Sajid Javid’s resignation in the Commons just now was coldly brutal. He’s had some practice, which he acknowledged, given this is the second time he has resigned in protest from Boris Johnson’s government. The first personal statement he gave was critical, but this one was terminal. He said ‘treading the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months’ and that as Health Secretary he had repeatedly given Johnson the benefit of the doubt over partygate and other scandals.
The theme of his statement was the damage that Boris Johnson continuing as Prime Minister is doing to the Conservative party. Javid complained about the way colleagues had been expected to go out on the airwaves and use ‘lines that don’t stand up, or don’t hold up’, and the impact on MPs who have to ‘bear the brunt of constituents’ dismay in their inboxes, and at the doorstep in recent elections’. The MPs who continued to sit motionless, grey-faced and miserable around him know all about that.
More powerfully, he said his cabinet colleagues who had chosen to remain had made ‘a choice’ and that ‘not doing something is an active decision’. The impact of not doing something was an existential threat to the Conservative party, with Javid saying ‘I am deeply concerned about how the next generation will see the Conservative party, on our current course’.
The peroration was particularly pointed as a contrast with Johnson’s own conduct. ‘I got into politics to do something, not to be somebody. So it is hard in one way, but not in another. Being a good father husband, son and citizen is good enough for me.’ His most brutal line was that:
‘I fear that the reset button can only work so many times. There’s only so many times you can turn the machine off and on again before you realise there is something fundamentally wrong.’
Johnson claimed at Prime Minister’s Questions that he was going to ‘hang in there’, which is presumably an acknowledgement that there can’t be another reset anyway. The wheels on his bus came off a while ago, but the past 24 hours have seen the vehicle itself disintegrate, with Johnson continuing to sit at a bare steering wheel, like a child pretending to drive a bus in a playground.
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