The greased piglet oinks again (for the time being)

It was always going to be inevitable the moment that it was announced that the threshold had been reached and enough Conservative MPs had written to the chair of the back bench 1922 Committee to trigger a formal vote of confidence in the Prime Law Breaker that Douglas Ross would do a U-turn on his U-turn and decide that he did want Johnson to go after all. It was also inevitable that this unprincipled lightweight straw blowing in the Tory wind would cite his “good faith” as the reason why he had changed his mind about changing his mind. This is the man who likes to claim that he will be the next First Minister of Scotland, steering the nation into a resolutely British future, but he’s unable even to steer himself into a consistent position on his own party’s leader.

The response from the British nationalist frothers who make up the cheer leaders for the Scottish Tories on social media was telling. They are not at all happy that the Scottish Tories are no longer backing Johnson and some are even threatening to withdraw their support from the Scottish branch office in order to support the UK Conservatives instead, although quite how that is going to work in an election in a Scottish constituency I’m none too sure, and I suspect neither are the spittle flecked British nationalists on social media, but then inchoate anger is their default state.

In his speech to Conservative MPs prior to the vote as he attempted to persuade them to back him, Johnson told Tory MPs that failing to support him in a vote of no confidence would make way for Labour to enter a coalition with the SNP, a scare tactic that worked well for the Conservatives in England in the General Election of 2015. It’s a scare that the Conservative commentator Tim Montgomery repeated on Sky News. Scottish independence and Nicola Sturgeon live in Conservative heads for free. Johnson has also reportedly been speaking individually to Conservative MPs making all sorts of promises in return for their vote. You’d think that they would have learned by now that a promise from Boris Johnson is not worth the breath it takes to utter.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron once famously described Johnson as a “greased piglet” because of Johnson’s ability to slip out of trouble, and Cameron was allegedly intimately familiar with pigs. Although Johnson has yet again slipped through this latest self-inflicted difficulty, the Conservative party is now deeply divided and polls suggest that the party could be headed for catastrophic defeats in the Wakefield and Honiton by elections which are due on 23 June. Wakefield is one of the so-called Red Wall seats which the Conservatives took from Labour in the December 2019 General Election. If it returns to Labour with a significant majority, it could be a sign that the Conservatives would be in serious trouble in a General Election.

Meanwhile in the solidly Conservative seat of Honiton the Lib Dems are hopeful that they could see one of the shock by-election victories which they have a history of delivering when there is an unpopular incumbent in Downing Street.

The victory for Johnson most certainly does not put the question of Johnson’s leadership to rest. Now that Johnson has squeezed through this challenge to his position, he is theoretically safe for another twelve months, but that does not mean that his leadership is secure. He squeezed through this vote because there is currently no clear successor to him. When 148 of your own MPs vote that they have no confidence in you, your leadership is holed below the water line. That is more than voted against Theresa May when she faced a no confidence vote. Johnson has lost the confidence of a majority of the so called non-payroll vote. Johnson of course has no intention of resigning, and the Conservative party is now in for a protracted period of internecine warfare. Pass the popcorn. 41% of Johnson’s own MPs have no confidence in him.

If a successor comes into focus and cabinet ministers start to resign, the Conservatives will find some way of getting rid of him no matter what their own party’s leadership contest rules say. If there is one thing we know about the Tories it’s that they do not believe that rules apply to them, even their own rules.

But Johnson is not the only Conservative leader who is in trouble. Douglas Ross now finds himself lumbered with a UK party leader in whom he has made a public declaration of no confidence not once but twice. If Ross has a shred of integrity left he will resign, although we know the answer to that question because if he had had a shred of integrity in the first place he would never have gone along with Ruth Davidson’s undemocratic plot to oust Jackson Carlaw, the elected leader of the Scottish Conservatives and replace him with Ross, and he would never have performed the humiliating U-turn that he has now in an unprecedented feat of humiliation squared U-turned on again. Mind you I wouldn’t put it past Ross to U -turn yet again.

If Ross does not resign his own colleagues will have to depose him as he deposed Jackson Carlaw. Either Ross goes or Johnson goes, they can’t both stay in post, and Monday evening’s vote means that Johnson is going nowhere, at least for now.

