses.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Ken Charman

Like it or not, I cant help suspecting that some genuinely strong move will be made before the next general election.
Any idiot knows that nothing meaningful has been done yet – and the Tories are well aware of this.
My money is on the announcement of an offshore holding centre some time in 2023 – giving the Labour/Lib/justice/BBC coalition (AKA the Remainiacs) too little time to jointly build a case against it before the next election.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Boris needs to take effective action before the end of 2021 on:
Exit the ECHR
Stop Channel migrants
Trigger Article 16
If he does so his ratings would surge, it really is that simple

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

To start with there needs to be some physical barrier to stop people illegally entering British territorial waters across the straights of Dover. Once people are in our territory, the job of removing them becomes more difficult. Temporary solutions to begin with (like pushing boats back) but to be replaced by permanent structures as the number of illegal crossings will only ever increase and temporary measures are pretty easy to avoid and probably more dangerous.

Then we need offshore facilities to house illegal immigrants whilst they are processed for deportation and in some cases longer term, e.g. people who qualify as refugees but try to enter Britain illegally, thus losing their right to claim asylum. I suggest we use our Overseas Territories so we can control conditions and not run into somebody he problems the Australians had with PNG.

We also need to change the law to stop all legal challenges to deportations. Which as you say requires us to change our relationship with the ECHR.

In addition we must make it clear that all aid to, and trade agreements with, other countries is dependent on their willingness to accept the return of their citizens who enter Britain illegally.

Get that in place and Boris can be in No 10 for as long as he likes!

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

What sort of physical barriers do you have in mind: the south and indeed east coasts of England are mostly sandy beaches. Walls on the beach? Barbed wire? Mines?

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

In the first instance patrol boats tasked with “pushing back” dinghies to keep them outside of territorial waters. I believe that these techniques have been used by Italy with their migrant boats and the Australians did something similar. Later I imagine some sort of anti-shipping booms as have been used in many locations in the past. These are only small craft and the areas close enough to France to cross in a dinghy but without heavy ferry traffic are pretty limited so I assume something could be worked out. Indeed I read in the FT earlier in the year that the gov was seeking technical proposals.

Certainly nothing on beaches – that would make no sense because you want to stop them being in our territory and therefore the French coastguard must tow them back. Once they have got nearshore you have to process them which we know can take years.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I just love the idea of pushing back boatloads of the poor, women and children into the Channel. perhaps the French would push them the other way until they all drowned. That would solve the problem

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Almost all those in boats are young men. Once the route is shown to be cut off, fewer of them will attempt this dangerous journey. If they are want to apply for asylum in a safe way, they can go to the British Embassy in Paris.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

The benefits we give to migrants should be stopped … that is what is needed

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Essential but not sufficient to stop the flow I’m afraid. The message needs to be made very clearly that you can only apply for asylum in Britain from outside the country. If you are in France, go to the British embassy. If you are in a refugee camp in Lebanon, our consulate staff are there too.

If you try to enter the UK illegally or overstay a legitimate visa, you will have your claim rejected as a matter of course.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

That is it, or part of it. Why do immigrants cross so many countries to get here? Because this is the best place to get to. No benefits, and fast free return to their place of origin. Help to their place of origin to feed, educate, and house their own people, if necessary.
And no barbed wire on the beaches. After all, we are humanitarians, let’s be kind to people much less fortunate than ourselves.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Are we humanitarians? We keep getting told we are all racists. It really is quite weird that people are risking their lives to get from safe countries to a racist place like England. Even once they’re here these new arrivals seem to prefer the truly racist England rather than go to the SNPs apparently more welcoming land.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Amazing, isn’t it? You would have thought that the Republic of Ireland would be the destination of choice. They are, we are told, extremely relaxed about immigration and also part of the wonderful EU – which as we know is a guarantee of peace and prosperity. Why would any migrant want to stay in backward, racist Britain? All the Remoaners are applying for Irish passports so why not the “refugees”? I am surprised every new arrival isn’t making a beeline for Holyhead. 🙂

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

well done for responding calmly to the facetious, puerile and negative comment.

