Katy Balls

Can Boris bounce back?

'He's toast,' says a former minister

Can Boris bounce back?
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How does Boris Johnson bounce back from 148 members of his own party expressing no confidence in him? The Prime Minister is claiming the fact he won the result means he can now move on and focus on the government's priorities. But privately Boris Johnson's allies concede the result is worse than they anticipated. 'He's toast,' says a former minister. Another senior Tory describes it as a 'fatal blow'.

Expect a blame game to follow. There is a frustration among some of Johnson's supporters that the operation to keep him in place has slacked in recent weeks. Earlier this year the shadow whipping operation – made up of key allies such as Nigel Adams, Conor Burns and Chris Heaton-Harris – succeeded in shoring up his position at a moment of peril. Yet in the past week during recess there was little effort to reach out to MPs as more came out to call for Johnson to go.

Even today it was striking that several MPs complained they had not been contacted by Downing Street personally to check which way they were voting. It matters, because had Johnson managed to win back some votes, the result would still have been tricky but he could have said he fared better than Theresa May. In reality, he has fared worst. There appeared to be an air of complacency amongst some of Johnson's backers.

But the issue that will worry those who back Johnson most is how to get the rebels back under control. As more MPs have come out today to criticise Johnson's leadership – from Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison to several Scottish Tory MPs – it has become harder for Johnson to offer these figures a way back. Whatever Johnson may say, governing has just become a lot more difficult.

Written byKaty Balls

Katy Balls is The Spectator's deputy political editor.

Topics in this articlePolitics