Andrew Bowie, David Mundell, Douglas Ross and John Lamont have all voted against Johnson. Alister Jack, has declared that he’s voting for Johnson, a decision not unrelated to the fact that he’s out on his ear as Scotland Secretary the second that Johnson goes. That just leaves David Duguid who is keeping very quiet and hoping that no one notices him, which to be fair is what usually happens with David Duguid. That means that a majority of the Conservatives’ reduced cohort of Scottish MPs have now gone public to say that they have no confidence in the man that they insist should be the Prime Minister of Scotland.

What we are now likely to see over the coming months is a British Government which is dedicated to the single goal of shoring up Johnson’s position. Johnson is safe from another leadership challenge for another twelve months but he and his allies will be using that time to reinforce his position and isolate his internal critics. That means we can expect more of the right wing Anglo British populist and tax cutting policies which will appeal to Johnson’s Brexit supporting base. We can expect to see more needless fights being picked with the European Union and the British Government unilaterally tearing up the Northern Irish protocol.

We can also expect to see another change of leadership in the Scottish Tories as they try to convince themselves that they still have some relevance and influence in a UK party whose leader most of them have rejected. It’s a tough sell for the Scottish Tories to convince Scotland that it is better off with Westminster when the Scottish Tories themselves have so publicly disavowed their own Westminster leader and the Prime Minister of the UK. The turmoil in the Tories will only strengthen the case for an independent Scotland with more robust mechanisms in place for dealing with a law breaking leader and bolstering democratic safeguards.

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44 comments on “The greased piglet oinks again (for the time being)

  1. yesindyref2 says:

    This little piggy left the Market,

    This little piggy ate home rule,

    This little piggy had parties,

    This little piggy had none, honest guv.

    This little piggy went …

    Wee, wee, wee,
    back to number 10!

  2. Hamish100 says:

    Paul, re challenging Johnson is limited for another 12 months. Listening to radio earlier a Tory worthy felt that the 1922 committee are able to change the time. They are ruthless and if they think they may lose the next U.K. GE, they will do anything to stop this.
    Scotland is fortunate to have a leader such as The FM.

  3. James Mills says:

    Johnson , rather than ”getting on with the day job ” ( allegedly he is the PM of the UK ) , was so concerned with saving his own worthless hide today that he discourteously failed to meet the Estonian PM on the doorstep of No 10 .

    Normally a visiting head of Government would be met outside No 10 for photos – not so Ms Kaja Kallas , the PM of Estonia who visited today .

    The piglet was too busy twisting arms and bribing his fellow ”honourable members ” to back him in the confidence vote that he couldn’t be arsed to take a minute to meet his Estonian counterpart at the door .
    Or perhaps he thought she was just another chum of Carries dropping in for a natter and hoping for a well-paid sinecure from the Public Purse ?

  4. bringiton says:

    He needs the support of the right wingers even more and will have to put greater efforts into EU law burning activities.
    However,his new Red Wall voters won’t be too happy with the inevitable scrapping of employment laws and social securities.
    Don’t think there wiill be any snap Westminster elections in the offing.
    A good time for us to do do something about parting company with them.

  5. Capella says:

    A stream of Tories on R4 tonight expressing varying stages of grief and anxiety. Nobody sounded happy. It must be like being trapped in a lift with Boris Johnston. Desperate to get away from him but forced to make small talk for an indefinite period.
    Can’t say I feel sorry for them.

  6. Alex Clark says:

    On top of the two by-elections, he still has the investigation as to whether he misled parliament over partygate to come. Chances are that 40% of the Tories on that committee voted for him to go tonight.

    Labour are going to ask for a vote in parliament to overturn the changes that Johnson made to the Ministerial Code, they probably won’t win that vote if they even get one but if the committee finding is that he did knowingly mislead parliament then he should resign.

    Will he?

    • Tam the Bam says:

      Depends how bitter the 41% feel.

    • Drew Anderson says:

      “…Labour are going to ask for a vote in parliament to overturn the changes that Johnson made to the Ministerial Code…”

      I don’t see what that hopes to achieve.

