Sunday, June 26, 2022

Boris Johnson ‘on probation’ says ex-minister

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Boris Johnson is “on probation” and could still be impeached if he fails to win back Tory MPs’ confidence, a former minister has said.

Lord Duncan, who held various ministerial posts under Theresa May and Boris Johnson after entering the House of Lords in 2017, said the Prime Minister had “a job to do” after 148 of his MPs voted in a vote of confidence to oust him had last monday. He conceded that the chances of a long-term continuation of the post of prime minister were “slim”.

The Prime Minister won the vote, which was called after 54 MPs presented letters of no confidence to the chairman of the 1922 Backbench Committee following the publication of the Sue Gray Report, which described a number of Downing Street gatherings during the pandemic, one of which resulted in fines being imposed on Mr Johnson, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

“He has a task ahead of him right now; he’s on probation,” Lord Duncan told BBC Scotland The Sunday Show.

“If he doesn’t pass that trial period the Tory party will do what they always do with leaders who don’t deliver – they will remove him.”

Asked if the Prime Minister had become a “lame duck” after Monday’s vote, the former MEP said: “He’s probably in troubled waters.

“If you can almost make people forget what’s happened over the past few months then there’s a slim chance he’ll move on, but I would have thought that would be very slim.”

The Conservative Party, said Lord Duncan, is “rather venal” when it comes to removing party leaders it deems no longer fit.

“Over the last 20 years, when a leader has been unable to do what he should be doing, the Tory party doesn’t stab him in the back – it stabs him in the face,” he said. “If they don’t deliver, they will be removed.”

The Conservative colleague also defended Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross’ decision to reverse course and vote to oust the Prime Minister.

Mr Ross, who originally backed Boris Johnson’s premiership, called for the PM’s resignation after reports of parties at Downing Street emerged and was among those who delivered letters to the chairman of the 1922 committee.

But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Mr Ross recanted his letter and backed the prime minister’s position, stating the need for stability at the top of government in times of war, before voting with all but two of his Scottish MPs to remove the prime minister the vote last Monday.

“The most important thing is that Douglas Ross got it right when it mattered,” said Lord Duncan. “When it came down to it, he voted for what he thought was right. He did this against the prime minister – the leader of a party he has belonged to for many years. That alone is a good sign.”

Lord Duncan’s comments come as former Scottish Tories communications chief Andy Maciver called on the Scottish party to distance itself from the UK party and set up a separate group.

“A political party which has no formal or informal relationship with the Tory party and is not involved in the Westminster election,” he wrote The Herald on Sunday.

“A political party that is unquestionably Scottish. A political party that could, over time, play a role in resolving Scottish politics, normalizing us and, dare I say, Europeanizing our political party structures.

“A new political party is not a ready meal. It needs to be prepared and then cooked, and it needs a good rest before it can be enjoyed.

“However, since the alternative is not to eat at all, the choice should be pretty clear.”

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