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Boris Johnson

A modern Hamlet with a sense of humour

Leon Neal/WPA Pool/Getty

There are moments in politics when the best advice is to “lick your wounds, get a good night’s sleep, then stagger on”, says Matthew Parris in The Times. For the Conservative party, “this is not one of them”. If Tory MPs can’t get rid of Boris Johnson, then “all is lost”. The idea that he is a vote winner in the Red Wall is outdated. “He was. He isn’t now.” Archetypal Tories are falling out of love with the party: London is lost; “the home counties are turning”. People dislike Johnson’s “morals, his false boosterism and his facetiousness”, and they’re infuriated by his persistent lies, and “promises that are not honoured”. If the party is to survive, “the men in suits” have to visit No 10 and tell him the game is up.

No one wants to admit it, says Charles Moore in The Daily Telegraph, but Johnson has been totally at sea since Dominic Cummings left Downing Street last year. The PM’s chief advisor might have created “pretty good hell” for his colleagues. But he had a clear understanding of the big problems facing the country, and for Johnson he did something essential: “he could convince him that he had to do something and then squash his boss’s inclination to try to escape whenever the thing got tough”. Since Cummings’s departure, Boris has regressed to his “changeable, indecisive” self. These days, he’s like “Hamlet with a jollier sense of humour”.

The Tories’ problems run deeper than Johnson, says Robert Colvile in The Sunday Times. The party simply doesn’t have a clear answer to what’s been going wrong. Ask Conservative MPs, and many will say the government “hasn’t been properly Tory”. But the awkward truth is that Boris won his stonking 80-seat majority “precisely by being improperly Tory”. He dragged the party left on domestic policies like public spending, even as he tacked right on Brexit. Johnson loyalists will tell you that the PM is still the only Conservative who can keep the party in one piece. “Half our critics within the party want radical Lord Frost-style austerity,” says one. “The other half, like Jeremy Hunt, want money poured into the NHS. If Boris went, we’d descend into an irreconcilable mess.”