The Daily Express was today Boris Johnson’s only remaining unequivocal supporter on Fleet Street following the resignations of his Chancellor and Health Secretary.
The current crisis engulfing Johnson was prompted by a Mail on Sunday front page revealing that the prime minister knew about groping allegations against Chris Pincher two years before he appointed him deputy chief whip.
This led to speculation there had been a change of course at the Mail titles which, under the leadership of Ted Verity, have been supportive of Johnson.
Press Gazette analysis found that, uniquely on Fleet Street, Mail and Express coverage of the “Partygate” and Keir Starmer “Beergate” affairs were overwhelmingly positive for the government.
But yesterday (Monday) the Daily Mail reaffirmed its support for Johnson with a leader column stating: “Boris Johnson is still the best man to lead Britain.”
Today, the Mail’s coverage was far more critical of the prime minister. The front page of the UK’s best-selling daily said: “Can even Boris the Greased Piglet wriggle out of this?”
Today’s Daily Mail leader column suggests that support for Johnson from Verity and editor in chief Paul Dacre is wavering.
It said today: “…if Mr Johnson had tackled the Pincher accusations head on when they surfaced a week ago, they would have blown over. Instead, the vacillation, dissembling and denials of the pat few days turned them into a raging hurricane of recrimination…
“The truth is, none of these scandals would have been mortally damaging in isolation. But the cumulative effect, magnified with relish by the Boris-haters at the BBC, Sky and ITN, has been a sense of death by a thousand cuts.
“Mr Johnson’s tendency to be cavalier with the truth damages his authority — and hands ammunition to his enemies. He has been warned countless times that to avoid stepping on political landmines, he must embrace discipline and propriety. It is a lesson he has yet to learn.”
The normally pro-Boris Sun warns on its front page that the PM is in the “Last chance saloon”.
In its leader column the paper says: “The gravest blow yet was the astonishing Chris Pincher scandal. Downing Street should be ashamed of the pig’s ear it has made of handling that.”
It adds: “Boris seems concerned only with Ukraine, with making grand announcements that rarely become reality and with his own political survival. The Sun wants a government that delivers.”
It concludes that Johnson’s position will soon be “utterly untenable” unless he “delivers for the British people.”
Only the Daily Express today offered Johnson full-blooded support with a front page stating: “Boris fights on! Declaring…I’m now free to cut taxes.”
In its leader column the Express says of Johnson: “His will to win is his greatest weapon and he will relish the challenge of defying those who think him finished.”
Meanwhile the broadly centrist Times said simply in its leader column that it was “game over” for Johnson.
It said: “There is no conceivable chance that Mr Johnson, who failed to secure the backing of 148 MPs in a confidence vote last month, can recover his authority to provide the effective leadership that the country needs at a time of acute national crisis. Every day that he remains deepens the sense of chaos. For the good of the country, he should go.”
The Conservative-supporting Telegraph hints in its leader column that Johnson may need to go in order for the Government to repair itself.
It says: “The joint resignations of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have punched a hole in the heart of the Cabinet that will be impossible to repair, assuming the Prime Minister even tries…
“These are serious allegations from serious people. This is an existential crisis not just for Mr Johnson but for the Government and the Conservatives. For the good of the party and the country it needs to be resolved.”
Picture: Daily Mail