Which Shade of Gray?
Could Johnson’s machismo save him again?
The past few weeks, politically, have been unprecedented. Throughout the centuries, Britain’s leaders have suffered trials and tribulations and then have been brutally mauled in the very public arena of the House of Commons. Johnson today faced a furious Commons and attempted to defend himself from the damning Gray report.
Just over two years ago, an embattled Theresa May was forced to face trial by combat on what felt like an almost weekly basis. It was a matter of substance, MPs were scrutinising her Brexit deal, and in the end, after little progress, May was forced to resign. Few political executions were as brutal as they were for May, but there was little she could do other than watch as her authority ebbed away. In comparison, the new year for Johnson has left the Prime Minister appearing as though he might be sunk by cake.
Gray’s report is far from complimentary to Johnson, and whilst some of it has been redacted due to the Metropolitan Police's investigations, it still gives a clear display that the Prime Minister broke his own rules. Furthermore, the number of contradictions over the issue from Number Ten has left many to conclude that the Prime Minister has misled the house. Misleading the house is one of the deadliest sins any MP can be accused of, and is often accompanied by resignations. Why, then, is Johnson not gone?
As senior Conservatives and other prominent politicians have recently stood up to take their shot, including now Starmer, Rayner, Blackford, Theresa May and David Davis amongst others, Johnson appeared alarmingly confident. Typically jumpy, the press has widely assumed that Johnson in some way believes he has pulled it off. This is unlikely to be the case. Johnson has merely rediscovered the quality that, despite a cacophony of scandals, still landed him the top job; machismo.
The true government nervousness was clearly on display in the shape of Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was on the edge of her seat throughout Ian Blackford’s speech in opposition to the Prime Minister. However, the Prime Minister himself appeared mostly calm and on typical form, jumping to mock and defend himself from adversaries. His complete confidence in himself is authentic, and makes others wary of challenging him.
On the other hand, it is the case of most Prime Ministers that they cling on to power long after their leadership is perceived to have eroded. This is generally accounted to the fact that those who reach the pinnacle of power are not likely to give it up easily, and whilst at times this proves a strength, it can also have dangerous ramifications, ones that Johnson may possibly face soon
For one, destroying your party in the hopes of maintaining power for yourself. Gordon Brown, following defeat in the 2010 election, refused to resign and thus Nick Clegg refused to join Labour in coalition, keeping them out of power ever since. This reluctance to give up power may prove to bring down not only Johnson, but also his party, tainted by association. Furthermore, Johnson’s awe-inspiring self-belief can only last him so long. Macmillan, a Prime Minister often quoted as one of our most ruthless lost his sense of self belief after a few devastating losses. With a by election next week, this may happen for Johnson sooner rather than later.
Gray’s report may take a few days to fully play out its political shockwaves, but it’s clear it will be far from plain sailing. Conservative heavyweights are lining themselves up, and the Prime Minister’s political wiggle room has shrunk as the allegations have intensified. With little else to turn to, Johnson is trying to brazen it out, and only time will tell if this proves a success. However, it seems increasingly likely that soon a new man or woman will soon be going through the famous black door.