The skids are now firmly under Prime Minister Johnson and his days in office are numbered. He may bluster his way out of his immediate predicament (I'd put the odds at about 50:50) but his chances of surviving in office through to the end of the year, never mind the parliament, must be less than 10%.
The surprising, and sad, thing is that he has survived so long. He was elected leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore appointed Prime Minister, In July 2019, so now, (at the end of January 2022), has held the office for a full 30 months. For most of that time he and his party have had a firm lead in the opinion polls, and it has only begun to crack in the last three month or so. How has he lasted so long?
The answer exposes the inadequacy of the British political system and culture.
It is not that we haven't had numerous and credible warnings that he and his style of leadership (or lack of one) make him totally unsuited for high office in the first place.
Among other things this was made abundantly clear by the resignations of not one but five of the most senior civil servants in his first few months. All were permanent secretaries, each the epitome of probity and responsibility, people of high intelligence and ability who had risen to the top in what was once regarded as the most efficient government operation in the world.
Each resignation was a powerful signal that the current operation was not a serious or suitable way to run a country.
Sir Philip Rutnam, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office, resigned February, 2020
Sir Mark Sidwell, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service (the grandest panjandrum of them all), resigned June 2020.
Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Secretary to the Foreign Office, announced his intention to resign, also in June 2020
Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Justice, resigned July 2020
Jonathon Slater, Permanent Secretary to the Department of Education, resigned August, 2020
These are not lightweights, or chancers or opportunists, but among the best qualified and most experienced administrators in the world.
A summary of the errors and failing of the Conservative Governments since 2010 is given in an earlier post.
Perhaps the real question is not "Why has Mr Johnson lasted so long as Prime Minister?" but "Why was he chosen for the office in the first place?"
An excellent article by Aditya Chakraborrty explores this.
The selection of a Conservative leader is in two stages. First the sitting MPs (at the time those elected under David Cameron's leadership in 2015) narrow the contenders among their numbers down to two "front runners." These MPs are the ones who, fully aware of Johnson's "on-off relationship with the truth," his profligacy with public money on silly projects as Mayor of London, his inadequacy as foreign secretary, put him on the ballot paper, solely becasue he had the "spark" of an election winner.
They should have known better.
The largely elderly, and comfortable, Tory party membership, with perhaps less excuse, gave him their confidence.
The UK's political problem is greater than Mr Johnson, and will not be solved whoever from the Tory ranks replaces him..
Our Labour Party, we Liberal Democrats, the Greens and many other parties agonise over our philosophies and beliefs, and what it is we actually want to do in government.
The Tories suffer no such agonies, they just want to be the government, and will say and do and say whatever it takes to win.
In the competition for winning, the public and media place personality over competence and beliefs. Hence the colourful "chancer" takes precedence over the stolid plodders.
Let us hope that, out of the disaster of the present government comes a realisation that for serious politics we need serious politicians.