AS THE Conservative Party once again allows its Brexit civil war to overshadow Labour’s own divisions, Boris Johnson faces three challenges if his premiership is not to implode in the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignations and other high-profile departures.
With the Brexit Delay Bill due to complete its passage today – and then MPs almost certainly voting to block the PM’s intended election on October 15 – Mr Johnson is honour-bound to respond to the mounting crisis as the Tories, so long the natural party of government, threaten to split irreconcilably.
First, the Tory leader must answer the central charge of Ms Rudd, the ex-Work and Pensions Secretary, that there is no impetus on the Government’s part to negotiate a mutually beneficial exit deal with the EU – an assertion also made by former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, among others, last week.
Next, Mr Johnson cannot expect to get his own way over an election without explaining, in his words, whether his intention is to break the law and “refuse to accept” any “pointless delay” on Brexit.
Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake has said that a PM ignoring the rule of law would be a resigning issue for a great many Conservative MPs – himself included.
Finally, the PM – whose approach demeaned his office, and Parliament, last week – must rebut Ms Rudd’s belief that last week’s “culling” of 21 One Nation Conservatives, including party grandees and two former Chancellors of the Exchequer, was an “assault on decency and democracy”.
Though Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this was the PM’s prerogative because last week’s crucial votes were deemed to be expressions of ‘‘confidence’’ in the Government, the onus is still on Mr Johnson to prove Amber Rudd wrong if there is to be any hope, however remote, of Parliament being able to move forward.