Tory party

Who says Boris has to go?

As the cameras burped and clicked, as an aggravated nation watched, Boris Johnson announced that he was giving up. ‘Let us seize this chance and make this our moment to stand tall in the world,’ he said. ‘That is the agenda of the next Prime Minister of this country. Well, I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech, that, having consulted with colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me.’ That was June 2016, you’ll remember. Johnson’s abrupt volte-face was a jaw-dropping moment; nobody saw it coming. The press conference was supposed

What next for Nadhim Zahawi?

One by one, cabinet ministers are confirming that they are not resigning this evening, leaving a very small group of ministers who have said nothing. One of the most conspicuous silences comes from Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary. He has been mooted as a potential leadership contender, and has refused to rule out a bid. Tonight, he is not answering calls from colleagues. He is reading messages on WhatsApp but not replying to them. It has now been too long for him just to be a bit busy. Zahawi has one of those things that Westminster types are obsessed with: a backstory Currently we have two cabinet resignations and a

The Blob is back with a vengeance – and the Tories aren’t ready for it

In what I supposed we should see as a sign of progress, the government has decided not to destroy its own school reforms, by revoking the first 18 clauses of the recently-published Schools Bill. I disclosed two weeks ago in the Daily Telegraph that many ex-ministers were up in arms at what they saw as the revenge of ‘The Blob’, the bureaucratic forces that have been against school reform. My concern is that rushing out legislation that is not ready shows a wider government meltdown, happening at quite a pace The Schools Bill said that, rather than be self-governing, academy schools would lose control over the ‘nature and quality of

James Forsyth

Why tactical voting is so dangerous for the Tories

Boris Johnson has always been a celebrity politician. It is one of the reasons why the normal rules of politics have so often not applied to him. This status has given him political reach and put him on first-name terms with the public. It makes it easier for him to command media attention than other politicians: a fact that he turned to his advantage in 2016 and 2019. But this strength is now becoming a weakness. Johnson’s ability to dominate politics means that the country is now polarising into pro- and anti-Boris camps. The worry for him is that he has more opponents than supporters. Last week’s by-elections suggest people

British politics is stuck

One of the favourite phrases of British political commentators is ‘oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them’. As with all clichés, there is a certain amount of truth to it. But both the Tories and Labour seem intent on testing the maxim to destruction: despite everything the Tories appear to be doing to ensure they lose the next election, Labour is still only ahead by single digits in the opinion polls. No incumbent party in the western world is finding the present set of circumstances easy. The Covid shutdowns, overly loose monetary policies and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have sent inflation soaring. In France, Emmanuel Macron has no way of

Boris may be toppled by accident

Every Tory leader fears a plot against them. Their paranoia isn’t helped by the layout of Westminster, which lends itself to scheming. They worry about huddled groupings in the tearoom, cosy suppers in townhouses, and what’s said behind closed office doors in Portcullis House. It is no coincidence that before the publication of Sue Gray’s report the Tory whips were keen for their MPs to be in parliament, but once the report was released they were very happy for backbenchers to go home. MPs find it harder to plot when they’re away from the Commons. Yet the truth is that if Boris Johnson faces a no-confidence vote it won’t be

For Boris, the hard bit is just beginning

Boris Johnson has been plunged back into the mire of partygate. The publication of a photograph of Johnson raising a glass to his departing communications chief Lee Cain in November 2020 and the long-awaited report by Sue Gray into lockdown breaches in Whitehall means that once again there are Tory MPs publicly calling for him to resign. Some of those who had gone quiet on the basis that the war in Ukraine meant it was not the right time for a leadership election have renewed their calls for the Prime Minister to go. No. 10’s hope is that apologies and an emphasis on how the new Department of the Prime

The existential threat facing the Tory party

As James Kirkup says, some Tories are beginning to wonder whether it might be better for them to lose the next election. But defeat at the next election could see the Tories locked out of power for a generation. The local elections and the opinion polls suggest that the most likely result of the next election is not a Labour majority, but some kind of anti-Tory majority. But, as I say in the Times today, the Tories have more to fear from this kind of governing arrangement than an outright Labour victory. Why? Because it is more likely to lead to electoral reform. Defeat at the next election could see

Boris’s plan to divide and conquer

Boris Johnson has never quite been able to decide whether he wants to be a great unifier or a great divider. Does he want to govern like he did at City Hall – the ‘generous-hearted, loving mayor of London’, as he once described himself – or is his best chance for re-election a return to the Brexit-style wars that landed him in Downing Street? These days, there are plenty of signs that the government is in fight mode. The Prime Minister is risking a trade war with Brussels with threats to unilaterally rewrite the Northern Ireland Protocol, going to battle with civil servants over home-working and planning to deport asylum

