ike football managers, political leaders are often harshly judged, their critics narrowly focused on the short run, and all too ready to discount past glories: you’re only as good as your last match, you might say.
So it is with Boris Johnson. As the evidence builds that the prime minister’s unique approach to decision-making in the Covid crisis has cost lives, his MPs are getting nervous. Postponed elections from last year added to the usual May crop means that virtually the whole of Britain will going to the polls in the spring, assuming they’re not cancelled. The Scottish parliamentary vote will be particularly poor for the Conservatives and will be taken as a mandate for a second independence referendum. Votes, political careers and the union itself are at stake. Two unnamed members of the 2019 intake have reportedly formally stated that they have no confidence in Johnson’s leadership. They have submitted letters to that effect to the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, the first steps towards a leadership election. A WhatsApp group of Tory MPs, nicknamed “Lockdown Loons” has also become a focus for discontent, particularly about the stop-go Covid restrictions. The group includes Iain Duncan Smith, Esther McVey and John Redwood. The deputy chair of the 1922 Committee, Charles Walker, among others has openly criticised the government’s habit of bypassing parliament over Covid restrictions. Some MPs have made stinging criticisms, albeit anonymously, one saying before Christmas: “He keeps making mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. We knew he’d have to U-turn on A-levels and free school meals over the summer. Now he forces us to vote to starve children over Christmas. You can be sure he’ll U-turn on that too. I’ve never seen such ineptitude”. Another said more recently: “I’m completely fed up. He just can’t lead and thus can’t go on.”