      The ministerial code is relatively new; there was a forerunner under Major and the first one called “the ministerial code” was Blair’s. Each new Prime Minister issues their own version of the code.

      Normally it’s issued a the start of a Premiership, so Johnson altering his is probably unprecedented (I haven’t checked); but I wouldn’t be surprised though, given his known attitude to norms and conventions.

      However, the ministerial code is issued by the Prime Minister (who is also the sole arbiter of whether it has been breached, or not); its contents haven’t ever been a parliamentary matter.

      Not that it matters a flying fornication what’s in it anyway, Johnson will just do what suits him. The only reason he changed its terms was to avoid awkward questions. He’s already proved he doesn’t care what’s in it often enough; Patel’s bullying of staff being but one example.

  7. Tam the Bam says:

    Johnson on being interviewed after the vote:

    “What about Partygate….any regrets?”
    Johnson: ” I would do it over again.”

    Not exact quote so apologies for any out of context.

  8. Alex Clark says:

    The thing that will get to him most is if he is booed whenever he appears in public, like he was during the Jubilee. He’s already hid in a fridge, any more booing and he might not show his face in public again.

  9. Tam the Bam says:

    When I heard 4 out of the 6 Scots tories voted against Johnson I assumed they were Ross/Lamont/Mundell and Duguid.
    Quelle suprise when I heard it was DUGUID and Jack that were voting IN FAVOUR.
    Always had Bowie down for a dead cert Bodger vote.

  10. Derek says:

    Duguid voted in favour of Johnson, I believe.

  11. Tam the Bam says:

    Just saw the headlines in tomorrows papers.


  12. Tam the Bam says:

    Also…apologies Paul for not having read your piece before I raced to the keyboard.
    Had I done so I would indeed have noticed you indicated Bowie had voted against Johnson and Duguid for.
    I’ve installed myself on the naughty-step thereby saving you the bother.

  13. Hamish100 says:

    Still all normal at the Herald. McKenna claiming the SNP are tartan tories. Yip that old chestnut as labour props the tories up around Scotland’s councils.
    Seems McKenna is losing his independence facade to return to his unionist labour fold. I hope The National stops using his articles. He belongs with their sister paper. Red Tory without question.

    • Dr Jim says:

      McKenna writes what he’s paid to write although he would support Nicola Sturgeon to the hilt if she was Mr Nicola Sturgeon

      It’s this woman thing he has trouble with, it just doesn’t sit right with a pretendy union Labour man to support a woman, he doesn’t really understand about women who aren’t at home doing home things

  14. Not-My-Real-Name says:

    Great piece Paul..

  15. Bob Lamont says:

    Aye, you nailed that one…

    Johnson almost guaranteed he would continue to lead the Tories by ensuring his cabinet were packed with even greater incompetence than he exhibits – Any who showed the slightest possibility of replacing him met with an “unfortunate accident” – Niccolò Machiavelli would have felt right at home in London Politics generally and the Tory Party in particular…

    What will sting Johnson most is the numbers who voted no confidence – Following the public’s expressed displeasure on recent public appearances, if he is no longer found amusing by the electorate or Tory MPs, he is on slippery ground – Tory backers put him in position because his schtick was convincing, when that advantage disappears he will also meet with an “unfortunate accident”.

    Carjack will be having a quiet smirk as what comes around goes around….

  16. Capella says:

    Knives out now for Douglas Ross for opposing the Prime Liar.

    The Majority calls on Douglas Ross to resign over opposition to Boris Johnson

    ARCH-UNIONIST group The Majority has demanded that Douglas Ross stand down as Scottish Tory leader after he opposed the Prime Minister in a no-confidence vote won by Boris Johnson.

    After enough letters were sent to the 1922 Committee to trigger a vote of confidence on Johnson by Tory MPs, and following months of U-turns by Ross, the branch office boss said he would cast his ballot to oust his UK leader.

    However, Johnson ran out the victor with 211 Conservative MPs giving him their support – four Scottish Tory MPs were among the 148 opposing him.

