Writing a newspaper column teaches you many disciplines.

Of course, you want to be interesting and you want to be topical - but the last thing you want is to write an article that becomes redundant by the time its published!

As I write this, Boris Johnson has just won the confidence vote amongst Conservative MPs, so you will have guessed that it's Monday evening. By the time this article is published, I don't know whether Boris Johnson will still be Prime Minister or whether his colleagues will have  forced him to go.

I suspect it will be the former, because frankly, his Cabinet colleagues are not exactly the sum of all the talents - they have been picked for loyalty, not ability, and many of them would never be in the Cabinet without him as leader.

I'm going to take a risk though, and give you my views on what I think the confidence vote means.

On simple arithmetic, Boris Johnson has won the support of just under 60 percent of his MPs and stays in place for now. But when you compare his performance to that of Theresa May,  John Major, or Margaret Thatcher, he has done poorly.

Only 211 MPs support him, and there are more than 650 in the House of Commons. In other words, fewer than a third of MPs were willing to support him in the job as Prime Minister.

Now, I know of course that parties will sometimes unite after such a contest, and that this doesn't mean that he will be replaced after a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons itself. In terms of his authority as Prime Minister, though, it is quite frankly shot to pieces.

He now has no way of knowing whether any of his policies stand a chance of getting through the House of Commons, given the scale of the rebellion against him this week.

A more confident and able politician might be able to find some way to move forward from this vote, but I just don't see it in Johnson.

He has a great love of making big announcements without necessarily seeing them followed through. If we take levelling up as an example - it's a great catch phrase, but what does it mean? Can anybody point to any evidence that explains what it’s all about?

I can't see how he can change enough to win back a very divided party and win an election. He's wounded, and will now go into any election with a very disunited party. Those of us old enough to remember the 1997 election will see the parallels which led to a thumping Labour victory then.

In years gone by, senior figures in the Conservative Party would now be going to him and suggesting that he stand aside in favour of somebody who can unite his party. When Margaret Thatcher faced a no confidence vote, she won by a similar margin but was told that she could no longer continue in the role.

This was somebody who had a much bigger majority than Boris Johnson, and who had won three elections for her party. Despite winning that vote, and despite her electoral record, Thatcher had to leave office.

In those days, of course, there were people within her Cabinet and in her party at large who were able to take those steps. It's not clear that there are any people within the current Conservative Party who would act in the same way - for now, I suspect the PM will stumble on in the role.

It's difficult to see, however, how he can turn things around. From the shambles over the Owen Paterson affair to Partygate, he has shown that he has no self-awareness. 

As I said last week - it is in nobody's interests to have a Prime Minister whose authority is as weakened as his.

We face the greatest assault on living standards that we have seen for 40 years. We see the grinding war in Ukraine continue.

Let's examine what those who support him say he has done.

They say he was successful as a leader during COVID-19, yet at the beginning of the crisis he was anything but. He ignored all the warnings, kept on shaking people’s hands, while being slow to impose the kind of restrictions that were needed.


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It’s the same with Ukraine; Britain's military contributions have been admirable, and something I certainly agree with, but I don't think anybody can say that Britain is in the lead in terms of dealing with Putin.

Finally, the PM says that he has gotten Brexit done, yet that's far from the case. We still have the ongoing saga of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which means that a very large thread is still not tied off regarding the Brexit deal.

Perhaps I’m not the most objective judge, but I can't see how he can continue in office. A Prime Minister needs authority, dignity and trust. They are essential components of the role, and the Prime Minister has lost on all three counts.

In office but not in power, this Prime Minister will carry on as long as he can and at a time of crisis that is to everyone's detriment.

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