Boris Johnson is quite right to resist calls to step down, says The Sun. There’s no doubt that the lockdown-breaching parties in No 10 have “sickened the nation” – and this is the first PM “to have broken the law while in office”. But “we must keep a sense of proportion. This is not a mistake worthy of Britain losing both its Prime Minister and Chancellor.” The party in question, to mark Johnson’s 56th birthday, was hardly a party at all. He and his colleagues were, technically, in their workplace. It lasted less than ten minutes. The birthday cake didn’t even come out of its Tupperware box. Johnson has, rightly, paid his fine and apologised. Now let’s concentrate on supporting Ukraine “during the biggest European military crisis since the fall of the Berlin Wall”.
“Nonsense,” says Alex Massie in The Spectator. The Tories have changed leaders in international crises before and can do so again: they toppled Mrs Thatcher in 1990 “even as British troops were preparing to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait”. And if you think Johnson’s initial offence was forgivable, his blatant lying “trebles the impact of the original sin”. He and his allies took the public for fools. “Do not believe the evidence of your own eyes and ears, they said, for what you see and what you hear is untrue. There were no parties.” Conservative MPs must “put the national interest first” and oust their disgraced leader. “For if not now, in the name of God, when?”
It certainly won’t be any time soon, says Robert Shrimsley in the FT. Local elections are imminent and Tory MPs don’t want the distraction of a leadership contest. And given Rishi Sunak has been fined as well, there’s no “obvious successor” to take Johnson’s place. What we’ll see instead is the PM throwing even more “red meat” to his backbenchers – a “harder line on trans rights”, perhaps – to try and keep them happy. This government will become “even more short-termist and campaigning”. But Conservatives procrastinating over their leader “would do well to look across the Atlantic to the fate of the Republican party”. At some point, “you have to ask how many abuses you are prepared to tolerate in the hope of victory”.