Johnson accused of hiding as cabinet, Cummings and Patel take flack

Thursday 27th February 2020

Brexit has penetrated every nook and cranny of the UK’s political landscape for the lat four years.

Many would argue that this obsession has been to the detriment of business and more specifically of domestic services, and it was the focus on this agenda that many would argue won Johnson the general election and captured the attention of Labour voters in the North.

However, with European trade talks on the horizon, extensive flooding from Herefordshire to Yorkshire, and the global concerns over coronavirus, it seems that the prime minister has gone into hiding.

Boris is a colourful figurehead, or mascot, for the Tories but it appears his apparent noble desire to push cabinet government, now that he is ensconced in Number 10, is causing widespread discomfort on the backbenches.

There was no sign of the PM visiting flood victims in recent days, no taking the helm over coronavirus, in fact when he did appear in the Houses of Parliament this week, he was almost greeted like a long lost cousin.

In fact, although many in the Tory party have been focusing their ire about policy and day to day management of the party at the feet of Dominic Cummings, there is a murmur that in fact this is a strategic move by the PM to absolve himself of criticism.

Cummings consistently comes under media scrutiny for his so-called maverick ways, pilloried for his apparent misuse of power, but somehow the criticism stops there and deflects any responsibility from the man who employed him.

Similarly, after the latest immigration rules, unveiled by Home Secretary Priti Patel met anger from the business community, it was Patel who was regarded as hard-nosed and ‘difficult’, not the administration as a whole.

Currently it is, of course, the coronavirus that is coursing through every media headline, with panic about a potential pandemic, gripping the nation.

However, it is not the prime minister who is emerging as the father-figure to quell these fears, but rather a timid Matt Hancock, who is fending off the questions from the Opposition.

Many Conservative MPs are definitely uncomfortable about the effects the new immigration rules will have on business, and the power of Cummings, but it appears that for now the PM has cleverly removed himself from any blame by sitting back on his haunches. He is not only leaving others to deliver unpopular news, but has distanced himself from their messages, by not engaging with the issues.

Tory backbenchers like Damian Green, David Davis and Stephen Crabbe are already voicing their displeasure in the House, but currently having fallen out of favour with Johnson some time ago,  are not proving to be any threat to his position.

However, while this strategy may be insulating No 10 at the moment from any controversy, if this pattern were to continue, it is likely that the dissent would grow and Boris Johnson would be held to account by a swathe of Conservatives, especially if the coronavirus takes hold.

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