BORIS JOHNSON’S bullishness masked the fact that a former Tory Minister – Dr Phillip Lee – defected to the Lib Dems while the PM was on his feet delivering his opening statement to MPs on Brexit and the prorogation of Parliament.
Though widely expected, Dr Lee’s move was significant because it left Mr Johnson – and the Government – without a working majority in the Commons before critical votes over a no-deal Brexit and, potentially, an early election.
The first time that a Government has been left bereft of a majority since the tail-end of John Major’s premiership in 1997, it is further evidence that the Tory party risks an irrevocable split if the PM – and, specifically, his chief of staff Dominic Cummings – continue to give succour to the current divisions.
And this is is the extraordinary backdrop to today’s spending review which has been hastily brought forward in the wake of a flurry of pre-election spending commitments intended to shore up the key public services.
A statement that should be taking on added significance as Britain finds itself on the brink of a recession after the economy contracted between April and June, it will, almost inevitably, be eclipsed by the Brexit frenzy at Westminster and the small matter of Mr Johnson’s first – and possibly last – PMQs.
Yet, as Leave and Remain supporters become even more entrenched, they need to remember that this turmoil is doing absolutely nothing to ease the anxiety of all those workers on low to medium incomes – or the legitimate concerns of all those businesses that cannot plan for the future.
And while Mr Johnson’s natural optimism contrasts with the approach followed by his predecessor Theresa May, his abrasiveness points to a leader intent on putting the electoral threat posed by the Brexit Party before his primary duty – the over-riding national economic interest.