by Miriam Cates
Monday, 6
June 2022
Debate
12:00

The campaign against Boris is a trap

My fellow Tory MPs need to calm down
by Miriam Cates
Credit: Getty

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.

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Chelcie Morris
Chelcie Morris
2 months ago

” it is telling that the media’s principal line of argument is to draw attention to the dreadful suffering endured during lockdowns,” Suffering that the media themselves were complacent in and did not question at all. They’re hypocrites and should be ignored until they start doing actual journalism instead of this reactionary crap.

John 0
John 0
2 months ago

I wish Miriam would run for leader. Someone with sense. But the downside would be it would greatly impact her family.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  John 0

She sums it up perfectly – removing a Prime Minister with such a massive majority from a democratic vote (and they voted for Johnson not the Tories) for a few parties is beyond farcical, and will demonstrate serious disrespect for the electorate.

But she failed to mention the real conspirators – Remainiacs, in the Tories, Labour, SNP, the civil service, and the media; and who are driven by getting revenge against Johnson for leading Brexit. They are feeling brave enough now to emerge like maggots from the corpse of the Tories with their ideas on how to get us back into the EU.

To those Unherd readers banging on endlessly about how this isn’t a real Tory government blah, blah, blah – congratulations, cos you’ll never see another Tory government for 20 years if Johnson goes.

Helen Moorhouse
Helen Moorhouse
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

And if there is anything in the theory that a great reset is underway then no doubt the likes of Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab find him too much of a loose canon. The partygate push started when Boris refused to lockdown again at Christmas – pretty well ending the world obsession with Covid. The papers all knew about it 18 months earlier but said nothing. If Boris is thrown out we will end up with a yes man like Justin Trudeau. What a disaster that will be.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Have we had one in the last 50 years? Thatcher was a liberal in a blue rosette.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 months ago

Voters vote for a Member of Parliament and until the next election government is in the hands of those MPs. The Queen “choses” a Prime Minister who can command the support of enough MPs. The problem the MPs face is a dearth of statesmen to perform that role.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
2 months ago

the Labour Party (whose only discernible policy is to oust the Prime Minister)”
As others might have already pointed-out, they have another policy, which is to Wokify the Kingdom at every opportunity.

David McKee
David McKee
2 months ago

I write as a member of the Conservative Party. I am in favour of removing Boris, but my reasons have nothing to do with Partygate. Nor do I hunger for Remainer-style, empty revenge on the man who got Brexit done. I campaigned for Leave.
My problem with Boris is that he leads an apparently rudderless government. Our measures to mitigate the pandemic sent public debt through the roof. So what are the plans to get the debt down? Defence procurement is an expensive mess. The NHS is completely overwhelmed. Levelling up is a great idea, but it’s still just a slogan. The Northern Ireland Protocol has still not been sorted. The drive for more housing is in the doldrums. Indeed, do we need a massive housebuilding programme? Inflation is soaring: if it does not subside of its own accord, what are we going to do about it? Do we need policies to strengthen the family? After all, it is striking that the poorest families in Britain tend to be one-parent families. Is anything going to happen with the Sewell Report on our ethnic minorities? Can we get multinationals to pay any tax at all? What are the plans to capitalise on Brexit? What are we going to do about our stalled productivity growth? When can people expect to start feeling richer again?
It’s not to say that there aren’t good things going on. Judicial activism is being addressed in a measured and reasonable way. Michele Donelan seems to know what she’s doing with our problems in further and higher education. We backed Ukraine when it really mattered, and we are still backing Ukraine with armaments and munitions. These are all good things, but they are not enough to persuade the voters to re-elect the government. The only thing currently saving the Conservatives is that Labour is equally clueless about how to solve these apparently intractable problems.
If Boris has no answers (and he doesn’t), is there anyone in the parliamentary party who does? And can they convince the voters that they do?

Last edited 2 months ago by David McKee
Fiona Craig
Fiona Craig
2 months ago

Of course the lockdown suffering wasn’t caused by the parties at No 10 – but was in very large part caused by the alarmist, heartless and ever-changing policies issued by the attendees. The parties simply confirmed to us how performative the mandates were.
On your final point, I for one would love to see a bit of emotion and empathy added to the ‘objectivity and reason’ because there is precious little wisdom. 

