Monday has begun badly for Redcar MP, Jacob Young. Despite having crafted a strongly worded statement declaring his ongoing love for the lemon top, his name has been omitted from The Spectator’s list of MPs who have voiced their support for the prime minister. Jill Mortimer, who has also pledged her support, and who, remarkably, seems to have endured an entire weekend in her Hartlepool constituency, goes similarly unrecognised. In fact, of Teesside’s prominent Tories, only erstwhile cabinet minister Simon Clarke, has made it on to the list.
Yet the thing that counts here is not really the degree of unctuousness with which Johnson is flattered, but the speed with which the message goes out. Jacob Young posted at 9am. Jill Mortimer didn’t get her “Boris cares about Hartlepool” message out until eleven.
One thing that both of them share, it must be said, is that their declarations of support have some substance to them. This is in marked contrast to Simon Clarke’s statement, which bears the hallmarks of an MP who know he has to profess his loyalty to Johnson but doesn’t quite know why. He knows the pay-check depends on it, but it sort of ends there.
Deafening silence, meanwhile, from Darlington MP, Peter Gibson, Stockton South’s Matt Vickers, and Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen. And, frankly, it’s now too late. Their silence will already have been recorded in Downing Street.
Fraser Nelson in the Spectator, perfectly captures the mood of doom and gloom in the party – the major failures in government, such as the lack of direction over Brexit, are unaddressed by those who have gone public with their criticism of Johnson.
Clarke, Young and Mortimer
Clarke, Young, and Mortimer are all putting a brave face on it.
Mortimer: “Hartlepool voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, and Boris got it done.”
Young: “From Brexit to Covid to Ukraine. Boris has steered the ship.”
Clarke: “He honoured the wishes of the British people and delivered Brexit when no other major politician would or could have”.
In reality, of course, he has done nothing of the kind, and relies instead on endless renegotiation and sabre-rattling. And reintroducing pounds and ounces and pursuing a culture war that he has already lost but doesn’t appear to realise it.
But Nelson himself, in the end, sidesteps the real issue in this confidence vote, which is that, no matter the outcome this evening, Johnson has already lost. He has already lost because he cannot deal with being challenged. He has surrounded himself with sycophants, sycophants who protect him from real-world opinion. But the Tories in parliament have smelled blood. They will bring Johnson down. It may not be this evening, but they will not keep us waiting long.