Penny Mcwilliams
Penny Mcwilliams
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Yes, always someone else’s job to watch people drown before their eyes, or machine gun them in the water, but most people who support ‘stopping illegal immigration’ would not want to be the one doing the dirty work

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

Almost everyone supports “stopping illegal immigration”. The number of people that are not dismayed by 1000 men arriving in Kent on dinghies each day is minuscule. “Open Borders” supporters are almost non-existent outside the loony left.

Nobody wants to watch people drown. That is just silly hyperbole. And I am sure most people appreciate how hard it is to stop a determined migrant. But if the government can’t do it they will pay a heavy price.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

It can be done humanely and legally. Who is recommending machine guns and not saving drowning people?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

Thank you. Would those writing here really push boats back out to sea? It worries me they might

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Most of them are young single males.

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

well done for responding calmly to the facetious, puerile and negative comment.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Poor women and children Peter?

You make it sound like a scene from the sinking of the Titanic. Are you saying that jokingly.

Surely you can’t possibly believe that these dinghys contain boatloads of women and children.

Unless you have hard evidence that goes against all the photos and videos we see every day then you are spreading misinformation, which seems to be something that really has taken over this island in recent years.

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

The Australian “solution?” Create a secure and inhospitable island camp from where they can go home and seek to migrate legally, whenever they choose. There must be a spare island somewhere around here


Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  Ken Charman

This is needed too. We need several layers of defensive processes: barriers to stop them entering illegally by boat; offshore processing and refugee camps for people who still get in; long mandatory prison sentences for people smugglers; no right of appeal against deportations; hostile environment to stop people employing visa-less people or renting them rooms; treaty changes to make sure countries take back returnees and so on.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

A

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I think it would enhance our international reputation. The EU and the US are both struggling with the same issue. Australia is regarded as the only western country to even attempt to solve it – which has significantly enhanced its reputation. If Boris could get it under control we would be a model for the international community.

Without action, why won’t 1000 a day be 10,000 a day by the time of the next election? If other countries see the government bringing the number to zero and winning a landslide it will help them to take similar decisions at home.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

T.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

I’m all for co-operation and goodwill between countries but I think you need to have your own security mechanisms as well.

We should contribute to efforts to secure European borders – which we are currently doing in Poland. We should continue to help to fund French efforts to stymie immigrants coming from France. And we should continue to build and fund regional refugee camps.

We should also continue offer legal and accessible routes for people to apply for asylum. But what we cannot tolerate is people arriving illegally or overstaying a visa and then claiming asylum. That only leads to disaster.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

There are some genuine cases but assylum can also be used as a ploy to illegally stay here. I think the UK does a great job at being a refuge to help people facing fierce persecution but letting people in who are in no danger is damaging those who we do need to help.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

But Macron won’t co-operate because he hates Brexiteers. Saying it cannot be done leads to it not being done.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Suppose that you live in a far nicer house than mine. I climb the outside of your house and stand on the highest window sill.
‘Let me in’ I shout ‘or I might fall and kill myself!’
So do you let me in, so I can live at your expense? Do you let me eventually acquire part-ownership of your nice house?

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Y

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

Very few, eh? That’s delusional. Whole generations of citizens have been living at the expense of other citizens here in the US. And the handlers of the puppet in the White House wants to give each illegal $450K. Yeah, work isn’t going to be an issue for them.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

He dosn’t understand the dependency culture which can go from one generation to the next. It’s real.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

You take away that right if you overpopulate a country beyond it’s capacity.

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

E

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

We are only a small island James and heavily populated. That is why our land is so expensive.

