Patrick O’Flynn Patrick O’Flynn

What does Boris’s resignation mean for Rishi?

(Getty Images)

Such is Boris Johnson’s magnetic draw that his resignation gambit is still being discussed largely in terms of what it means for Boris Johnson: will he be back in the Commons next year? Could he lead his party again?

But it is time to ponder what it means for Rishi Sunak, who after all is the Prime Minister and therefore in conventional terms currently a far more important figure than Johnson.

It does not take a genius to work out that Johnson resurfacing with a malevolent eye and then blowing his lid like Moby Dick attacking the Pequod is very bad news for the captain of the ship of state.

While Johnson’s overall popularity has certainly dimmed, he retains a big and passionate following within the Tory activist base and in some of the Red Wall constituencies whose fate will decide the next election. His deliberate stoking of a ‘Brexit is in danger’ narrative and attacks on the Sunak administration for not being ‘properly Conservative’, are also clearly designed to accentuate a loss of faith in the PM – even to bring him down.

Sunak could credibly outflank Johnson in a Conservative direction were he to venture out of his economic policy comfort zone and start to show us what he thinks a good society looks like.

And it is not just what Johnson says but the way he says it that is so harmful to Sunak. Every strength of Boris’s – even those which have come and gone – highlights a weakness of Rishi’s. There’s the overwhelming mandate the blond bombshell won from his party and then the country; his ability to connect emotionally with key parts of the electorate; his flair for expressing himself memorably both on the written page and from a podium.

Compared to the star power of Johnson, Sunak’s technocratic gradualism hardly cuts it.

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