As Conservative MPs will have awoken early this morning and checked their phones for the news they knew was coming, their thoughts will be about the future.
They will have done the calculations in their heads about what would happen if they themselves were standing for election. All but a tiny number would be out of a job.
The extent of the losses in Tiverton and Wakefield were in line with expectations, but the sobering fact is that the Government has just recorded the worst by-election result of all time, with the Liberal Democrats comfortably overturning a 24,239 Tory majority.
Johnson’s strength, and the reason he got the top job, was because he convinced MPs he was a winner; he proved it too in the December 2019 election with the 80+ majority he won, and then only a year ago when he overturned Labour in Hartlepool in a stunning by-election success. But this morning his colleagues witness a Prime Minster that has seemingly lost his key superpower.
The question now is how organised have Johnson’s critics become since their underwhelming show following the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister at the beginning of the month.
As I write, the signs are worrying for Johnson. The first cabinet minister has gone in time for the morning media round.
Oliver Dowden, the popular Party Chairman, has pointed the finger at the Prime Minister in his resignation letter.
As chairman, Dowden nominally had responsibility for the campaign and could have been held in reserve as a sacrificial lamb – that’s no longer an option. How many more resignation letters have been penned?
Westminster is buzzing with rumours about some big beasts about to jump ship. Ministers amassed at the summer party of the year last night at the US Ambassador’s residence for an early celebration of their Independence Day; talk there was of little else.
Johnson – currently in Kigali, Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government get-together – is vulnerable. History is filled with emboldened plots while leaders are distracted overseas. Margaret Thatcher was in Paris when Tory MPs really finished her premiership off.
Politics is all about momentum and, if the resignations continue, the Prime Minister might return to the UK to find the road has run out.