TMay June 9th 2017
In retrospect this was a huge rebuff to the ex-Mayor
If you want to get an idea of the challenges Johnson faces with his fellow CON MPs cast your mind back to those heady two or three days following the last general election when Mrs May looked certain to be replaced. She had made the decision to go to the country early, run a campaign based almost solely on herself and it was her then top aide, Nick Timothy, who had written the disastrous manifesto.
There was no hiding place – she was the one responsible for the loss of the CON majority and the predicament the party faced. Few disagreed when ex-chancellor, George Osborne described her as “a dead woman waking”.
The obvious successor was Johnson who had played such a key part a year earlier in the referendum campaign. That had gone his way and this was the moment for him to claim the prize he had sought after all his life.
Yet on the following Monday afternoon party’s MPs didn’t try to oust Mrs May but accepted her pledge to carry on at Number 10 to sort the mess out that she had created.
Looking back this was surely a rebuff by the Parliamentary party to the man who that weekend had reached his top point in the betting. If there had been a desire by CON MPs for the ex-Mayor to succeed then Mrs May’s plan to carry on would not have been accepted.
For the problem for Johnson has always been the lack of support from his parliamentary colleagues. When the big influx of new MPs arrived at Westminster after GE2010 he wasn’t even an MP and missed out on the opportunity to build relationships with the new arrivals. He didn’t return until 2015 and for his first year back had several roles – being the member for Uxbridge, the elected Mayor of London and, of course, leader of the Leave campaign.
His lack of an MP power-base was exacerbated when Michael Gove abandoned him on that fateful Thursday in July 2016. He’d also alienated the Andrea Leadsom team by poor communication.
That lack of support from fellow MPs remains hence the desire to change the leadership rules so that it would be easier for him to get on the members’ ballot.
At the moment, of course, there is no vacancy. TMay is still in post and there seems to be little stomach within the party for a confidence vote.