This week, Michael Gove’s lengthy Levelling Up white paper talked about the ancient city of Jericho. This was largely because of its size and natural irrigation, but perhaps the Biblical story of the city’s walls falling might be more fitting given the state of Downing Street. The response in the Conservative party to not one but four senior resignations — for unconnected reasons — is pretty fatalistic.
Martin Reynolds and Dan Rosenfield were doomed because of the former’s ‘BYOB’ email and the latter’s unpopularity with Tory MPs. But the Munira Mirza case is stranger: senior staff don’t tend to quit. Ministers like to resign in a blaze of glory, but even in the dying days of an administration people tend to want to go down with the ship. As one (formerly) pro-Boris MP remarked to me:
‘The staff are always the last to leave! They’re normally there in Downing Street crying as the PM finally quits, they’re thinking about the resignation honours list. No government in my lifetime has ever imploded in this way.’
Another said ‘it’s not so much the rats leaving the sinking ship but the Petty Officer.’
Neither of these MPs have yet sent their letters calling for a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s leadership. But the operative word in that sentence is ‘yet’. The consensus among MPs I’ve spoken to this afternoon is that it is definitely a case of when Boris goes, not if, and waiting for the final reports from Sue Gray and the Met may feel like too long for many of them. Everyone agrees that this ‘ups the dial for Boris’ and that while it has ‘felt fatal for about a week now, things are speeding up’.