Boris Johnson’s bad driving has left his backbench Tory passengers distinctly grumpy | Politics News



Is this easily-reversible mid-term blues? Or is it something more profound? That’s the question Tories are asking as we enter week three of the sleaze row, as they experience something they are unaccustomed to so far in the Johnson premiership.

Boris Johnson went to the 1922 committee tonight to make an uncharacteristic apology for “driving the car into the ditch”. But who will pay the political price for the damage, given the incumbent in Number 10 often seems to revel in going behind the wheel without insurance?

There are potentially profound implications.

On the narrowest level, the plan to curb second jobs is in peril and there is a realistic chance it never materialises. Just as Number 10 was declaring the Commons vote ensures reform, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer was telling me that the Tories opposed reform and that the outcome was far from clear.

The whole polarised issue must first be considered by a committee, then if they reach a conclusion, be voted on by the Commons. So the politest thing to be said about the plan is that it is rife with uncertainty.

But for some this raises bigger questions. Boris Johnson has faced questions about conduct and sleaze before, but so often in the past he’s been able to brush them off.

There’s been a Teflon quality to the way questions that hurt his predecessors have barely left a dent. The voters knew what they were electing in December 2019 was an argument commonly put forward by Tory MPs.

The reaction of many on his own side this time is different. What’s notable about the present mood amongst Tory MPs is just how unimpressed his own side is with his handling of the last two weeks.

These are MPs who previously would have made the case for the defence, or certainly stopped short of attacking even in private.

There are many reasons why MPs are grumpy. On Wednesday the government made the new social care system – still years from coming into action – less generous for the less well off.

On Thursday Boris Johnson will backtrack on promises he made about Northern Powerhouse Rail and the HS2 extension to Leeds.

Soon he will announce reforms to student tuition fees to make them less generous requiring more low earners to pay back. Big tax rises to National Insurance are coming next year, prompting one very senior Tory to label his party “socialist”.

This may all pass. Only Boris Johnson has proved he can unite the somewhat disparate coalition that delivered an 80 seat majority in 2019.

The Tory Parliamentary party elected him as a winner, not out of affection, that same year. So long as they believe he remains uniquely qualified to perform that role he is safe. Has something changed?



Sky News