    • Dr Jim says:

      It’ll have to be “who supports the PM? right you’re in charge” proving conclusively the Tories in Scotland most definitely indubitably positively choose their own leader for sure no doubt about it hand on heart we do

  17. Capella says:

    Nicola may be stating the obvious, but somebody has to. What a dire state the UK is in and, unfortunately, we are still in it. There is no prospect of any alternative.

    Boris Johnson is ‘lame duck PM’ after 148 Tory MPs vote against him, Nicola Sturgeon says

    Johnson rejected the assertion that he was now a lame duck prime minister who needed to call a snap election to secure a new mandate from the public, insisting he was focused on the public’s priorities.

    The Prime Minister told reporters in Downing Street: “I think it’s an extremely good, positive, conclusive, decisive result which enables us to move on, to unite and to focus on delivery and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

    • Alex Clark says:

      Even Johnson doesn’t believe his own lies and knows it was a terrible result.

      • Capella says:

        The entire political class in the UK is bankrupt of ideas. More austerity, more BREXIT, more war, more sanctions, more lies and mendacity.
        Alistair Jack is “moving on”. Where? Are we moving on? I hope so 🙂

  18. davetewart says:

    Had a quick look at the scotman’s letters page.
    A councillor from englandland says that the tories should put Dross in drowning street as he is an honest politician.
    Boddy was his name, has the scotsman turned into a comic, appears so.

  19. Tatu3 says:

    Some tories in interviews today saying if there was to be a snap ge then tories would most likely lose to a Labour/SNP coalition. Is that something the SNP are likely to consider, or is it a tory scare story? Thanks

    • Bob Lamont says:

      Of course it’s a Tory scare story, both of the main UK parties have played this “SNP bogeyman” game many times before, “Tartan Tories” one of the earliest when Labour were terrified of losing their grip on Scotland and many times since.

      The Tories were terrified before that they were going to be punished over Brexit and the Prime Charlatan’s “habits”, now they are even more terrified that they’re seen to allow him to continue at threat to their own careers, so they need a diversionary “enemy” within the UK.

      SNP have one job, Independence for Scotland – Why on earth would they align with either of the parties which seeks to prevent it at all costs ?
      Pitchforks an Torches…

      • Tatu3 says:

        Thanks. That’s what I thought. I am an SNP member and hadn’t read/heard anything but was beginning to doubt myself as have heard it so many times today, thought I’d got it wrong.

    • Dr Jim says:

      It also makes a nonsense of the accusation that Scottish Independence is about being anti English when it’s the English politicians who use the SNP as a scare tactic proving that the bias is actually theirs, and it is in fact England that is anti Scottish in the same way they’re anti German, Irish, Welsh, and anybody else you care to think of

      Scotland has been run by English politicians based in Englands Westminster parliament for over 300 years, we’re used to it, but the very thought of the reverse scares the English to death, we’re as foreign and unwanted by them for the same reason as Brexit was to get rid of European foreigners, unless England can own the place, namely Scotland

      England doesn’t like any foreigners unless they have money England can use or can kick a ball or bat a ball or run fast so they can claim ownership of them and call them British

  20. Hamish100 says:

    Or can play curling as team Gb. Do well, then you get an empire biscuit

  21. Alex Clark says:

    The Scottish Government has published their legal advice on Indyref2 that the Information Commissioner said they should after they found for The Scotsman who had made an FOI request.

    The advice is from 2019 and appears to have already taken place with regards to the testing of the referendum question and whether or not the Scottish government could spend money in preparation for a 2nd referendum.

    So since we have had around a dozen or so civil servants working on this for at least a year it seems like the legal advice was correct. I suspect the Scotsman and lots of Unionists are going to be very disappointed in what has been published today, oh dear.

    Scottish Government can work on independence and test referendum question, states indyref2 legal advice

  22. As expected.

    I cannot for the life of me see how a consultative vote just like 2014 or 2016 -under the 2020 Referendums Act – the result of which would change nothing in law – could be somehow illegal.

    Scottish independence referendum: Legal advice published by SNP government

    THE Scottish Government has published legal advice it has received on Holyrood’s ability to hold a second independence referendum.

    The documents show the Scottish Government is able to “lawfully” work on proposals for independence and call for transfers of power, according to opinions given by law officers in late 2019.

