Just 31 months ago, Boris Johnson led the Tories to their biggest election victory in 32 years.
His Get Brexit Done campaign, along with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor leadership, delivered a Conservative majority of 80 seats.
Within weeks, the UK had left the EU, breaking the deadlock that had paralyzed politics since the June 2016 referendum.
But two and a half years after his historic victory in December 2019, so many MPs have turned their backs on Johnson that he faced a humiliating vote of confidence.
How could the best political activist of his generation lose the support of so many of the voters he needed most – his own MPs?
Johnson had been the Tory grassroots darling for more than a decade before leading the Vote Leave crusade.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Critics accused him of cynical opportunism, knowing that leading the out fight would resonate with conservative activists who could put him at No. 10.
It worked. On 23 July 2019, he won the Tory leadership race, beating Jeremy Hunt by winning two-thirds of the ballots.
The next day he became the Queen’s 14th Prime Minister.
Backed by top adviser Dominic Cummings, Johnson immediately angered sections of the parliamentary party with his confrontational approach and sacked ministers he saw as remaining.
The decision to illegally adjourn Parliament, embarrassing the Queen, stunned Tories, proud of the party’s respect for British law and tradition.
Eventually, Johnson plotted a route to the general election he longed for.
When the Exit poll landed at 10pm on December 12, 2019, it was clear that he was indeed the “Heineken Tory” and was reaching parts of the country that others could not.
Nearly 14 million people voted Conservative, with the party taking 43.6% of the vote share and 365 seats – a net gain of 47.
Labour’s Red Wall was torn down and Tory candidates took seats in the Midlands and North.
Humiliated, Corbyn quit while Johnson was in complete control of his party and rejoiced at predictions he would hold power for a decade.
But the rot set in quickly.
Four months after winning the election, he locked down the country as the coronavirus pandemic took hold – angering libertarian conservatives.
The strictest restrictions ever imposed on British liberties in peacetime prevented us from going out more than once a day to exercise or buy groceries.
Other MPs were furious that he had waited so long and allowed Covid-19 to rage unchecked.
Nursing home residents have been sent back to nursing homes from hospitals without being tested for the virus.
An estimated 20,000 died. Johnson himself has been crushed by Covid.
Isolated at the Downing Street flat, his condition deteriorated, he was hospitalized and later admitted to intensive care.
He almost died. As he lay in his hospital bed, his approval ratings hit record highs, with 66% of voters saying he was doing well as Prime Minister.
But while the rest of us were locked in our homes, terrified of the disease and unable to see our loved ones, lockdown parties were taking place down Downing Street – events which, as the Mirror began exposing them 18 months later, were the PMs would initiate grip on office to the brim.
Johnson had already spent political capital to protect his acolyte Cummings when the Mirror told how he drove to County Durham during lockdown – and also took a day trip to Barnard Castle.
Tories, consistent with public sentiment, were disgusted; Cummings despised Conservative MPs but was saved by his boss.
The voters were outraged. Six months later, Cummings was gone anyway, having lost a bitter power struggle with the No. 10.
His departure unleashed a dangerous, vicious enemy bent on toppling the Tory boss.
Johnson’s supporters tried to discredit Cummings by dismissing him as a disgruntled ex-employee.
While the characterization is true, she failed to understand the zeal, passion, and vigor that drives Cummings, who will stop at nothing to oust the man he calls the “shopping cart” for turning around everywhere.
Meanwhile, Brexit, which the Prime Minister had claimed was “done”, rumbled in the background.
The Northern Ireland Protocol – agreed by Johnson in the summer of 2019 to prevent a hard border with the Republic – created different rules for trade within the UK, effectively drawing a border along the Irish Sea.
The leader of the Conservative Unionist Party had jeopardized that very union – leaving apoplectic the Tory MPs to whom it is sacrosanct.
To make the situation worse, the government has spent months threatening to tear it up.
The lack of respect for an international agreement – negotiated and signed by the prime minister himself – outraged MPs, for whom honor, trust and integrity are key.
Each time he found himself in a corner, Johnson announced another spending pledge, sparking clashes with his chancellor and worrying MPs aware of the Tories’ reputation for economic management.
Around £400billion has been spent during the pandemic, including billions on PPE deals.
Deals were signed with Tory cronies, fueling sleazy claims.
Details of specific deals are still being unveiled and could be settled in court.
But we do know that huge amounts of taxpayers’ money have been siphoned to Tory-linked companies, sometimes for faulty equipment.
Tories, who prioritize standards, probity and ethical behaviour, were appalled – as allegations were raised about funding a £58,000 refurbishment of the Downing Street flat.
To add to the sordid allegations, the Prime Minister sought to block a 30-day suspension of MP Owen Paterson after a standard inquiry.
Paterson later resigned and the Lib Dems promptly won the safe Tory seat in North Shropshire – scaring the Conservatives by even large majorities after the party had previously lost Bucks constituencies of Chesham and Amersham to the Lib Dems.
Another faction of the party – those who served in the military – was alienated by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.
The prime minister is still facing claims, which he denies, that he or those acting on his behalf intervened to evacuate dogs from Kabul while Afghans serving with British troops were left behind.
International affairs have given the prime minister a boost when it comes to the war in Ukraine.
He won widespread praise for his leading western support of Kiev and his rapid arming of defenders.
However, plans to send Channel migrants to Rwanda have been viewed more as dividing lines with Labor and charities than a realistic solution to border crossings.
One-nation Tories in the South fear the policy will undermine Conservatives’ claims to compassion and liberalism.
But it is domestic political problems that have withdrawn support from the prime minister.
Partygate revelations about boisterous parties at Downing Street and lingering suspicions that Johnson was just sorry he got caught have done a lot of damage to the Tory brand.
Lockdown measures were widely accepted because we were all in there together.
It’s painfully obvious that we weren’t – and the public feels they were taken for fools.
In early January this year, after a series of allegations from parties, 73% of the people thought Johnson was doing poorly as prime minister.
The cost of living crisis has exacerbated problems for the government, which feels it cannot control events.
One Nation Tories want more aid for the worst-off, while fiscal hawks balk at the money already promised.
Disparate factions of the party, each withdrawing support for very different reasons, are united in their desire to oust Johnson.
The Prime Minister, who thumped the air at 10pm on December 12, 2019, is no longer in control of his fate.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/boris-johnsons-disastrous-journey-election-27162465 Boris Johnson's disastrous journey from election hero to vote-of-confidence humiliation