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The beginning of the end for Boris Johnson?  Probably not

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described his 211-148 margin of victory in Monday’s no-confidence vote as “decisive” and “conclusive”, but it’s neither. In 1990, Margaret Thatcher won by a similar margin (204-152), but opposition within Conservative ranks was enough to force her to retire. In 2018, Theresa May won by a wider margin (200-117), only to step down six months later. History suggests Monday’s vote leaves Mr Johnson mortally wounded. Still, these are unusual times, and he is an exceptional politician.

The vote was not about Mr Johnson’s politics, as messy and unpopular as they are. It was his greatest strength and his greatest weakness – his oversized personality – and his government’s handling of an unprecedented challenge, the Covid-19 pandemic. Its economic hangover shows few signs of easing and the mood in the UK, as in other western democracies, is sour. The bureaucrats who engineered the lockdowns and masking rituals are beyond the public’s ire, but the elected officials who followed their advice are vulnerable. As President Biden may find out in November, Mr Johnson’s humility is a taste of voter revenge.


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