    It further implies that “preparation of a bill”, presumably related to a second independence referendum, would also be legal.

  23. Golfnut says:

    Remember this advice is based on the SG’s powers as defined by the Scotland Acts, it doesn’t reflect the UK govs limitations as defined by the Treaty of Union.

  24. Capella says:

    The advice is useful to have – in duplicate – and backs up the Scottish Government’s work in preparing the Referendum, framing the question, putting a bill through Holyrood and asking for a S30 transfer of power. It doesn’t say anything about what would happen if Westminster refuses this transfer of power, unless I missed something?

  25. Dr Jim says:

    As it stands any country in the UK can have a referendum on pretty much anything it wants because all referendums are consultative and not legal results until those results are agreed as legal by the UK government who can deny implementation on those grounds, the difference here is this particular referendum on the constitution of the UK cannot be implemented without agreement as those are the powers the UK legally hold even though the UK has no written constitution for exactly this sort of reason

    Basically the UK set itself up as a benign dictatorship from the start with England running the show so that whatever they decide can become law by weight of numbers and the rest of the UK, that’s Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, are locked into the subservient position of being powerless to change that law, but of course politics isn’t about the law it’s about perception of the spirit of democracy and peoples desires and the rights to freedom of expression which nowadays are underlined by organisations such as the UN of which the UK is a member

    So on the face of it it appears the UK government cannot prevent Scotland engaging in a plebiscite referendum because if they attempt to do that then the world sees England publicly for what it is, a dictatorship, the same applies following the result of the referendum if the vote is in the affirmative, if the UK government refuse to acknowledge and agree to the necessary power transfers from Westminster to Holyrood again they are seen as a dictator state for refusing to proceed with the negotiations

    In the end how does the English government of the UK reconcile the appearance of a democratic state demanding that the rights of freedom and democracy of Ukraine be upheld and even fought for yet simultaneously blocking those same equal rights of the Scottish nation following a free and fair vote on their own freedom from a state they wish to leave

    The unionists and the Alba party are screaming about the law and legal sovereignty when really neither of those things should apply in this situation and we wouldn’t want them to, if you try to invent an enshrining law over such events then those against Independence will do their absolute best to create even more difficulties in proceeding with further such acts in the future should the next one fail and the next generation would have no entitlement whatsoever to proceed again thus denying democracy to our children and grandchildren by making the same mistake those who sold us into this union made when they did it to us

    The long and the short of it is we can’t beat England using a law, because they keep inventing new ones, we can’t beat England using legitimate force because we don’t posses such force, we don’t want to become what the English would term as terrorists if we just killed a whole bunch of them and blew them so we use the worlds condemnation of their undemocratic position as a dictator state against them and thankfully our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been working full time since the moment she was appointed to achieve just that by collecting educating and cultivating the allies Scotland will need to see this to the result we want and need

    When Scotland becomes independent then is the time we can blow England up, but economically, in respect of showing the people of England what they could’ve won if only they’d behaved like civilised human beings for the last 300 years as Scotland progresses and they decline

    Anyway that’s my tuppence worth as to how I reckon it works, but I can be as wrong as the next guy, I just hope I’m not too far away from being close

    • Old Pete says:

      Once again can anyone tell me if my local council South Ayrshire refuse to take part in the referendum? How do we make councils take part in the new referendum, if they say it is not legal for the Scottish government to make them as they will say Westminster trumps Holyrood. So how do we hold a referendum with all our country taking part.

      • Alex Clark says:

        What excuse could any council have for refusing to comply with their requirement to facilitate a legal referendum called by the Scottish Government? If any officials refused to comply they could be replaced with others who would allow the Scottish people to have their say, as would be their right.

        But it’s a fair point Old Pete, Westminster would love nothing more than to be able to declare the referendum as being illegal and tell officials and voters that support the Union to refuse to take part. That’s precisely what happened in Catalonia and the reason Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will not fall into that trap. That’s why we need to build International support now for our democratic right to choose our own future, our Independence might depend on it if Westminster keeps ignoring democracy.

