Tories’ ‘reset’ as PM is forced to quit

‘Johnson effect’ saw the party fail to challenge Labour’s Town Hall dominance at the polls

Friday, 8th July — By Anna Lamche, Charlotte Chambers, and Harry Taylor

Boris Johnson resigning July 7 2022

Boris Johnson announces his resignation outside Number 10. Photos: HM Treasury

TORIES said they welcomed the chance for a “reset” as Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister yesterday (Thursday).

In a chaotic and embarrassing end, he stood outside Number 10 and finally conceded that his parliamentary team wanted him to go. Mr Johnson had seen members of his cabinet and scores of ministers resign, sealing his downfall.

Back in Islington – the borough he once called home but where the party struggles to get anybody elected even into the council – activists said his departure would allow them to get back to talking to voters about issues here.

The party drew a complete blank at the Town Hall elections in May, on a night when Labour’s surging results right across London had been blamed on Mr Johnson’s unpopularity in the wake of the “partygate” scandal and a series of blunders.

Last week, he finally admitted he had been warned about the behaviour of MP Chris Pincher – since accused of groping two men in a bar – before appointing him as deputy chief whip at Westminster. Will Woodroofe, deputy chairman of Islington Conservatives, said that some residents had refused to “engage” with them at the local elections due to “concerns with the Number 10 operation”.

He said political drama at Westminster had been a distraction.

“I think a lot of us were hearing concerns from the doorstep and residents across the borough,” he said.

Photo: Kyle Heller/Downing Street

“I was definitely concerned. We were all concerned that it was impacting on our ability to challenge the Labour administration as we’d want in Islington and the serious concerns we had with the way the council operates.”

He added: “It’s very sad [Boris’s premiership has] all ended like this but we needed a bit of a reset on the national stage to give us more space to make our case about the failings of the council.”

The party remains opposed to Islington’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood roads policies.

Harry Nugent, another member of Islington Conservatives who stood at the local elections, said: “I think it’s sad it’s come to this, but this provides an opportunity: we can have another new leader unite the party and country.”

Zak Vora – the chair of Islington Conservatives – said Mr Johnson had done the “best thing for the country” by resigning, despite dragging his feet in the last few days.

He said: “It’s been a very turbulent couple of weeks and it’s good to see that Boris has chosen to leave [but] he has led us through some difficult moments including Brexit and Covid.

“The party and the government is not about one individual, it’s a collective, but he has taken it upon himself to do the best thing for the country. Moving forward I hope there’s a happy resolution with a new leader.”

Mr Johnson had held on for as long as possible despite no clear way to retrieve his evaporating support among Tories at Westminster.

Yesterday (Thursday), he suggested he would stay on as a caretaker prime minister for three months while the Conservatives select his successor.

Boris Johnson is quizzed by the Tribune during his time as Mayor of London

Even this idea was being condemned by critics, with former prime minister Sir John Major telling Tory colleagues that it was an “unwise” course of action.

Mr Vora said Mr Johnson had been right to consider his options carefully, when asked about the time it had taken for him to come to the verdict that he should step down.

“I think both you and I would take our time over big decisions. We don’t make big decisions on the flip of a coin. He has weighed up all the factors and come to a conclusion,” said Mr Vora.

“In the media a couple of days is an eternity but I think in reality it’s a sensible period of time. He was considering all the options at hand.”

He added: “We are focusing on working for the best of the country and Islington.

“We wholeheartedly support his decision, and we will support his successor.

“I would say whoever comes after Boris to steer the nation forward with a calm hand. We have gone through some major and challenging times, with Covid and Ukraine.”

Mr Vora said that among the names he would support are Jeremy Hunt, a former leadership contender, and Nadhim Zahawi, who is into his fourth day as chancellor after being asked by Mr Johnson to fill the vacancy left by Rishi Sunak’s resignation on Tuesday.

He said the local association, due to meet in the next week, will not be formally endorsing any candidates. It has just under 500 members, according to its chair.

“We should not rush any election and need to make sure we get the right person,” said Mr Vora, adding that a move towards the centre would help the party in London more widely.

The party suffered so badly at the polls in the capital they lost control of flagship councils in Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet in May’s elections.

“As much as we have seen a move to the right, we should move back towards the centre in my view. That’s where you appeal to more voters and where most voters are,” he said.

“His legacy is that he got Brexit done. I heard that phrase so many times, and he pushed on with the aggressive vaccination programme that was followed by the rest of the world.”

When asked what he thought Mr Johnson’s biggest mistake was, Mr Vora said: “I do think that it’s always positive to be up front and honest. That can be a very difficult thing to do. It’s sometimes difficult for people to hear the truth and harder for people to speak the truth.”

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday: “Johnson is the third PM to fall in six years because there is no solution to the deep economic and environmental crisis we face that picks our pockets and steals our future.

“Real change isn’t a new Tory PM but a new politics to redistribute wealth and power.”

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