Boris Johnson’s Rebel Alliance, formed on the back of the 2019 general election, is starting to fracture – with a raft of Tory plotters waiting in the wings to feast on the impendingdemise.
Owen Paterson’s resignation has highlighted critical splits within the Johnson camp and could prove to be a catalyst for a more dramatic collapse.
Chris Bryant, the chairman of the Commons Standards Committee, believes Jacob Rees-Mogg could be next out of the door, saying a number of senior MPs have felt “bruised” by the Paterson process.
“A Conservative MP has also told me that the ‘knobs’ of the party told the ‘oiks’ what to do, and the ‘nobs’ don’t necessarily have the best political antennae,” he said.
“And I think Jacob Rees-Mogg wanted to deliver an outcome because of a personal friendship.”
The Rebel Alliance
One Rebel’s resignation is destabilising for Johnson, but two out of the door could be terminal.
Following the landslide election win in December ’19 the prime minister moved quickly to pack his team with Brexiters and rightwingers, creating a tight inner circle that he has been reluctant to re-shuffle no matter the size of the scandal.
As James O’Brien pointed out on his radio show this week, the Paterson controversy can be put down to an “osmosis of corruption” that has permeated through certain sects of the party that can be traced back to the Get Brexit Done slogan.
“This lot have had entitlement thrust upon them by the Get Brexit Done slogan under which they could do anything,” he said.
“They could lie to the Queen under the Get Brexit Done slogan, so the idea that they could rip up the anti-corruption rule book, seen through this lens, becomes relatively innocuous.”
But that’s only good as long as the tight-knit rebel group sticks together. When cracks start to emerge, the whole thing starts to crumble.
As Nigel Nelson pointed out in the Mirror today, Tory MPs are “heartily sick of defending the indefensible time and again only for the PM to backtrack after yet another blunder.
“He’s U-turned 43 times in 23 months – from giving kids free school meals after telling them they couldn’t have them to declaring their A-level results fair before conceding that they weren’t.
“But forcing his MPs to vote for the madness of firing Commons sleazebuster Kathryn Stone really took the Rich Tea.”
According to his sources the One Nation Group of Tory MPs, known as “The Sensibles” and led by former first secretary Damian Green, are a Cabinet-in-waiting of ministers sacked by the PM and itching to get back into power.
They will be licking their lips at the prospect of a collapse of the inner circle, and with a general election still a long way off, a leadership challenge could be in the offing.