Bill W
Bill W
2 years ago

You omit the Tories’ eco green policies which will most likely crucify them and the electorate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bill W
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  James Chater

The problem is he’d lose power to a quite appalling Labour Party which represents metropolitan fashionable opinion par excellence, and many of whose MPs are now well to the Left of the activists. This party, incredibly, has shown itself are unable to defend women’s rights, rather despises most of the white working class together with this nation’s history, is anti-Brexit and would probably have to agree to facilitating the break up of the United Kingdom together the SNP.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

There’s the rub. The ‘first past the post’ system is designed to give power to one of two big parties. It excludes third, fourth and fifth parties. It says, in effect, vote for Boris because Corbyn is even worse.
Well, we’ve done that, and look where we are.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

No it’s not. It’s designed to allow small parties that command a genuine plurality of local support to win seats, in preference to loony fringe parties winning them on the basis of the totted-up sum of 650 handfuls of local votes.
It has the happy effect of keeping loonies out of power. Its unhappy effect is that if those loonies want power badly enough, they have to infiltrate other parties. This is easier albeit more transparent. Labour has been penetrated by neo-Marxist anti-Semites and all parties by neo-Marxist ecowhackjobs.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

In the 2015 general election UKIP got 12.6% of the popular vote for a return of one MP.
Plaid Cymru, Sein Fein and the DUP each got 0.6% and returned 3, 4 & 8 MPs. Is that the happy effect?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The latter three all got a plurality in an actual constituency. UKIP, a handful of whack jobs scattered around the country in their underpants, managed this in one.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

That’s because all their votes were in local areas whilst UKIP’s were spread out across the country. That’s how it is. Changing it would make it worse.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Unaccountable “List MPs” who don’t really represent any local constituents, but can hold the balance of power, have blighted the politics of small parliaments like Scotland and NZ.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

But at least we haven’t got Corbyn. Look on the bright side.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

To add to that Keith Starmer incredibly had to apologise to his party for visiting a church.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

He’s not a president. He doesn’t have the executive powers of a president. He is the leader of a party, which will have to publish a manifesto before the next election. It is likely that the policies set out in that manifesto will accord with my view of the world more closely than those of the Labour or Liberal parties.

I think he’s personally incompetent, and wish he would surround himself with better people, but I’m not voting for him. I’m voting for a broad direction of travel, however poorly delivered, and am likely to continue to do so.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

If a manifesto includes the phrase ‘cut immigration to the tens of thousands’ but the party, being elected, does no such thing, then why would you read manifestos?

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

“
however poorly delivered.” A manifesto that promises to let them all in is likely to be much better delivered.

Manifestos at least set out the way they’re thinking. We lost government competence to actually deliver a long time ago

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

A superb first paragraph Sir.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Most of us whilst hoping for something better might not have any choice and will have to go with that. But if it came about that there was a choice watch out.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
2 years ago

Johnson appears to think that the key to keeping the Red Wall voters is to continue to condescend, patronise, and throw money at them. It seems to completely escape the Tories’ notice that this was exactly what eventually made these voters give up on labour. All they want is a decent low tax regime, services that work and a chance to make their way in the world without undue interference from idiot politicians.
No one wants to play a bit-part as a victim in a politician’s saviour fantasy. Why is this so very difficult for politicians to understand? Are they all really so unimaginative and so very unintelligent?

Last edited 2 years ago by Albireo Double
Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago

Completely wrong. Sleaze can, and will bring down Boris. The manner in which he, at the suggestion of his OE mate Moore, tried to strong-arm Parliament a fortnight ago into whitewashing the crooked MP Paterson upset a lot of people, some of them Tory MPs who rejected his 3-line whip and voted the other way. I cancelled my Daily Telegraph subscription because I was so disgusted by that newspaper’s one-sided support of Paterson’s wrongdoing. Boris is not helped by his colleague in Parliament, Jacob R-M, a ridiculous Old Etonian caricature of a figure from one of PG Wodehouse’s Wooster novels. I compare Boris to another Old Etonian Prime Minister of 300 years ago, Robert Walpole. They are both gifted, but don’t have any scruples about the origins of the cash. Walpole served a prison sentence for corruption. But, like Boris, he was clever and in many ways, a good PM. Unfortunately for Boris, times have changed since 1721. For Walpole then, gaining the King’s support was enough to keep him in power for 20 years. Today, disgust is one feeling that really can get the British going. Wait and see. The British electorate are perfectly capable of voting in a Coalition of Labour and Lib Dem, if they don’t want to support the Tories.

