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Ditch the yes men, Boris, or face the fate I watched Gordon Brown suffer

<p>Ayesha Hazarika</p>

Ayesha Hazarika

/ Daniel Hambury
08 June 2022

here we all were. Basking in the glow of post Platty Joobs Britain. Chuckling fondly at the memory of the Queen chatting marmalade sandwiches with Paddington bear. Then it hit us like a train on Monday morning. I decided to treat myself to a bit of a lie-in after a busy weekend to be greeted by about 60 messages informing me that the Prime Minister was facing a vote of confidence and would I like to come on the airwaves to discuss it?

I wasn’t the only one caught out. A Tory MP told me they had a rude awakening when they heard the news on the radio, had to leap out of bed, find a suit, race to the station and head to London.

What next for the beleaguered Prime Minister? He and his allies, of course, came out swinging with a positive spin that would make Comical Ali blush. Getting booed at the weekend should have been a hint, but no. It reminded me of that scene from Blackadder when Hugh Laurie declares “the public love me! Just the other day I was out on the street and they sang ‘we hail Prince George, we hail Prince George’.” To which Rowan Atkinson replies dryly that they were in fact saying, “We hate Prince George, we hate Prince George.”

For a start, Boris Johnson needs more Blackadders around him and fewer supplicating, cringe yes-men and women. He also needs a cunning plan to avoid more trouble, particularly after the by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton which even loyal Boris supporters privately admit they will lose. Then there’s the Privileges Committee, which is looking into whether he misled Parliament. There may be a vote on whether to suspend him from the House — which would be another historic first.

It’s also difficult to unite his mutinous party on big policy challenges. On the economic crisis, which is only going to get worse, there are some MPs who want the party to give people more financial aid while other true blue fiscal Conservatives think he has gone way too far by expanding the state.

On Net Zero, many Tories want him to be bolder yet there is a growing group of powerful backbenchers who think he needs to pull back. There is no strategy about how he rebuilds relations. No 10 is briefing that there will be no reshuffle yet there are rumours that his arch-rival Jeremy Hunt may get offered the role of Chancellor. But why would Hunt take it and save him when he’s at his weakest?

But the biggest problem is that prime ministers rarely recover after their own side turns against them. Either they must resign, or they get rejected at the ballot box. I know this from my own experience in the Labour Party. Gordon Brown faced an attempted coup when David Miliband was planned as his successor. The coup failed but the damage was done come the general election. And the public know when to call time on a toxic relationship. While he once charmed the electoral pants off them, he may find he now gives them the ick. And we all know, there’s no coming back from that.

In other news...

Speaking of voting to remove unpopular couples from a house, I’m delighted that Love Island is back on our screens. I bet the Queen is too. To think that television has gone from people-watching her Coronation in black-and-white to semi-naked orange twentysomethings cavorting about in thongs with luminous teeth. Talk about progress. I should be all snobby about it, but I just can’t, which makes me a terrible feminist.

It’s always the same old story — girl meets boy who then bins her for another girl. I also love the girl power moment when they realise they are so much better than the boys. My only plea to them is use protection. And by that, I mean sunscreen. While I worry about their hearts, I’m much more concerned about all that long-term skin damage. Put some clothes on! In 20 years’ time, you’ll thank me.

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