A momentous week in British politics has culminated in the dramatic resignation of Boris Johnson. Suffering more ministerial resignations than any Prime Minister in modern history, Johnson reluctantly agreed to make way for a new leader on Thursday.
In this week’s edition of Who’s Top Who’s Not, we discuss Lord McDonald’s revealing letter, Keir Starmer and why the Pincher scandal ultimately led to Johnson’s downfall.
Lord Simon McDonald
The man known formally as Lord McDonald of Salford is this week’s unlikely star. The former head of the Foreign Office openly accused the government of misleading the public on Tuesday, after it was revealed that official complaints had been lodged about disgraced MP Chris Pincher prior to the allegations that emerged last week. In his letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on Tuesday, Lord McDonald attacked No.10 for their inaccurate claims which were being repeated to the media in good faith.
By setting the record straight, Lord McDonald triggered a slew of resignations that have ultimately made Johnson’s position untenable. His letter will go down as one of the most important political interventions by a civil servant in history.
It may have been an open goal, but the Labour leader arguably delivered his best PMQs performance yet this week. Starmer was clear, precise and most importantly, sensitive towards the victims caught up in the Pincher scandal. He also managed to land a few devastating blows. “Charge of the lightweight brigade” and “first case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat” are two of Starmer’s best quips in the Commons to date.
Earlier on in the week, Starmer outlined Labour’s plan “to make Brexit work”. The slogan is a clever one: Starmer ultimately did not campaign for Brexit but can now criticise the government for not taking advantage of the new ‘freedoms’ afforded to the country.
This shift in rhetoric may help Labour win back seats in their former heartlands at the next general election, which may come sooner rather than later. Starmer must now capitalise on the current political environment – there has never been a more opportune moment for him to put forward a new vision for the country.
The party is finally over for Britain’s most electorally successful Party Leader since 1987. After months of relentless calls to resign, both from the opposition and within his own party, Boris Johnson stepped down on Thursday after losing the confidence of his most senior Cabinet colleagues.
Clearly, the Pincher scandal was the final nail in the coffin for Johnson’s administration. Yet with scandals seemingly surfacing every week, the question many have been asking in the last couple of days is, why now?
From the many resignation letters that have been shared over social media, it is clear that in private, some of Johnson’s most loyal supporters have questioned his leadership for a long time but had been prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt and move on. Yet there were only so many times they could do this, especially when they each have their own political agendas to pursue.
Nadhim Zahawi delivered the coup de grace on Wednesday, but Johnson’s fate had already been sealed long before. The government simply became unworkable after the mass exodus of 50+ ministers and their aides. If Johnson is to cling on until the Autumn to see in his successor, he will need ministers who are willing to return…