Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

New Year, New Prime Minister? Your Party is Over, Mr. Johnson!


Who could have predicted that of all the Downing Street scandals of the last two and a half years, the parliamentary Conservative party would finally divide...over an actual party?

In the name of public health, Boris Johnson and his government punitively repealed and restored basic civic autonomies as they pleased. Now it transpires that at a time when England was in full national lockdown, the Prime Minister's Principal private secretary was not busy assisting his boss in the vital work of safeguarding this country during a pandemic but instead organising a house party. A "bring your own bottle" house party. Famously the worst kind.

The cold silence from Johnson's own benches during yesterday's Prime Minister's Questions speaks volumes and one may assume there were more than a few smirks, expediently concealed by masks, as their once-beloved leader wilted before the gallery.

Listening to the Prime Minister gripe that he didn't recognise forty people in a garden gulping wine was a gathering in breach of his own restrictions, one could be forgiven for letting out an indecorous titter. But the situation is far from funny. Conservative MPs are doubtless wondering if they can survive under Johnson. He built the blue wall, but has he now painted it red again? He is unpopular for the moment, but isn't Keir a dire alternative? He got Brexit done, but will the country keep him on? What if we give everyone fined their money back, will they forgive us then? How much more does Dominic Cummings really have to leak?

Until the public verdict comes through on this latest humiliation, and, in the absence of an obvious successor, many will sit quietly on the increasingly wobbly fence that separates loyalty from rebellion. Yet for the first time in a long time, a Conservative majority at a future general election is not certain. Just 23 per cent of all voters believe Boris Johnson is doing a good job. Labour now have their biggest poll lead in eight years.

However, it has never been easy to oust a sitting Prime Minister, let alone the Teflon Tory himself. It will take 53 Conservatives just to mount the initial challenge, and then over 180 votes against to see Johnson removed. Given a leadership contest can be triggered only once a year, those against the current party direction will likely wait until after May's local elections before taking (whatever's left of) Team Boris on.

Transparent as his contrition at the despatch box was, the apology has bought the Prime Minister some time until the judgement of the Sue Gray report is made known. If smart, he will utilise the brief reprieve by instigating major staffing changes in No.10 itself, from Head of Broadcast to Principal Private Secretary. A fresh team for a revitalised leader. He can no longer afford to shield those that embarrass his government and party on public money.

He also knows the Conservative self-preservation instinct remains strong. It may well be the only conviction that's stayed consistent. This works in Johnson's favour for now, but if his poll numbers are not salvaged before summer, it will be his ruin. Working mercilessly against him, aside from Rishi Sunak, is the fact the next few weeks will be dominated by political rows over unpopular tax hikes and cost of living increases.

As of now, nobody can predict the precise sequence of events that will unfold over the next few months to make or break Boris Johnson's premiership. But, at least for the moment, it's his party and he'll lie if he wants to. 

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames