Tory MPs had hoped this would be the week that Boris Johnson turned the tide after a tricky three weeks of Tory sleaze allegations and discontent on the backbenches. It’s not going quite to plan. After an odd speech to the CBI conference on Monday and a narrow win in the Commons on the government’s social care amendment, the papers carry reports that MPs have started sending letters of no confidence to the 1922 committee.
The Sun quotes an MP comparing Johnson to soup:
“‘He is like José Mourinho — he was good a decade ago and his powers have been fading ever since. Yes he won an election, but a bowl of soup could have beaten Jeremy Corbyn. There is real anger. He has until spring to get back on track or he will be in real trouble. Letters have gone in. I am on the cusp myself.’
Meanwhile, 10 Downing Street seems set on starting a war with the neighbours in No. 11 – blaming the Treasury (which they deny) for giving a quote to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg in which a Downing Street source was withering about the Prime Minister. The issue for Johnson is that in truth this is one of many quotes from aides and ministers in the press in recent weeks criticising his performance.
There is a conscious effort by ministers out on the broadcast round to defend the Prime Minister, with Dominic Raab this morning describing him as ‘Tiggerish’. But ultimately if Johnson and his team want to move past this row a good place to begin would be by not fanning the flames any more. Any blame game for recent errors – whether that’s frustration at the whips, Rishi Sunak or even No. 10 colleagues – only guarantees that the story will keep going.
MPs feeling little loyalty towards the Prime Minister right now hope that Johnson can draw a line under recent events and find something else to talk about. Today’s performance at Prime Minister’s Questions is viewed as more important than most – given it could confirm his CBI speech was just a blip. As one minister puts it: ‘We need a few wins between now and Christmas in order to steady the ship.’