Tuesday 5 July 2022

It is time for Boris Johnson to go says David Frost

David Frost, the man who negotiated the worst deal he could and then complained endlessly about it, has turned on St Boris. In a Telegraph article of complete guff, he explains why.

Bilge, pure bilge.

No-one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can't be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left.

Getting economic policy right comes from the top. Every successful Prime Minister needs an economic philosophy that guides them through successive decisions and which enables their team to act in a way that is in line with their instincts without constantly asking what to do. I can't honestly see what this Prime Minister's economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of "levelling up", and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed.

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility.

Last month it seemed there might be a fresh start. Partygate was in the past. It seemed possible to set out a new way forward. But unfortunately first of all the Prime Minister said he had no intention of changing, and then, next, he set about demonstrating that unambiguously.

The Prime Minister refused to undergo a "psychological transformation". No-one was asking him to. They were asking him to change the way he ran his government and to put systems in place to ensure that the errors of judgment of recent months would not be made again.

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister's judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government.

Every Prime Minister, past, present, and future, has strengths and weaknesses. The crucial thing is to be aware of what they are and to have a team around them that can compensate for the weaknesses and help deliver results for the government as a whole. I have to conclude that the repetition of the same mistakes, and the refusal to acknowledge the need for change, means that this Prime Minister is never going to get better. Given the challenges we face, this country can't afford that.

I resigned from the Government on a matter of principle. Last night Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak did the same. Other Cabinet Ministers now need to consider whether they are truly happy with the current direction of travel.

Boris Johnson's place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century's most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That's why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party's interest, in Leave voters' interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

Lord Frost was the United Kingdom's Chief Negotiator for Exiting the EU and served as Brexit Minister in Boris Johnson's Government


Post a Comment

What do you think?