The resignations of Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who said plainly that Johnson had lost his confidence, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose criticisms were less explicit, came after the Prime Minister’s claim, relayed by Cabinet ministers, that he had not been told about allegations against Chris Pincher MP before appointing him as deputy chief whip was comprehensively refuted by a former senior civil servant, Simon McDonald.
The cross-bench peer knew the truth – that Johnson was briefed about a 2019 complaint against Pincher – and, crucially, he was willing to make it public. Had he kept quiet or not been in a position to speak out, the scandal might have blown over, leaving only lingering suspicions that Johnson must have known.
Once again, after the truth emerged, we found ourselves listening to the Prime Minister’s apologies, but if he is sorry it is only because he was caught.
As he continues to try to cling to power, all Conservatives should think about what their party stands for, its values, or, in other words, the reasons why millions of people vote for them.
Once even political opponents would agree they stood for something, that “Conservative values” like respect for the rule of law, the preservation of institutions and a respect for individual freedoms had meaning.
Under Johnson, the party’s reputation is being shredded. He is a serial liar, a description with which some past and present Conservative colleagues would agree. He illegally prorogued parliament for political purposes, broke his own lockdown laws, and is threatening to break international law, or at least his word, over the Northern Ireland Protocol. And yesterday we learned he not only tolerated but promoted an alleged sex pest.
Such behaviour is so at odds with traditional Conservative values that the party risks breaking up under the weight of contradictions; the Tiverton by-election was a warning that many decent Tories are appalled.
The party now stands at a crossroads. If somehow Johnson manages to survive, propped up by a diminishing band of spineless acolytes, they may well achieve little but to lead the dominant force in British politics into the political wilderness for years to come.