Theresa May was gone within 6 months of having won a vote of confidence by a greater margin than Boris Johnson (63% vs. 59% support). But under the Tory Party rules, he cannot now be challenged in a vote of confidence for another 12 months, regardless of how badly the Tories do in the meantime. That is, of course, unless the Tories change their rules, something the threatened to do in the case of Theresa May.
A large majority, c. 170 of the 211 who voted for Johnson, are on his payroll and beholden to him for their jobs. It can be remarkably difficult to persuade people of the necessity of a certain course of action when their salaries depend on their not acknowledging that necessity. And, of course, the normal rules of political accountability don’t apply to Boris Johnson.
From the point of view of Ireland and the EU, it is absolutely right that he should remain in office. It means no one has to take him seriously. The EU doesn’t have to make any concessions on the Protocol it doesn’t want to anyway and will have no problem getting Council and Commission agreement to trade sanctions if the UK breaks the Withdrawal Agreement, as it is threatening to do. Unlike a re-elected Trump, Boris can’t actually threaten anyone with dire consequences if they don’t bend to his will. They can just continue to ignore him.
Notice any high profile visitors to 10 Downing Street recently? Me neither.
Of course, the real tragedy is for the British people, who will continue to see their economy and living standards go down the tubes, while their political influence and international standing plummet. Ireland and the EU will not, of course, be unaffected by all of this. But the deterioration of our economic as well as political relationship with the UK has already been priced in to our own future prospects.
Democracy in N. Ireland will just be so much more collateral damage, and the DUP can sing for their supper. The EU is not going to give them the win they need to try call and win another election, thereby avoiding conceding the first Ministership to Sinn Fein. And this is despite the fact that the EU, many months ago, already offered the “Express Lane” for goods intended for N. Ireland only, which the DUP now claims it is seeking.
But it would have been entirely wrong for Boris to have had to go due to the “Partygate” scandals in any case. They are the very least of his many lies, which include fathering children with five women who were not then his wife. He has been a consistent racist, misogynist, narcissist, bully and liar since his days at Eton and has always shown his contempt for anyone who is not either extremely wealthy, or a member of the British ruling class. No one can claim they didn’t know what they were voting for. His record has been public and clear, and they voted for him anyway, because they didn’t care.
So now as the consequences of Brexit become increasingly clear in declining living standards for the poorer sections of British society there is a certain karma at work. Boris, in cahoots with the DUP, may have tried to undermine the Good Friday Agreement in N. Ireland, but what he has ended up doing is undermine the very unity of the United Kingdom itself. The Queen’s platinum Jubilee celebrations last week may come to be seen as the last time her Kingdom can be said to have been truly united. Far from undermining the fragile stability of N. Ireland, the next “Troubles” could well be on the “mainland” of Britain itself.
Frank Schnittger is a former senior executive in a leading multinational in Dublin and London and has a Masters in Peace Studies from Trinity College. He has been a director of a number of charitable and voluntary organisations in the community development, education, holistic addiction treatment and restorative justice sectors. He is editor of the European Tribune and a moderator of the Irish Rugby Fan Forum.