James Forsyth

The most revealing line in Dowden’s resignation letter

It’s what he didn’t say that says most of all

The most revealing line in Dowden’s resignation letter
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The resignation of the party chairman Oliver Dowden is so damaging for Boris Johnson because the issue in Tiverton was not the campaign that CCHQ ran. You can’t put a 30 point swing down to the choice of candidate or the campaign tactics.

Dowden is a party man through and through, a loyalist to the core. He worked at CCHQ, then in David Cameron’s Downing Street before becoming an MP. He has helped prepare the last three Tory leaders for PMQs. He isn’t seen as particularly personally ambitious which makes his resignation all the more telling: no one can accuse him of being on leadership manoeuvres.

In 2019, Dowden’s backing of Johnson was seen as a sign that he was the best choice for the party, and that for the good of the party people should put their doubts aside. For him to go now because someone should take ‘responsibility’ and the party ‘cannot carry with business as usual’ raises the question of what the Conservatives should do now.

In the final line of his letter Dowden declares, ‘I will, as always, remain loyal to the Conservative party’. But there is no declaration of loyalty to Johnson personally. It suggests that Dowden has come to the conclusion that these two loyalties are now in conflict.

Tune in to this special episode of Spectator TV discussing the by-election with Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Cindy Yu:

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

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