Boris Johnson again in the mud after digging to save an ally | Conservatives

Boris Johnson has spent much of his nearly three-year term as prime minister determined not to give in to political pressure.

Despite being a former journalist who knows the damage that days of bad headlines can cause – especially from normally friendly newspapers – the Prime Minister has repeatedly dug in and refused to fire his colleagues.

From Dominic Cummings breaking the lockdown to Priti Patel bullying staff, there are few times when Johnson has been brave enough to fire someone for misconduct.

It was with almost incandescent rage that the same tactic was received by Tory MPs and councillors, as Downing Street took nearly 24 hours to suspend Tory whip Chris Pincher after he stepped down as whip for allegedly groping two men on Wednesday night. .

Pincher was appointed Deputy Chief Whip in February, a role that has tasked him with the discipline and welfare of MPs. Number 10 relied on the defense that only unsubstantiated rumors had circulated about Pincher’s behavior.

But given that Wednesday’s alleged incident at a private club happened in front of several MPs – including another whip – the lack of swift action to kick Pincher out of the House party has infuriated many.

Another MP questioned why the sexual assault reports weren’t relevant enough for Johnson to take action sooner: ‘It was clear from the start that Pincher should have been suspended.’

Johnson may have relented in the end, but his judgment is once again in question, and government insiders are wondering how he and his new team could have been so “deaf”.

Because, despite the fanfare around Downing Street’s many “resets”, with the arrival of new advisers to help stabilize the ship, for some it felt like Groundhog Day. Many were convinced that Johnson supported Pincher because of their close personal relationship.

It was Pincher who led the ‘shadow whipping operation’ to bolster support for the Prime Minister as his stock quickly ran out with MPs in the winter on Partygate.

And last month, when the vote of no confidence finally came, it was Pincher who rallied the troops to his office at 9 a.m. to muster support for Johnson at a time of greatest danger.

Given the hardened Tory mood against Johnson, he would have needed all the help he could get from Pincher – and so might not have been willing to give up using his services .

In the event of a new vote of no confidence, each ally will count. Having survived the last ballot with just 59% support, Johnson cannot afford to lose MPs who support him.

The suspension of Pincher’s whip may also have put additional pressure on the MP for Tamworth, who enjoys a comfortable majority of nearly 20,000 in the Staffordshire seat he has held since 2010.

Given the huge swings against the Tories in the recent by-election after months of sordid scandals, No 10 was keen to avoid a by-election at all costs.

Removing a senior whip, infamous for being the master of the dark arts of parliamentary discipline, is also a dangerous move for any leader.

Tory MP Will Wragg hit out at allegations of intimidation and blackmail by the Whips Office earlier this year.

Had Pincher been dumped unceremoniously, senior government officials would have lived in fear of damaging material that could be used against them. In the end, again, efforts to contain history and avoid short-term pain may have infuriated senior conservatives even more.

“How many times do you need to watch the same mistake happen over and over again?” a counselor raged. “We replaced a bunch of fucking idiots with another bunch of fucking idiots,” complained another.

The danger for Johnson is that if his MPs and top team decide, they will only be able to endure the same mistakes for so long.


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Edward L. Robinett