My fellow Tory MPs need to calm down
The news of the ‘No Confidence’ vote broke this morning as I was packing my bags to return to Westminster. Tonight in Committee Room 10, my colleagues and I will vote to decide if Boris Johnson will continue as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Perhaps now is a good time to remember why Boris Johnson is our Prime Minister. In 2019, he stood on a commitment to deliver Brexit and to unite and level up our country. On the back of that manifesto, he won an extraordinary 80 seat majority; it’s hard to imagine a stronger personal mandate for a Prime Minister.
In two years’ time, the public will get another chance to have their say on Johnson’s leadership. But right now, the only people who have the power to decide if his time is up are 359 Conservative MPs. If we remove the Prime Minister tonight, it will be a conscious choice to override – in fact to erase – the mandate given to Boris Johnson by 14 million people in 2019.
Now clearly there are exceptional circumstances in which MPs may be right to overrule the democratic will of the British people, although this didn’t turn out to be a particularly popular approach during the ‘Brexit’ Parliament. But do the Sue Gray report and ‘Partygate’ meet the bar?
The report describes a distasteful culture inside Number 10 but gives little new information about the Prime Minister himself. I am as disappointed as anyone about the lack of regard shown for the struggles of ordinary people during lockdown, but the question is not ‘has Boris Johnson done wrong?’ but rather ‘do these circumstances justify the removal of a sitting Prime Minister?’
One argument put forward by those who want Johnson gone is that he doesn’t have the required moral character to lead our nation. He certainly has some major flaws, as do we all, but what new moral failures have been revealed by Sue Gray that MPs — and indeed the public at large — were not aware of in December 2019? The Prime Minister’s past behaviour was no secret, but current MPs willingly stood for election under his leadership. I don’t say this to excuse Johnson’s behaviour in any way, but it is not reasonable to suggest that the public did not know who they were voting for.
I can’t help feeling that we are falling into a trap meticulously prepared by the media and the Labour Party (whose only discernible policy is to oust the Prime Minister). Emotions are running high, and it is telling that the media’s principal line of argument is to draw attention to the dreadful suffering endured during lockdowns, suffering that was real and indescribably tragic, but was not caused by parties in Number 10.
Forgive me if that sounds unfeeling and emotionally detached, but as MPs we do not serve our constituents well by being carried along by emotions. Instead our responsibility is to be guided by wisdom, objectivity and reason as we uphold democracy and make considered decisions that will stand the test of time.