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Boris Johnson Can’t Lose

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If Wikipedia is to be believed, Thucydides admitted to the king of Sparta that Pericles — purportedly Boris Johnson’s favorite historical figure — was a better fighter than he was, because even when beaten, he could make it seem as if he had won.

Johnson is not yet beaten. But even though he won this week’s no-confidence vote, he needs to channel his ancient hero if he is to convince the U.K. that losing the support of two-fifths of his own party is actually a good thing.

To be fair to the PM, he is giving it a solid effort. On Monday evening, 148 Tory members of Parliament — or just over 40 percent of the Conservative parliamentary party — said they wanted him to step down over the scandal known, unfortunately, as “Partygate.” Johnson’s reaction? To tell broadcasters, while bouncing energetically on the balls of his feet, that “we are going to bash on.” It was, in his estimation, an “extremely good, positive, decisive, and conclusive result.”

History (modern, not Johnson’s preferred ancient) suggests otherwise. Just four years ago, the Tories were busy trying to defenestrate their then-leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, via a vote of no confidence. She too won the vote, and by a healthier margin than Johnson. But within five months, she was standing in front of the famous black door to 10 Downing Street, choking back tears and announcing her resignation.

Another Tory PM, John Major, famously told his party in 1995 that it was “time to put up or shut up.” He called his own confidence vote and won by a greater majority than Johnson. But his critics refused to shut up. Conservatives remained divided, and less than two years later, the U.K. handed Tony Blair a huge majority.

Of course, the rules........

© Daily Intelligencer

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