It hasn’t been such a bad Jubilee, after all

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Boris Johnson’s biographers now know the date on which his fate was sealed. It was Friday 3 June, 2022. The location was the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. The assailants were a crowd of people sufficiently pro-royal to have camped overnight for the best views. The weapon was their booing, heard loud and clear on the BBC. It was so apparent commentator Victoria Derbyshire had to take note of it, saying “We weren’t expecting that”. There was, though, a message that the no doubt unrehearsed and unco-ordinated crowd wished to deliver. They were saying that Johnson was a man they no longer wished to see.

The motivations of those booing may have varied. Some may have had enough of the parties. Others the lies. Maybe it was the state of the economy, although I doubt it at that moment. But what was clear was that this female dominated (as I saw it) audience wished to let their feelings be known, and they succeeded.

Like Victoria Derbyshire, I did not expect this. A more likely pro-Tory crowd than this is hard to imagine. The Venn diagram of those voting Tory and those turning out to wave the royals must overlap fairly heavily. But that was not enough to save Johnson. He was not welcome. They were silent for Keir Starmer, as I did expect.

There will be Tory MPs reflecting hard in this. They should. Their future is intensely aligned with that of Johnson. They have the option to be rid of him. They could exercise that this week. I think it increasingly  likely that enough of them will. But enough to be rid of him? The odds on that went up dramatically as that crowd booed. And famously, Tory MPs are always intensely loyal to their leader until the moment when they are not, which moment often emerges with extraordinary haste and little warning.

Those lingering should reflect on events in Canada in 1993. In that year the governing Progressive Conservative Party, which had ditched a deeply unpopular leader eighteen months beforehand and which had an overall majority and 156 seats, fought a general election and lost 154 of them. It was a world record defeat, but it suggests what can happen to parties with deeply unpopular leaders, even if they do change them. Carrying on with Brian Mulroney would have been worse for them though: the other two might also have lost their seats.

I am not convinced we are in that territory as yet. But the disastrous Mumsnet interview, followed by this incident suggest that Johnson’s hold in power is slipping. He may yet make it to a general election. The existing crop of Tory MPs were selected solely for their loyalty to Johnson. It is why they are so truly appalling. Their courage might fail them as a result.

But it would seem that the electorate has decided. Johnson’s popularity has been replaced by a sense of deep disquiet about him and his conduct. The belief that he is an untrustworthy liar has cut through. His days are numbered. It hasn’t been such a bad Jubilee, after all.