Last edited 2 years ago by Giles Chance
Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
2 years ago

Boris needs to take effective action before the end of 2021 on:
Exit the ECHR
Stop Channel migrants
Trigger Article 16
If he does so his ratings would surge, it really is that simple

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

Johnson looks finished… again! I was sure he wouldn’t last the month in August 2019, then again in that September and October… so a survivor but what is the point? Survival for it’s own sake… and when the only choice is between a febrile, corrupt Tory Party and vacuous, self-hating Labourites propped up by rebellious totalitarian Scots, it doesn’t offer any hope beyond… beyond what? Survival I suppose!

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 years ago

I venture to suggest that the key to Conservative unity and support across Britain involves having the backbone and confidence to :
‱ Eradicate the hate crime statutes.
‱ Display the net benefits of low taxation to HM Treasury and invoke tax haven status on Britain
‱ Reverse the ” no fossil fuel vehicles” illusion AND illustrate why.
. Bin the sandaloid tree hugger posturing.
‱ Reform the police
‱ Go to war on NHS, MoD and other Government procurement wastage.
‱ Introduce statutes to protect freedom of speech and expression.
‱ Back off on the LBGT and Racism woke fascism agenda.
… job done…

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I cannot stand this creep – the problem is there is not one real Politician in the party I can see who has the charisma and courage, and understanding of direction to replace Boris. You know the old paradox of turtles all the way down..

The Conservative party is similar, it is the big turtle standing on smaller and ever smaller turtles (Zeno’s Paradox-esk) shrinking to infinity and Boris is the big turtle on top of the stack. And that is the problem, under him is just a lesser turtle, and under him a lesser… (Big turtles have little turtles under their feet to ride them, and little turtles have lesser turtles, and so on ad-infinitum….. (paraphrasing De Morgan’s flea rhyme)

That is the one positive point of Boris, he is the last politician who uses the Classics, but that is all he has – other than that Boris is nothing, hollow. I agree with the poster below – in Poland in the 1600s they would just have defenestrated him.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well, maybe, but much the same – there is not one real Politician in the party I can see who has the charisma and courage, and understanding of direction to replacewas said about defenestrating Edward Heath, and look what happened.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
2 years ago

I think you’re right that the voters don’t care about sleaze. Not even the outright gross corruption of the PPE procurement scandal will be enough to bring Boris down. That is a damning indictment of the UK population.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

I care about sleaze personally. I think it exposes someones real character but obviously not many care.

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

I think it’s more like the fact that people don’t have any party decent enough to vote for and the FPTP system is a real barrier protecting LIBLABCON and fending off decent alternatives.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
2 years ago

This is the guy who famously wanted to be “boss of the world”. It is clear that Boris Johnson had no vision for what he wanted to do with the top job, other than be prime minister, and the opportunist desire to “get Brexit done”. The more people who lend their vote to Reform the sooner we will be rid of him.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Britton

Are Reform the same as UKIP?

Charles Lewis
Charles Lewis
2 years ago

A good summation. I would just say to the government, for me (60 years devoted to the Tories), I am not going to vote for them again, for the main reason, as this article aptly puts it, for ‘worries over the government’s failure to push back against the excesses of wokeism.’ Boris has done nothing to give me any confidence that he himself will properly combat gender identity and white privilege nonsense. Why not? His wife’s influence?
In fact, I can’t think of one good conrete thing he has done in any sphere since Brexit! Just blather and grand-standing. He is well out of his depth.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Yes, at this moment he has lost my vote. Unless we get some definitive leadership similar to the vaccine development which doesn’t involve kowtowing to the press, then it will stay that way. I often wonder if there is a correlation between the number of centrist papers which support a PM and their success. Johnson only seems to have the support of the Express! The newspaper headlines on the same news themes are wildly contrasting.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

