All but one of Cornwall’s Conservative MPs voted on 6 June to back a law-breaking prime minister and thereby brought themselves and their party into even greater disrepute. Their constituents’ reactions ranged from derision to weary despair, as Tom Scott describes.
First to tweet in support of Britain’s worst prime minister in modern history after the vote of confidence was announced that morning was Scott Mann, MP for North Cornwall.
Perhaps remembering the occasion on which he had to be rescued from drowning by his fellow Tory MP Johnny Mercer after jumping off a boat despite not being able to swim (he had been too embarrassed to admit this), Mr Mann decided not to rely on his own command of the English language but instead to share a tweet from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, in which she declared that the Prime Minister had her “100% backing” thanks to “delivering on Covid recovery and supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression”.
That Britain has the highest inflation and is forecast to have the poorest economic performance of any country in the G7 were not facts likely to have troubled Mr Mann, even if he were aware of them. Nor were the lavish donations and hospitality that Boris Johnson has received from Kremlin-linked oligarchs, which sit oddly with the prime minister’s supposedly heroic opposition to Putinism.
Mr Mann’s constituents were singularly unimpressed by his stance, and many tweeted the hapless former postman to say so. One of them, Parkinson’s nurse Emma Edwards, did so from a nursing conference she was attending and stressed that her feelings were shared by her fellow nurses.
An hour later, Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) declared her support for the embattled PM. She did at least use her own words, though these were terse even by Twitter standards.
Ms Murray had evidently decided it was best not to describe in any detail her reasons for continuing to trust in a man who has lied so prolifically to MPs, wives, and indeed the entire country. And – perhaps having seen the response to Scott Mann and Liz Truss on Twitter – nor was she keen to discuss these reasons with her constituents. In fact, she disabled Twitter’s reply function to ensure that she would not be troubled by their reactions.
Former UKIP candidate George ‘Useless’ Eustice has been defending the nation’s foremost liar and hypocrite in endless rounds of media interviews, like a poodle highly trained in the art of dishonest public relations. So it was unsurprising that by mid-morning he should have released a statement: “George supports the Prime Minister. It is right that he has apologised for the failings that occurred but there are important issues that the government must focus on now.”
Mr Eustice did not elaborate on how the continued presence of a shamelessly dishonest lawbreaker in Number 10 would aid the government in focusing on the dramatic rise in extreme poverty, the accelerating climate emergency or the war in Ukraine. Nor was he able to come up with any more convincing answers when interviewed on the hoof in Westminster by Femi Oluwole.
At midday, Cherilyn Mackrory lived up to her growing reputation as one of Cornwall’s most gormless elected representatives (in a very strong field) with a tweet of outstanding vacuousness.
Ms Mackrory’s attempt to blame the Prime Minister’s dishonesty on the pandemic left her constituents angry and baffled in equal measure.
One of these, Debbie Hardy, responded:
“As a constituent I disagree. It is not a media driven Westminster soap opera. People are still furious, hence the booing. The more Mr Johnson and his supporters try to portray this as a fuss over a slice of cake, the more out of touch they appear to the electorate.”
Penryn resident Fiona Campbell-Howes was one of many to note that voters would not forget Ms Mackrory’s failure to uphold standards in public life:
“You are out at the next election – this is a disgraceful betrayal of your own constituents who followed the rules and made unimaginable sacrifices to keep people safe, while the PM you’re backing broke them left right and centre, and then lied about it to you and us.”
An hour later Steve Double MP (St Austell and Newquay) issued a more elaborate – indeed preposterously pompous – explanation for the way he intended to vote.
Even for such a legendarily charmless windbag as Mr Double, this was a remarkable farrago of nonsense. Johnson’s “oven ready” Brexit deal is a disaster. The so-called “shared prosperity” money is a tiny fraction of the EU funding that Cornwall lost through Brexit (despite Johnson’s promise that this would be made up “pound for pound”). The G7 meeting in Cornwall was a pointless PR exercise that burned massive amounts of fossil fuel and caused damage to the environment at Carbis Bay. The government’s “support” for the many people facing rising levels of extreme poverty in Cornwall is pathetically inadequate.
Neither were Mr Double’s constituents impressed by his crowing about the millions spaffed on Richard Branson’s vanity spaceport and on the destruction of Cornwall’s natural environment by yet more road-building.
Chris Turner Rowe responded on Twitter:
“Brexit isn’t done. 180k Britons are dead. 40 hospitals aren’t built. Life expectancy is falling. Poverty is rife. Food bank use is exponential. The NHS is on its knees. Inequality is worse than ever. Teens are being sent to Rwanda. But yeah, sure. The big calls right.”
The only one of Cornwall’s Tory MPs absent from this chorus of sycophants was Derek Thomas (St Ives). Mr Thomas had previously suggested that “If the inquiry or the Metropolitan police find that the alleged activities were illegal and that the PM knew this, or was involved, then I think he should consider his position.”
It’s not clear whether Mr Thomas felt it necessary to help Johnson towards such consideration by voting against him tonight. Perhaps he saw it as safer not to make any definite statement, in case this might attract unwelcome attention from the Tory whips and make any prospect of political promotion even more distant.
Sadly for Mr Thomas, his pusillanimity is unlikely to endear him to voters in St Ives. And the survival of Boris Johnson as a dead duck PM can only make Thomas’s seat – and indeed all the seats currently held by the Conservatives in Cornwall – even more vulnerable at the next election.
Voters in Cornwall can see very clearly, along with 148 Tory MPs, that Number 10 is still occupied by a man wholly unfit for public office. And they will not forgive the MPs who have betrayed truth and decency to help him cling on to power.