Boris Johnson’s Tory Party has suffered a calamitous defeat at the North Shropshire by-election, where the party’s 23,000 majority was overturned. It is a massive blow to the authority of the beleaguered Prime Minister, and a further indication of the volatility of British politics.
At a time when COVID cases had reached record levels, voters in North Shropshire were determined to inflict a devastating defeat on the government.
This was no ‘mid-term blues’, but a shift in the political tectonic plates. The rural seat of North Shropshire has been ‘true blue’ Tory for almost 200 years. In the past, didn't count Tory votes, but simply weighed them. But last night, the Lib Dem candidate, who came third in the last election, romped home and beat the Tories by nearly 6,000 votes.
The result was:
- Helen Morgan (Lib Dem) - 17,957
- Neil Shastri-Hurst (Conservative) - 12,032
- Ben Wood (Labour) - 3,686
The turnout was 46.3%
We said two years ago, when Johnson was first elected, that this would be a government of crisis. Some were taken aback by such a prediction. But it was based upon the deepening crisis of British capitalism and the most disreputable Tory government ever elected, led by a charlatan and liar.
This is now clear for all to see. This would have happened much sooner but for the feeble so-called Labour opposition.
Despite all the government's calamities, Sir Keir Starmer has not even been prepared to call for the resignation of Johnson. He has said that he is not prepared to play the game of party politics.
Instead, Starmer has acted ‘in the national interest’, supporting the government in nearly everything it did. He has all the worst features of the traitor Ramsay MacDonald, who propped up a Tory-led national government in the 1930s.
Johnson is presiding over a meltdown. He is the most backward of all the backward leaders of the Tory Party.
‘Boris’, who is keen to play the fool, clearly allowed his 80-seat majority to go to his head. He thought he could get away with anything, with disastrous consequences. He epitomises ‘one rule for them and another rule for the rest of us’.
Tory MPs loved him when he brought them victories. But with defeats, they are turning against him. The defeat in North Shropshire was even bigger than the defeat in Chesham and Amersham in June.
This comes on top of the Tory revolt earlier this week, where 99 of his own MPs – almost half his backbenchers – voted against the government’s plans over COVID passes. Votes against mask wearing were smaller, but sufficient to wipe out Johnson’s majority. This was a sign of things to come.
Humiliatingly, Johnson was forced to rely upon ‘national interest’ Starmer to get his proposals through. The same was true of Theresa May over Brexit, when faced with a revolt on the right.
This week’s rebellion was the biggest of Johnson’s premiership. It also reflected the strengthening of the right-wing lockdown sckeptics within the Tories’ parliamentary ranks.
Johnson is damaged goods. His magic simply disappeared as he personally pleaded with the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers to back him. But in the end, every officer of the Committee voted against the government.
Boris is stuck between a rock and a hard place. No doubt, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee will be receiving more letters demanding Boris stand down. 54 are needed to force a leadership challenge. This is not insurmountable, as feelings are running high and careers are on the line.
In the race for Tory leader, Johnson was never the candidate of the ruling class. He was too unreliable, and unpredictable, for their liking. The fact that he loaded the Cabinet and his advisers with arch-Brexiteers – starting with Dominic Cummings – was a warning of how things would go. The turmoil of the last two years is a confirmation of this fact.
The strategists of capital would like to get rid of him. The problem they face is who to replace him with, when, after everything, the mad ranks of the Tory Party will have the final say. After all, it was they who chose the clown Johnson.
But Johnson has run out of road. He has gone from one disaster to the next in quick succession.
The North Shropshire by-election was caused by the resignation of the disgraced arch-lobbyist and ex-minister Owen Patterson, who Johnson tried to save in a botched attempt to change the rules. The allegations of sleaze began to stick, further compounded by the stories of Downing Street parties at the height of the pandemic, all denied by the Prime Minister.
There have already been resignations, starting with Johnson’s former press secretary, Allegra Stratton. She was followed by Shaun Bailey, the Tory London mayoral candidate, who was photographed attending a ‘raucous’ party. More heads will roll, but Johnson is determined to sit tight.
The stench became overpowering after weeks of damaging headlines. Even the Tory candidate in Shropshire refused four times to say in an interview that he believed Johnson to be “a man of honesty and integrity”.
The new intake of Tory MPs, especially from the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats, feel their majorities shrinking by the hour. There is mutiny in the air as Johnson’s authority evaporates. They will turn on him when the time comes, as they turned on their former leader Theresa May.
No doubt, people like Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have their eyes fixed on a future leadership election, trying to align themselves with the ranks of the Tory Party. Rees-Mogg is part of this ‘live with COVID’ gang. Their free-for-all parties show how much they live by this rule.
With the new variant of COVID taking hold and infections rocketting, Johnson will be under pressure to apply further restrictions, and even recall Parliament. However, in doing so he risks losing the confidence of his parliamentary party.
Knowing Johnson, he will attempt to bluff and bluster his way through. But this is likely to be a pathway over a cliff. This is not the Christmas present he was looking for.
We are witnessing the death agony of Boris Johnson and the opening of a new convulsive chapter in Britain.