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
2 months ago

The media didn’t just draw attention to the suffering endured during lockdown, but rekindled and amplified it, deliberately exaggerating the story – ‘what do you think about Johnson partying while you couldn’t say goodbye to your dear old whoever?’ – and clearly insinuating that No10 was putting 2 fingers up to the bereaved. The media traded on the tears they stoked up, compounding distress for their own ends.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 months ago

Boris Johnson is not president, nor is he chosen by popular will. He is prime minister, and serves as long as his MPs back him. They may or may not be right to ditch him, but there is no doubt that the decision is theirs to take.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
2 months ago

The argument there seems to be that as Johnson has always been morally reprehensible they it is unfair to punish him now for this seeing as we should have known in advance what we were getting.
On that assumption if an employer in a bank who cannot be trusted with other peoples’ money should not be dismissed because he or she was always like it.

David Simpson
David Simpson
2 months ago

The only question they should decide on, is is this man capable of leading the country (not his party) to some sunny upland? And if not , is there someone else who can ? I think he got his majority because enough people believed he could do what he promised – deliver Brexit, and level up. That’s why you’re all there. So, whatever and whoever, deliver Brexit, and level up.

Andrew Bell
Andrew Bell
2 months ago

Johnson is completely lacking in integrity and devoid of the qualities we expect of a Prime Minister. If this has not been painfully obvious, it has become difficult to deny since the nation watched our beloved Queen over the weekend, and reflected on her qualities and unstinting service. Character is important. Values are important. In this context, Johnson has nothing to offer to the British people and should go now.

Tom Jarman
Tom Jarman
2 months ago

No Miriam, no. This is about integrity and accountability in government – fundamental to an effective democracy. As you say be guided by wisdom, objectivity and a desire to uphold democracy. Boris cannot be trusted, stand by him and nor can you. Those that want to see Tories decimated in coming elections will want Boris to remain so this sorry story can run and run. No Miriam, please read the letter from your colleague Jesse Norman and reflect. This is about far more than a few parties during lockdown.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tom Jarman
Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom Jarman

Jesse Norman’s letter was very remarkable from a Conservative MP, elected on the 2019 manifesto. He references the planned sale of Channel 4 and its supposedly negative impact of this on independent film makers, but exhibits no apparent concern for the many thousands of small and high street businesses wiped out by Lockdown, or for the impact of Lockdown on the educational and psychological development of our children, or its impact on inflation and the national finances. He objects to immigration processing in Rwanda, but offers no alternative plan for dealing with illegal Channel crossings – in fact he doesn’t appear to regard it as a problem at all. Incredibly, he implies that maintaining rigidly policed trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will help preserve the Union. It is an extraordinarily complacent letter, wreaking of the entitled privilege of which he is a walking embodiment, with no sense of the real problems facing the country. He presents no evidence that undermining not only Johnson, but the entire Conservative cabinet, will address any of these problems.

Last edited 2 months ago by Stephen Walshe
Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Well said. I used to rather like Mrs Cates, but it seems she has a case of thinks-she’s-American that any livestock-noseringed bluehair at the University of Swimmingpool would think a tad excessive. Boris Johnson’s mandate indeed.

He didn’t have a mandate to pop corks while the Queen (and how many others?) sat alone at her husband’s funeral.

Ecky Thump
Ecky Thump
2 months ago

Very disappointing to hear your stance Mim, but also not surprising. Johnson is a corrosive force in our politics evidenced time after time after time. You’re supporting a mendacious criminal. I will never vote for you as long as you fail to call Johnson out for the repugnant individual that he is.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
2 months ago

Even if he stays I doubt very much he’d jettison the climate change nonsense and the expense and coming power cuts that go with it.
Or getting involved in evil schemes like using Ukrainian conscripts to try and get rid of Putin, why does he hate Russians so much, why do they all?
Or go against the trend of mass immigration but pretending he is which makes our visits to Europe harder, money printing, etc and then there’s the drinking and partying while getting his Police to make sure we don’t.
Enough of him and the whole bunch of them. They’ve had there chance and blown it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jeff Andrews