An interesting piece in today's Times from Matthew Parris - a lifelong Tory.
I am sure that there will be derision from the usual suspects on here and talk of "pinkoes" and swamps. Sensible Tories however may well take heed of articles like this. Johnson definitely should.
“The point about the Mafia is that people must be scared. As Boris Johnson approaches his first anniversary as prime minister next week, he could do worse than remind himself of the 1972 blockbuster, The Godfather. The film brings it home. The important thing is not to be disregarded. You can do some seriously crazy stuff with horses’ heads in victims’ beds but only so long as people can see there’s method in your madness. Only a year into Mr Johnson’s tenure at Downing Street the outside world has noticed the madness but begins to doubt the method. And once people start deriding you, you’ve lost it. This week’s shenanigans over the chairmanship of the intelligence and security committee provide a gruesome illustration. The ISC is a body of MPs and peers nominated by the prime minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition and provides a measure of democratic scrutiny of our spooks. The rule is that it elects its own chairman. Instead Johnson tried to impose a chairman on the newly-appointed committee: Chris Grayling. And failed. A cross-party majority was secured by another of its Tory members, Julian Lewis, who is much better qualified for the role than Mr Grayling. Downing Street responded by expelling Lewis from the parliamentary party, claiming he lied to the whips. I doubt it. This is just madness. Among those who take these things seriously, the immediate response will have been horror. Then bafflement. And, as I write, bafflement yields to derision. As one former cabinet minister put it, “There’s nothing worse than being an ineffectual bully”. Downing Street is now trying to blame the chief whip for messing up the whipping, inadvertently admitting there was whipping. So Downing Street wanted this vote whipped. Let’s not get too deep into the weeds of custom and practice with the ISC. I do realise any prime minister is bound to have an interest in who chairs such an important body. The tension between the whole theory of independent committee-work by MPs, and party whips’ discipline, results in a messy and delicate compromise involving nods and winks and a mutual understanding about how far things can be pushed. So it should not shock us if rumour had reached the ears of Tories on the ISC that No 10 would like to see Grayling in the job. But this would have to have been attempted so diplomatically, with Downing Street ready if necessary to yield gracefully, privately and early. Instead Johnson has simply jackbooted his way into a public confrontation, lost it, then tried to kick a respected colleague out of the party. Was it really Johnson? Or Dominic Cummings, who famously believes backbenchers are pond life and can be disregarded? So far, so Mafia. But it’s no good being a bunch of bullies, twisters and worse if people start to think you are losing command. Colleagues’ attention will start shifting to conjectured successors. I said “bullies, twisters and worse”. There exists a very great danger that 21st-century cynicism encourages the mistaken belief that all governments are like this, and that there is no honour in public administration. The huge crop of new (and often unexpected) Tory MPs who think of themselves first and foremost as local heroes have arrived at Westminster with, perhaps, youthful memories of The Thick of It or even House of Cards, but less grasp of the part that personal honour and collective integrity have always played in parliamentary party politics. Honour has not always won the contests. There has always been deceit, corruption, self-interest, cowardice and unscrupulous careerism. But honour, and its counterpart, shame, have always been there, always active, sometimes victorious, and always in the fight. Until Johnson. It is he who sets the tone. Selected by his party for no known personal qualities except a brassy and shallow appeal to voters that colleagues (correctly) thought might win them an election, he now sits atop an administration more as mascot than commander: but a mascot, the public face of a government, can set the tone. Watch him flop and teeter as he did yesterday at his Covid-19 press conference: not so much a prime minister as a chap doing his variable best to put across the message he’s been handed to deliver. Not for a moment does he look like the architect of the policy. Imagine Margaret Thatcher in Johnson’s place at that lectern yesterday, and the command she would have conveyed. Johnson’s combination of insouciance, dysfunction and shamelessness is a modern wonder. Forgive my dwelling on the shamelessness, because it’s so important for both the media and the public not to shrug this off as normal. But it isn’t normal for your principal adviser to behave as Mr Cummings did in his flight to County Durham, claiming his boss knew nothing of it, and then carry on as if it didn’t matter. I understand what he went through and might have done as he did. But he’s one of the most important men in the government. It is not normal for such behaviour to be without consequence. The stupid scrap with the ISC is not normal, and the whipping (which failed) was shameless. The attempt (which also failed) to bury the ISC’s report on Russian interference was shameless. The removal from her post of the senior civil servant Helen MacNamara, who has completed a report into allegations of bullying by the home secretary, Priti Patel, is shameless. If the report is ever published we’ll never know if it has been doctored. This is not normal. Robert Jenrick’s behaviour as communities secretary was not normal when he intervened to force through a huge planning application that had been turned down at every stage in the process, potentially saving the applicant, a Tory donor whom he had met at dinner, some £40 million. He should have been moved from his post. Jenrick’s still there, given cover by Johnson. This is shameless. But his colleagues always knew his shamelessness from his personal history. That he isn’t even clever, however, they are only now discovering. If competence shone through then I think the shamelessness would remain an embarrassment that his colleagues would be prepared to suppress. But he’s losing, and the combination of incapacity and shamelessness is beginning to curdle. Boris Johnson’s colleagues see, and for the most part shrug, look away, or bite their tongues. I don’t believe this can last — but then I never thought he’d make it to the top in the first place. I now believe he won’t survive as prime minister through the year ahead — and maybe I’m wrong again. But as long as he lasts, his shamelessness shames Britain.