He’s lost your vote, Peter, until the moment you’re in the polling booth and it’s either Boris or it’s Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, etc etc. All these latter repellent creeps are mostly out of the news and off the TV currently. But come a general election campaign, when we’ve got Angela Rayner honking about the “moonneh” she wants to spend and Diane Abbott rolling her eyes and sneering at white people, you’re going to remember how much they hate you. And chances are, you’ll vote for Boris.
Mid term polls are about how unhappy we are with the government. They’re not about how we will eventually vote.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’m a Tory voter but today, I would vote for Starmer, who I thought was fair and sensible last week on Andrew Marr, and Rayner, who has true feelings and passion, and represents the perspective of a lot of northerners. Rayner won’t win any votes in the south, because of her accent, but she could bring a lot of working people with her. I think we’re getting fed up with the same old bunch of OE’s running the show, and handing presents out to their mates.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Her accent is the least of the reasons she won’t win votes 


Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Rayner in no way represents the perspective of anyone I know.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

It was the North who mainly got Brexit delivered and a lot of the country are grateful to you. I don’t know how we got bogged down with Covid, Big Pharma lies, Global Warming and Covid after that though. I thought the economy would be more important.

D Ward
D Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

Arise, Sir Kneelalot.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

“It is not about the sex you were born with it is about the sex you choose to be.” – Diane Abbott. Even if some Hackney people choose Boris they will still get Diane.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago

I think the Tories are beginning to image the loony left on climate change, immigration, and sexual identities. Getting Brexit done was a big attraction but it needs to be finished with the fishing rights and the claws holding N Ireland dealt with. With regard to sleaze I think that it would be worse with Labour. One MP says you can choose your own sex. Really? So the only thing that will keep the Tories in is the alternative, unless we see a joining of parties like UKIP etc.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

Sleaze? These MPs extra incomes are, by and large, registered and this is just people throwing stones in glass houses.
Countless words are written on the 2019 manifesto which, just lately doesn’t even require reference. Just see what the government is not doing, lower tax, triple lock, dealing with immigrants for a start. Yes, the pandemic was unexpected and needs to be paid for but not by fixed income people in the current inflationary period. Pausing or even cancelling HS2 would be a start. Overseas aid should cease until such time as food banks cease to exist.
Half the Navy is on the other side of the world while sabres rattle not much over 1500 miles away. Above all Net Zero should be on the backburner. As the late Sean Lock said, ‘us turning up to help at an earthquake with a dustpan and brush’. If you believe a teenager and a 95 year old TV presenter that is.

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago

I wonder how many redundant cruise ships could be commandeered for the price of all the hotel rooms that the government (i.e. the taxpayer) is spending to house illegal immigrants in major UK cities. A string of cruise ships anchored on the edge of our territorial waters together with a massive aircraft carrier should provide a suitable signal that anyone picked up in our waters will be placed under armed guard on one of these vessels and processed rapidly offshore followed, if necessary, by either a safe escort to our shores or a rapid military flight to either a) the country of origin or b) if no country of origin can be established, a suitable destination of our choice.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
2 years ago

Top of my list : illegal immigration, push back against wokeism and levelling up. Pretty p*ssed off.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Oh, do calm down. Don’t be such a bedwetter.

Since 1945 there’s been exactly one election in which a governing party with a working majority went into an election and lost it to an opposition that gained its own working majority. It was in 1970 and the voting franchise had just changed.

There is no example of a government with an 80-seat majority (which would be 100 on fair boundaries) losing it. If anything so astounding were likely, the air would already be thick with straws in the wind: the LotO’s approval ratings would be through the roof, the Opposition would be 20 points ahead, by-elections and locals would be disasters for the government, and so on.

