July was the month when it all fell apart. Having just about survived the confidence vote the previous month, Boris was already in choppy waters. All it took was Chris Pincher’s wandering hands to finally sink the ship. It’s no exaggeration to say the first week of July packed in a year’s worth of political chaos in just a week. “Pincher by name, pincher by nature…”
The unedifying spectacle of the government meltdown (Wikipedia calls it the “July 2022 United Kingdom government crisis” to distinguish it from the other disaster that happened three months later – more on that soon) is already a piece of political history: 62 ministers quitting, an emergency reshuffle, and Boris himself eventually resigning within the space of three days. Enough drama to fill a couple of books on the shelves already, let alone one blog post…
Downing Street’s initial spin operation heading into that fateful week was never going to cut the mustard: apparently Boris “forgot” about the 2019 FCDO investigation into Pincher’s behaviour when the scandal first broke. If it wasn’t clear things weren’t going to plan already, the Tuesday lobby briefing opening with “are you planning on telling truth today?” set the tempo for the hours that followed. Not to mention the morning Cabinet meeting which, for some reason, Number 10 actually decided to film…
The resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak inevitably burst the dam. Over the next day so many Ministers quit that Guido switched to a rolling live blog, rather than reporting each resignation individually – there were just too many. Boris soldiered on, insisting he’d stay. Michael Gove’s reward for quietly telling the PM to go was his own sacking as Levelling Up Secretary, a moment which later led to verbal bust-up between Gove’s SpAd Josh Grimstone and Guto Harri at the Spectator summer party.
Eventually, after the Cabinet’s men in grey suits showed up at Number 10 – Nadhim Zahawi among them, despite his appointment as Chancellor about 24 hours prior – Boris saw the writing on the wall. Despite efforts to rally the troops and cobble together a government, the farce was unsustainable. On July 7, Boris announced his resignation. “Them’s the breaks…”
On cue, Guido fired up the spreadsheet. With so many candidates immediately throwing their hat in the ring, Guido’s ongoing tally of supporters proved invaluable: who was up? Who was down? Who had the momentum? Who was Rehman Chishti? The site’s audience figures skyrocketed as thousands logged on to keep track of the race.
Rishi took an early and consistent lead, with Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss trading blows for second place, and membership darling Kemi Badenoch seeing off Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman, Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt in the first three MP ballots. Sajid Javid also gave it a go, although after nearly roasting himself and half the lobby to death at his launch speech, his campaign flamed out before it ever started. In case anyone forgot, July was hot. Really hot.
As the Tory leadership race hotted up – more on that later, too – temperatures cooled for Sir Keir. After months of investigation, Durham Constabulary cleared Starmer and Rayner of any wrongdoing over Beergate. They wouldn’t be fined, and they wouldn’t be resigning. If only it had been cake, not curry…
Headline of the month: BREAKING*: Jamie Wallis Guilty of Failing to Stop and Report Traffic Collision