        • grizebard says:

          While a boycott by Unionists of a non-WM approved referendum is a possibility, their absence just counts like any other abstention. Arguably even worse for them, because a no-show would be widely regarded as an implicit a priori admission of defeat.

          In any case, all sorts of mischief can (and likely will) be conjured-up after a “yes” result of a consultative referendum, even one where a considerable portion of Unionists do take part. Tht;s the real potential “sticking point”. But that’s far more of a problem for UKGov than for Scotland. For the reasons that Dr. Jim gives upthread, and for which Nicola has been assiduously working internationally as a kind of “insurance policy”, as you mention. But it was precisely to avoid UK-wide instability the last time that Cameron was ultimately obliged to accede to a WM-sanctioned referendum, because he could see that one was coming anyway, whether he liked it or not.

          That’s the realpolitik at the heart of all the current “positioning” re IR2, on both sides. Convince London that a referendum is going to happen no matter what, and all its Unionist media-puffed up bluff is called.

      • grizebard says:

        You appear to be seriously misinformed. No local council “takes part” (as you put it) in an election or referendum. The Electoral Commission appoints returning officers to oversee the count in each place. As it happens, they are typically also local authority employees, presumably because they have the expertise, but there’s no requirement that they be so. Their standing is strictly independent. Likewise, although it’s often local authority premises (eg. schools) that are used as polling stations, there is no need that they be so. Anywhere would do. Even a marquee, if need be.

        So no local authority has the power to effectively “veto” a legally-valid consultative referendum instigated by an Act of Parliament, as you seem to suggest. The difficulty you seem to be trying to establish here is a phantom. Just like most all the other Unionist scare stories promoted in the media. When this is ordered to happen, it will happen.

      • Dr Jim says:

        South Ayrshire council can *say* the sky is red white and blue but it doesn’t make it so, plus it’s a council in Scotland not an English consulate and is there to serve all Ayrshire constituents not just those it likes, so unless South Ayrshire council are a separate legal entity unto themselves from the rest of Scotland, whatever instructions they might be given in respect of legislation passed by the Scottish government they must legally carry out wae their lip tremblin or they get replaced, them’s the rules

  26. yesindyref2 says:

    Councils refusing to co-operate with a lawful referendum – which is one passed by the Scottish Parliament and which received Royal Assent whether after unsuccessful challenges, or in the absence of one?)

    “Referendums (Scotland) Act 2020”

    (9) The Chief Counting Officer may—

    (a)appoint such staff,

    (b)require a council to provide, or ensure the provision of, such property, staff and services,

    as may be required by the Chief Counting Officer for the carrying out of the Chief Counting Officer’s functions.

    (10)The council for the local government area for which a counting officer is appointed must provide, or ensure the provision of, such property, staff and services as may be required by the counting officer for the carrying out of the counting officer’s functions.

    Not ssure what the penalties would be if the Council or its Councillors or officres broke that law, there’s this in that Act:


    Schedule 6 makes provision about offences in or in connection with the referendum.
    36Individual culpability for offending by an organisation

    (1)Subsection (2) applies where—

    (a)an offence under this Act is committed by—

    (i)a body corporate,

    (ii)a Scottish partnership, or

    (iii)an unincorporated association other than a Scottish partnership, and

    (b)the commission of the offence involves the connivance or consent of, or is attributable to the neglect of—

    (i)a relevant individual, or

    (ii)an individual purporting to act in the capacity of a relevant individual.

    (2)The individual (as well as the body corporate, partnership or (as the case may be) association) commits the offence.

    (3)In subsection (1), “relevant individual” means—

    (a)in relation to a body corporate (other than a limited liability partnership)—

    (i)a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body,

    (ii)where the affairs of the body are managed by its members, a member,

    (b)in relation to a limited liability partnership, a member,

    (c)in relation to a Scottish partnership, a partner,

    (d)in relation to an unincorporated association other than a Scottish partnership, a person who is concerned in the management or control of the association.

    I think I read elsewhere ages ago that prosecutions could be made.

    Interfering with an election or referendum, legitimatge ballots, is a big offence and for some things can involve prison sentences, so if councillors want to become criminals – on you go.

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