Boris Johnson resigned as leader of the Conservative party on 7 July 2022, but he did not resign as Prime Minister of the government. The media have moved on to talk about the race for a successor, and although much of his own party distrust him, he retains control of government for months. Previous leaders have acted as a caretaker while a successor is chosen, but many fear that considerable risk if Boris is allowed to remain in power of an interim government.
The foreign press prematurely talks about his legacy and future relations with the UK, yet Boris has not asked for an audience with the queen which tradition demands for any genuine resignation. His non-resignation speech blamed others for his predicament, believing he still had the support of the public beyond Westminster. Imagine if he entered the succession race and won, then called a snap election and won another five years, this presents an enormous risk to his party and parliament.
Like throwing a bone to a chasing pack of dogs, he has bought time for his escape for the immediate future. On 21 July parliament rises for the summer recess and MPs are not recalled until September, if a new leader is not chosen by the end of July then Boris remains PM. This was not what his cabinet intended when they started resigning last Tuesday, their confidence vote was supposed to usher in a new leader who could be trusted. They did not anticipate a non-resignation speech designed to throw media hounds off the scent, that allowed the PM to remain in post.
Meanwhile the leadership contenders vie for public approval for their swingeing tax cuts and government handouts to alleviate living cost hardship, each ignorant of how to afford such generosity. None of the contenders is prepared to address the elephant in the room, the cause of so much economic hardship, the government policy of Brexit and self-imposed trade barriers. Given that all the economic indicators for the UK are now dire the battle for the conservative party leadership resembles a fight between two bald men over a comb.
The risk of not removing the Prime Minister before the end of July is considerable. He was asked to step down by his Chancellor, Home Secretary and Attorney General among over fifty other ministers, a message that could not have been clearer. The party needs to address the risk sooner rather than later and appoint a caretaker who can be trusted not to try to cling on to power.