Boris Johnson’s final hours as Prime Minister have been undignified. We do not yet know quite how this will end, but we know he will eventually have to quit. There is a delegation of cabinet ministers in Downing Street waiting for him – more here. Johnson found out about this group while he was in the liaison committee hearing, and was confronted about it by Darren Jones. His response shows that he is not going to accept the first plea from this cabinet delegation. He burbled on about the cost of living and how he wasn’t going to ‘give you a running commentary’ on political issues. This underlines the point made to me earlier by senior Tories that Johnson is not yet psychologically ready to accept that it is over.
In the early stages of the committee when other chairs were asking their questions, Huw Merriman used his spare time to send a letter calling for another vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. This was a change in position from someone who had previously said a leadership contest wouldn’t be the right thing for the party. Johnson, though, continued to insist that his government had ‘increasing energy’ and that it was possible to function and appoint more ministers.
A particularly surreal moment was when he started talking about his ambitions for a fertiliser round table. He even dropped into the session that he ‘probably’ met ex-KGB agent Alexander Lebedev without aides while he was Foreign Secretary – something that would have made front page news on a day when the agenda wasn’t about his downfall.
If this was his last performance as Prime Minister, it showed up one of his lesser mentioned, but still important main weaknesses. He is terrible at details, and spent much of the session struggling to offer answers to questions about what the government is doing. As much as anything else, it rather undermines his claim to be focusing on delivery, which is all about details. You might be able to deliver if you have good ministers. But Johnson is heading back to Downing Street to discover that now he really doesn’t have them either.
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