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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

How long can Boris last?

I am not one of those who thinks that Boris Johnson will come unstuck quickly, ending up as the shortest serving Prime Minister, but I do think that he will be facing an uphill struggle to deliver any of his promises on Brexit.

As the Guardian reports, Johnson has been put on notice by rebel Conservatives that he will not survive long as prime minister unless he drops his no-deal Brexit agenda. Rory Stewart, a former leadership rival, has joined Philip Hammond and David Gauke in telling Johnson he would quit the cabinet before the new prime minister takes office rather than serve under him.

The paper says that in a further ominous move for Johnson, Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office minister, resigned dramatically to launch an attempt to test whether the new prime minister could command a majority among MPs.

They add that Duncan’s proposal for an emergency House of Commons debate on support for Johnson was turned down by the Speaker, but it was a sign that some Conservatives are already organising to make life difficult for the new incumbent of No 10:

Duncan said he had “very grave concerns that Johnson flies by the seat of his pants” and branded his former boss “haphazard and ramshackle”, but publicly insisted he was trying to be helpful to the new prime minister by ending speculation about whether MPs supported the new incumbent in No 10.

The motion stated: “That this House has considered the merits of the newly chosen leader of the Conservative party, and supports his wish to form a government.”

However, it opened up the possibility that Johnson might fail to demonstrate he had the support of parliament, leaving Theresa May potentially unable to recommend him as her successor to the Queen on Wednesday.

Conservative backbenchers fighting no deal are not planning to bring down Johnson immediately, with one serious critic of the frontrunner saying the party “would take a very, very dim view of getting rid of him before he has done anything yet”.

But several Conservative MPs said they would regard Johnson’s first speech to the nation and cabinet appointments as a test of whether he was capable of reaching out across parliament to find a majority for a plan to leave the EU that can find approval from Eurosceptics and more moderate Brexit supporters.

If he does not, then organisation will start again in earnest to prevent him pursuing a no-deal Brexit, with some senior Tories already sending out feelers about the possibility of a “national unity” government with opposition MPs.

All the signs are that Johnson will face the same obstacles as Theresa May in delivering Brexit along with a divided party determined to frustrate his fall back position of a no-deal Brexit.
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