Figures like Rory Stewart and John Major are getting carried away
Boris Johnson deserved to go. Nevertheless, the fact that he’s now gone isn’t enough for some people. They want him gone right now — thrown out of Downing Street immediately with an acting Prime Minister appointed in his place.
There is, of course, no precedent for such a move. Nor is there any need. Boris Johnson’s character flaws are clear for all to see, but he’s not insane. He hasn’t committed any great crime — not unless you count spending a few minutes in the same room as an uneaten birthday cake.
So for John Major to write to the 1922 Committee and suggest that the “proposal for the Prime Minister to remain in office” is “unwise” and “may be unsustainable” is puzzling.
For a start, Major is in poor position to lecture anyone on Prime Ministers who ought to leave office. He himself failed to resign in 1992 after the humiliation of Black Wednesday and, again, in 1995, when it was clear that he was leading his party to a landslide defeat.
As for the present day, the idea of Boris Johnson continuing until a new Prime Minister is chosen isn’t a “proposal” it’s just the constitutional default position. Of course, if an incumbent was so impaired or compromised that he or she couldn’t do the job, then special arrangements would have to be made. But if anyone’s got any evidence for that in respect to the incumbent, then we’ve yet to hear it.
As well as announcing his departure, Boris Johnson spent yesterday plugging the holes in his Cabinet. Furthermore, he did so in the most boringly responsible way possible — drafting experienced former ministers like Robert Buckland and Greg Clark. But for some over-excited Boris-haters even this was too much. For instance, Sam Freedman, a former government policy advisor, tweeted “What on God’s green earth is Greg Clark doing? He’s a vaguely sensible person.”
I used to work for Clark and he’s possibly the most sensible man I’ve ever met. He’s also got zero reason to do any favours for Boris Johnson — he just knows that the machinery of government starts seizing up if ministers aren’t in place to make decisions. Nevertheless, Freedman is still furious with with Buckland and Clark for “propping [Johnson] up”.
Except that there’s no propping up to be done here — Boris has toppled over. One can either kick the corpse or do something more constructive.
Of course, the corpse-kickers can’t help themselves. They’re all over the opinion pages today, crowning Boris Johnson as Britain’s worst ever Prime Minister. And in some ways they’re right — but, despite the man’s manifest inadequacies, he still got Brexit done.
And that, of course, is the real reason why they hate him. He took on the liberal elites and defeated them. That the Remain establishment tried to overturn a binding referendum result is the actual constitutional outrage of our time — not the dog-end of Boris Johnson’s time in office.