How Britain was misled over Europe for 60 years

Just as one is inclined to believe Carlyle’s point that the history of the world is but the biography of great men, so Christopher Tugendhat, in this level-headed account, is right to conclude that the history of the Conservative party in the past 60 or 70 years has been deeply affected by the biography of the movement for the European Union. And it would have shocked Carlyle that a great woman – Margaret Thatcher – played a central part and, according to Tugendhat, altered the course of the party’s relationship with Europe. She was certainly central to the debate, not least because rather too many Conservatives felt she had died

Katy Balls

Rishi Sunak’s political naivety

Before the war in Ukraine, ministers and Tory MPs believed a fixed penalty notice for the Prime Minister would mean the end of Boris Johnson. It would result in enough no-confidence letters from Tory MPs to trigger a leadership contest which would run into the summer. There would be a new Prime Minister in time for the party conference in the autumn. But now the Prime Minister has been told he will be fined by Scotland Yard for attending parties during lockdown, no one is quite so sure. The reason? The circumstances around Johnson are changing. Until now, stories about lockdown parties in No. 10 had been overshadowed by the

Boris Johnson’s fightback has been cut short

Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence select committee, has this morning announced that he is sending a letter to the 1922 chairman calling for a no confidence vote in Boris Johnson. In a way this is not a surprise: Johnson cut Ellwood from the government when he became Prime Minister and the two are temperamentally very different. But the worry for No. 10 is that there are rather a lot of former ministers on the backbenches these days, and if a lot of them start writing letters then a no confidence vote will become a near certainty. Another concern for No. 10 this morning is whether they can live up to

Boris Johnson’s tense showdown with Tory MPs

It’s been a long and bruising week for Boris Johnson. The Tory sleaze row has dragged on – and even the Prime Minister’s attempt to bring the matter to a close by supporting a crackdown on outside jobs has run into problems. After a tetchy appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions and then the Liaison Committee, Johnson addressed his party at the 1922 committee on Wednesday night. This session took place while the debate on MP standards was ongoing in the Commons chamber – a reminder of the ongoing fallout from the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to spare Owen Paterson a 30-day suspension for a breach of lobbying rules. This was

Steve Baker’s warning for No. 10 points to the next Tory battle

As government ministers avoid putting a date on an easing of restrictions, let alone an end to them, scientific advisers have stepped in to fill the silence. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam has suggested the lockdown could remain in place well into spring while Professor Neil Ferguson – who briefly stood down from his role last year for breaking lockdown rules – has suggested measures could be in place until the autumn. This, however, is not going down well with the Tory MPs who make up the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group. As the Sun reports, Steve Baker has issued a rallying call to his fellow members over the situation. He suggests that opposition

MPs overwhelmingly back third Covid lockdown

Boris Johnson’s decision to impose a third national lockdown in England has won approval in the Commons by an overwhelming majority – with 524 MPs voting for the measures to just 16 against. It comes after only a handful of Tory MPs suggested they would oppose the lockdown measures in the debate on the issue today. This means that the new national lockdown will be in place for at least seven weeks – with many MPs expecting it to roll on longer. However, while the legislation allows for the lockdown to remain in place until the end of March, Johnson has signalled to MPs that he will return to the Commons for a vote if

Nigel Farage’s China curveball should worry the Tory party

I have lost count of the number of times the Conservative Party has thought it has shot Nigel Farage’s fox. They stretch all the way back to David Cameron’s January 2013 pledge to hold an In/Out EU referendum, and include the party’s as yet unfulfilled summer promise to stop the illegal Channel crossings and its delivery of a trade deal with the EU that honours the fundamentals of Brexit. Given that the Covid vaccines have also taken some of the sting out of the lockdown debate, which the former Ukip leader was poised to exploit, many Tories will have felt able to relax a bit about the challenge on their

The MP demanding a new approach to China

Six years ago, Neil O’Brien was working for George Osborne when the then chancellor was enthusing about a ‘new golden era’ in Sino-British relations. But now O’Brien, who became the Conservative MP for Harborough in 2017, is one of the founders of the new China Research Group, a group of Tory MPs who are pushing for the government to take a tougher line with Beijing. His best-case scenario is one where the UK and its allies ‘manage to restrain some of the worst behaviours of the Chinese government’. O’Brien’s change of heart sums up the shift in Tory thinking on China. The party has moved away from pushing for the