What is actually happening is that the Opposition is still a rabble of thick, woke anti-semites, quota minority cretins, and vicious Stalinist chavs. It is led feebly by an empty suit with no opinions and still losing seats in by elections to a government whose vote has increased for six consecutive general elections.

The government is unquestionably going to win the next election, and the only question really is by how much. This depends on the Conservative Party. If they keep Boris they will still win, but if they defenestrate him, then depending on who replaces him, they will win better and probably increase their majority. The latter is what I consider the likeliest outcome.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Certainly if they topple “Boris” they’ll do better – they can hardly do worse! But don’t underestimate the impact of his appalling “green” agenda – trying to woo the “Wall” by pandering to Hampstead is a fool’s errand – but Johnson, for all his academic laurels, is a fool.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“They can hardly do worse” led to Wilson-Heath-Callaghan and the near collapse of the UK.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

He is a bit of a buffer and often loses his way but people seem to like his open character. What you see is what you get. I hope he can learn some lessons about the lies of global warming though and that he will stop risking the economy over the false narrative concerning Covid.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Conrad

With respect, you could not be more mistaken. Johnson’s character is the reverse of open – it is merely his “persona” that appears as such; in point of fact, he hides his real self away obsessively and almost never comments upon his genuine feelings. What you see is what he wants you to see and it varies according to how you feel and who you are. To Telegraph readers he posed for years as this moderately nostalgic “buffer”; to his chums in London he has posed as the go-getting votary of business; to the Tory wets he posed as “their friend” and to the Thatcherite rump he posed as “one of us”. No, no – Johnson is the classic charlatan and arriviste whose only skill is “getting there”; once in place, he’s lost.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Mark Steyn knows him quite well.
https://www.steynonline.com/9576/berrying-boris

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Downvoted because of your first line. You can disagree with people without calling them names. ‘Bedwetter’ is a gratuitous insult and totally inappropriate in a civilised discussion.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

If people can be called “climate change deniers” is a supposedly civilised discussion, “bedwetter” seems perfectly fair, and an accurate description.

Tony Conrad
Tony Conrad
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Johnson

It was only a friendly reprimand.

kevin austin
kevin austin
2 years ago

We live in EXTRAORDINARY times. I’m not sure that we are not living through the equivalent of the FRENCH REVOLUTION without the Beheadings. I love my QUEEN and everything she stands for…

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

Everyone loves a charming rascal, which is why BoJo hasn’t much to worry about.;

George Knight
George Knight
2 years ago

Boris is a great gambler and as we all know you can’t win all the time, but I think he will win in the longer run. He was called on to get the UK out of the EU which he did, but he still has to tie up successfully the EU loose ends in NI, which I expect he and Lord Frost will achieve – in spite of Jo Biden trying to tell the UK what it should do. For the past two years he has had the Covid challenge which I believe he handled as well as anyone could, particularly his appointment of Kate Bingham to secure vaccines for the UK.
Sleaze issues come and go and I would not be surprised if Boris had not decided to lance the boil now, rather than have it surface nearer the next election.
The shadows of Brexit and Covid will linger for some time but he should now be able to concentrate on what he wants to achieve and how the government will make it happen in the medium and longer term.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

The press and opposition voters are having a field day with so-called sleaze but I doubt if the public display the same outrage. Owen Paterson’s greed must be of concern but he did have the right to an appeal. The other press outrages are due to envy. Those with a second job which is recorded in parliamentary books is not against parliamentary procedure and as for condemning the Scottish Conservative because he was paid for refereeing which, no doubt took place on a Saturday – I ask you!

