It won’t have escaped readers’ attention that the Prime Minister is in trouble again. The resignation last week of Government Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher after admitting heavy drinking and sexual misconduct has led to a growing crescendo of anger about why the Prime Minister appointed him in the first place. The line last week was that the PM knew nothing about rumours circulating of Pincher’s regular misconduct. By Tuesday this week, after revelations from former Foreign Office senior civil servant Simon McDonald that an enquiry had taken place after Pincher, then a Foreign Office minister, had been accused and found guilty of misconduct whilst in office, the Prime Minster apologised for misleading everyone. Ministers who had been called out to defend the line were made to look foolish and by Tuesday evening, both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Health Secretary had resigned.
There were, and will be, more resignations. Theresa May saw over 100 resignations from her ministers and junior appointees, but that was over her handling of Brexit – a policy problem. This is different. This is about the character of the Prime Minister.
Three weeks ago, there was a vote of confidence in the PM. He won, although with tighter margins than Theresa May when faced with a similar challenge. It was, and still is, the right thing to allow the PM space to demonstrate he is in control. But it is fair to say it is not going well. The resignation of Lord Geit, the PM’s ethics advisor, the Party Chairman after a crushing by-election defeat, Pincher-Gate and its handling, and the revelation that the PM was enquiring about spending £150,000 of party donor’s funds on a bullet proof treehouse for his son at Chequers have all proved too much for many.
Prime Ministers always leave office. But it is up to them how they leave. Tony Blair left with dignity after a half decent spell in office. David Cameron resigned after losing his Brexit vote. Gordon Brown and John Major lost elections. Theresa May resigned after it became blindingly obvious she had lost her party support. Boris Johnson, one of the most charismatic politicians of our generation, will have to decide how he leaves. Every indication is that he will fight on through this period and stay in office. But there will be more votes and I cannot see anything more undignified than losing a vote of confidence.