After much agonising, several Government-supporting MPs voted that they had ‘no confidence’ in Boris Johnson’s leadership.
However, the majority, including me, voted to back him – but this was no blank cheque.
These divisions have been damaging and distracting but, for now, we should accept the result: under the rules, another no-confidence vote cannot be held for at least a year, so the debilitating daily speculation about whether a challenge will take place, and what the result might be, should abate, at least for now.
Does this mean our Prime Minister can relax? Far from it – very much the opposite. He now needs to prove that he is worthy of support and can deliver. Given the scale of the challenge, a year is not long for him to regain the trust of his colleagues and, importantly, that of the British people.
The first priority must be addressing the cost-of-living crisis.
Increased energy costs, their flow-through into commodity prices, and wider inflation, has hit household budgets hard. A significant factor in the cost of living is the tax burden - not just income tax but a whole array of others that we ultimately end up paying, directly or indirectly. The Adam Smith Institute has calculated that June 8 was Tax Freedom Day this year. That is the day that the average UK citizen had earned enough to pay off all the taxes imposed on them; after more than five months of working for the Chancellor, they are finally able to start earning for themselves.
In recent years – and in fairness, largely due to emergency spending on the pandemic – the British State has become more bloated than ever. Boris says he has got the message.
In a statement he promises: “We will….devote all our energy to reducing the biggest single household outgoing of all – the tax bill. It must come down and it will, because that is the best way to deliver the growth we need...”
This is a welcome aspiration. But it needs to happen – and it can’t just be tinkering.
We need to cut the size of the state and abolish unnecessary Quangos. Greater efficiency in the public sector should not just mean reduced costs but also higher standards.
Securing our borders is an essential priority. Stopping the illegal Channel crossing and putting the people smugglers out of business is not just morally right. It is essential.
Fighting crime is also a fundamental duty of the Government. We are recruiting 20,000 more police officers. But we also need to make sure their time is spent effectively – not hamstrung with form-filling.
No Prime Minister can please everyone and we live in complex and difficult times, but if his “reprieve” is to be deserved, and a 2023 leadership contest avoided, Boris Johnson now needs to rise to the challenge, prove that his critics were wrong and that he deserves to be the leader of our great nation, at least until the next election, when once again, the public will make their democratic choice.