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago

Of course the cross-channel invasion has to be stopped and there are plenty of good suggestions below as to how that might be done. But Mr. Goodwin also mentions legal immigration beside which the cross-channel invasion pales into insignificance.
In the last full year before the first lockdown, immigration from outside the EU reached its highest level ever – from memory 282,000 net. At the beginning of this year the government’s new open borders immigration policy (deceitfully called a “points-based policy”) came into effect. It vastly loosens the controls which previously existed, the controls which gave us that record number of immigrants, and introduces several new routes for permanent settlement. And that’s before we get to the new open border with Hong Kong

Covid and lockdown have prevented the consequences of these changes becoming immediately apparent, but we are now post-Covid. If the effects are as bad as they promise to be, do not expect the Reform party (or some similar group on the Tories right flank) to remain as obscure as they presently are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Frederick B
Julie Kemp
Julie Kemp
2 years ago

Sorry B.J. (Not the M.A.S.H. character!) Sadly you have disappointed this Australian senora. You have, along with so many others, shown just how limited (and that’s perfectly OK in itself at the individual level) you are at ultra top level governance. Mr. Churchill was flawed and he recognised that and worked it almost. He had ‘the guts’ of character perfectly in tune with ‘Great Britain’. Comparisons are odious, but they can be partly useful in so far as Memory ie real History serves the Human Condition.
It’s great you recovered from ‘that ‘virus” but i think that somewhere up there in my ancestrals’ homeland, that a gutsy man (or woman) has to be in the wings to be the Phoenix Rising.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

The expenses scandal was about MPs of all parties, initiated by the then PM Tony Blair.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

Some folk claim the Channel illegal immigrants stop them voting Conservative.
Yet, the Labour and LibDems are sympathetic and would spend lots of money in looking after illegal Immigrants!

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

This article just seems to meander and I do not see the point. There have only been two significant issues in Boris Johnson’s time as PM. Firstly Brexit which he got done and COVID which he messed up. Brexit gave us the ability to breathe as a nation but the handling of COVID has then condemned the nation to an eternity of debt and for what?…..a moderately severe flu.  Imagine if BJ had taken a stance of “UK is open for business” during the world COVID lockdown. UK would have forged trading links around the globe among partners and countries that were sensibly only giving lip service to lockdown (as no doubt many were) and those trading links would have been forged at precisely the time we needed to do so following Brexit, with many of the links surviving after the politicians of the world decided to put aside their insane lockdown reaction to COVID. Instead, unfortunately, I am beginning to think that Boris is “soiled goods” as a PM and this stems from what I recently understand on reading, and listening to, Unherd that there is a consensus which has been developing over recent decades among many sections of the thinkers, academics and politicians on all sides that liberalism has “failed” and that we are now in a “post liberal” age. Particularly the members event “Has Lockdown Changed us forever” Glasman/Thompson/Roussinos/Harrington. It is these ideas that may have enabled radicals and politicians to gain credibility for their ideas that people will be happier in a governing system in which they are told what to do. The way that people in the UK apparently took to the imposed lockdown like “ducks to water” will no doubt be pointed to as an example of this willingness and readiness of UK people for totalitarian government/regimentation and actually perfectly fits the bill as the first stage of (or experimentation in) a planned “Great Reset”. The possible reason or justification for a “Great Reset” may be that people need to modify their expectations of what support the state can provide but politicians are unwilling to be unpopular in attempting to modify those expectations, hence the need for supposedly cost effective regimentation as the only alternative. I understand that Boris Johnson took a hospital bed and ventilator upon contracting COVID. It is due to this fact that he may be “soiled goods” in standing up to those proposing authoritarian solutions, as how can a politician who took a ventilator albeit, perhaps, following medical advice that it was the best course to err on the side of caution, then be best suited as a PM to tell people that they cannot expect such treatment when they get a bout of flu because the UK cannot afford it. 

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
John Murray
John Murray
2 years ago

“much like John Major in the Nineties”
In the 90’s, I always felt like John Major was an interim PM, in-between Thatcher and whoever was going to come next. He also spent a lot of time having his authority severely challenged within his party which didn’t help. However, he’s number 20 on the all-time list for length of term which places him ahead of Attlee, Lloyd George, Robert Peel, and more recently, David Cameron. So, give him his due, a decent length of innings on a sticky wicket, even if not a particularly memorable one.