How fury at Boris Johnson infected all tribes of the Tory party

How fury at Boris Johnson infected all tribes of the Tory party
How fury at Boris Johnson infected all tribes of the Tory party

Boris Johnson finds himself the focus of anger from all wings of the Conservative Party today as what started as a schism between new and old becomes a spreading infection.  

Dissent started as survivable unhappiness at the PM backing Covid restrictions  a large chunk of freemarket backbenchers saw as hampering economic recovery for little lifesaving gain.

But it broke out into open rebellion in October, when the circus around the eventual resignation of Owen Paterson as MP for north Shropshire sparked what became dubbed a 'Red Wall v Red Trousers' fight.

Comparatively younger MPs, many in seats taken from Labour in 2019 were appalled by what they saw as corrupt attempts by the old guard, comfortable in safe shire seats, to get the former Northern Ireland Secretary off despite acting as a paid lobbyist for firms paying him a six-figure retainer. 

Partygate only fanned the flames of this generational divide, and the embers have now sparked new fires in other parts of the party. 

There are the MPs who are appalled at the antics of the No10 regime and believe he is honour-bound to step down. Those with old (and new) grievances against Mr Johnson have also been emboldened.

Hitherto loyal Big Beasts like David Davis, a veteran kingslayer from Brexit battles, have stepped up to demand he go.  Remainers who survived the scourging see an opportunity to get cold revenge.

MPs with careers long and short, who believe they are too good for the backbenches and have been cruelly overlooked by Mr Johnson's team, begin to wonder if their chances would improve with a new team at the top.

Cabinet ministers who see the door to No10 slightly ajar are believed to have started plotting.  

And pitted against them are the Boris loyalists, the MPs who would lie down in front of a bulldozer for the PM.

Here we examine the different groups jostling overtly and covertly amid the chaos that has engulfed the Government.

The Red Wall

New Tories in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats (Durham's Dahenna Davison pictured), taken from Labour for the first time in 2019, have been the focus of the current rebellion

New Tories in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats (Durham's Dahenna Davison pictured), taken from Labour for the first time in 2019, have been the focus of the current rebellion

Dissent started as survivable unhappiness at the PM backing Covid restrictions a large chunk of freemarket backbenchers saw as hampering economic recovery for little lifesaving gain.

Dissent started as survivable unhappiness at the PM backing Covid restrictions a large chunk of freemarket backbenchers saw as hampering economic recovery for little lifesaving gain.

It culminated in the defection of Bury South's Christian Wakeford yesterday in a day of drama in Westminster.

It culminated in the defection of Bury South's Christian Wakeford yesterday in a day of drama in Westminster.

New Tories in the so-called former 'Red Wall' seats, taken from Labour for the first time in 2019, have been the focus of the current rebellion. It has been dubbed the Pork Pie Putsch after Alicia Kearns, the MP for Melton - who denies being involved.

It culminated in the defection of Bury South's Christian Wakeford yesterday in a day of drama in Westminster. His decision to cross the floor may have done the upstart rebellion more harm than good in the long term, but it was a visceral example of the anger felt towards the PM.

The 109 group of new Tories who came in at the 2019 election should in theory be the most loyal, they owe their seats to his success in routing Jeremy Corbyn (some might argue they should also thank the former Labour leader) that December.

But they have shown what, for No10, is an annoying independent streak. The Covid disruption to Parliament has made it harder for them to be indoctrinated and influenced by the older, more experienced Tories. They are also generally drawn from more modest backgrounds than many of the more patrician old guard, and represent areas reflecting that. 

Their anger at the political maneuvering around Owen Paterson - with only his closest friends refusing to admit he was caught bang to rights - was made evident when Wakeford, then still a Tory, called him a 'c**t' to his face.

Since then they have gone into overdrive over Partygate and the general air of malaise around the Government. 

Some of this stems from disgust at No10 not following the rules they and constituents were doggedly following. 

But it also stems party from the fact that in many of the Red Wall seats, their majorities are slim. Wakeford had a Tory majority of just 402 in Bury South. They do not have the luxury of thousands of unthinking blue voters in their constituencies like the shire Tories do.

Nor has the attitude of said shire Tories, the Red Trouser Brigade, helped matters. Their reflex has been to patronise the new intake - whose average age is a not exactly kindergarden-esque 34 - as kids who know nothing and should be a bit more savvy and grateful to their elders.

This has gone down about as well as a parent telling their teenager they should not be going out dressed like that.

The Red Wallers were ready to go nuclear yesterday, and while Wakeford's defection moistened their powder, the Sue Gray report now expected next week could reignite it. 

The Big Beasts 

One of the most eye-popping moments on Wednesday was former Brexit Minister David Davis using PMQs to tell the Pm to his face that he should quit

One of the most eye-popping moments on Wednesday was former Brexit Minister David Davis using PMQs to tell the Pm to his face that he should quit

One of the most eye-popping moments on Wednesday was former Brexit Minister David Davis using PMQs to tell the Pm to his face that he should quit. 

Tellingly he used the words of Oliver Cromwell to the Long Parliament, later repurposed by Leo Amery to get rid of wartime PM Neville Chamberlain in 1940 to do the deed.

He faced Mr Johnson - who was written books on Winston Churchill and his rise to power after Chamberlain - and urged him to stand aside, telling him 'In the name of God, go'.

Mr Davis has long been a thorn in the side of Conservative prime ministers.

He was the front-runner to become Tory leader in 2005, but imploded spectacularly to allow David Cameron to win after a disastrous campaign that included parading women wearing tight 'it's DD for me' T-shirts. 

He quit as Brexit Secretary in 2018, saying he did not believe in Theresa May's plan for leaving the EU.

It later emerged that he had urged her to hold the catastrophic snap election of 2017 which resulted in a hung parliament and her inability to pass Brexit legislation. 

He has previously backed Boris - h is credited with persuading the Pm to help Owen Paterson, before turning on his spectacularly. 

While critics suggest the outburst had more to do with the former minister's ego, there have been rumbling from the so called Big Beasts on the backbenches.

Many have voiced their unhappiness with the PM over Covid restrictions they feel are too onerous. 

Others question the high tax, high spending economic plans in place to recover from Covid, demanding a traditional low tax Tory recovery. 

Others like former leader Iain Duncan-Smith have lashed out over issues like China and the access parts of the communist regime have in this country. 

Many of them are too savvy - or at least too time-served - to go public like Mr Davis. They share the belief that this could be mid-term blues that may blow over, and that partygate isn't exactly the Suez Crisis which forced Anthony Eden to quit in 1956.

But the Sue Gray report could focus minds, especially if the PM comes in for heavy criticism that is reflected in the already dire opinion

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