Widdecombe says nation ‘knew Boris was chaotic’
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However former government minister Ann Widdecombe also lamented the lack of discipline in the Conservative Party which has led to the current state of near-chaos, asking: “What are the whips doing?” Mr Johnson’s political future continues to hang in the balance this week after his admission that he attended a lockdown-busting drinks party in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020.
So far, seven MPs have publicly confirmed they have submitted letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister, with more rumoured to be planning to follow suit.
However, the former Tory MP for Maidstone, and latterly Brexit Party MEP, said the situation was an entirely avoidable own-goal.
She explained: “The big problem is just too many brand-new MPs, who have had very little to do with their colleagues because of COVID.
“And they just don’t understand because they’ve never had to keep in a difficult path.”
Ms Widdecombe added: “There are numerous examples of times when a governing party is really severely behind in the polls, I mean, really badly, and then went on to win the next election.
David Davis tells Boris Johnson 'in the name of God, go'
“Labour did it, David Cameron was in a disastrous position in 2013 and he won in 2015, and Mrs Thatcher, after the Westland affair was massively behind but won it just one year later.”
Former Brexit minister David Davis made headlines during Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday by calling for Mr Johnson to quit, declaring: “Go, in the name of God go.”
But Ms Widdecombe dismissed comparisons with the resignation speech of then-Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe in 1990, which triggered a chain of events ultimately leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The 74-year-old, who was present in the Commons for Sir Geoffrey’s incendiary intervention 32 years ago, said: “There is absolutely no parallel.
“I think the entire party now just needs to calm down to recognise the fact that just because they’re doing very badly in the polls and people are furious at the moment, it doesn’t follow that that’s going to be the situation even in three months’ time, never mind three years.”
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Nevertheless, Ms Widdecombe questioned what the Tory whips had been doing to allow things to get so out of hand.
She said: “God knows what’s going on there – there’s no discipline at all. It is specifically the job of the whips to put some backbone into them – that is exactly what they’re supposed to do.
“Clearly the whips aren’t doing their jobs, but equally clear the new MPs are just panicking.
“These are people who won seats they never expected to win. And they’ve come in and they haven’t got experience, and they just think that if something’s going on that it’s the end of the world.”
Christian Wakeford, the Tory MP for Bury South, caused ripples by defecting to Labour immediately prior to PMQs – but Ms Widdecombe warned him he had made a huge mistake.
She said: “He will see the error of his ways, because he probably thinks now he’s deserting to the winning side and then when the Conservatives start to recover and start to do the things they said they’re going to do he will look very, very stupid.”
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Asked how long the situation could be allowed to drag on for, Ms Widdecombe said: “The Sue Gray report will be the moment of truth, and that is when party has just got to put this behind it.”
Ms Widdecombe nevertheless acknowledged what happened next depended on Ms Gray’s conclusions – but insisted any move to ditch Mr Johnson would be folly regardless.
She explained: “That would be a really disastrous way to go.
“Are we going to plunge the country into three months of leadership uncertainty when we’re negotiating with the EU, over Northern Ireland, when we’re trying to get the economy up and running again, after a global pandemic, when we’ve got NHS waiting lists around the block five times.
“This is not the moment to say that for three months, we don’t know who the Prime Minister is.
“How do we negotiate with the EU without knowing who the Prime Minister is going to be?”
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