Local news provides little comfort for Boris Johnson as confidence ebbs

Conservative MPs hoping to move on from the confidence vote in Boris Johnson found themselves being challenged in local media about their views.

Local journalists around the country sought to hold their local Tory MPs to account in the wake of the vote, which saw 41% of Tory MPs say they no longer had confidence in the PM.

The Dover Mercury revealed local MP Natalie Elphicke had backed Mr Johnson, with the MP urging colleagues to unite behind the PM now he had won.

The Folkstone and Hythe Express also splashed on the decision of local MP Damian Collins to back Mr Johnson, while the Kentish Express heard from MP Damian Green explained on the front page why he had turned on the PM and voted against.

The Farnham Herald got an exclusive article from Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary who ran against Mr Johnson for the leadership of the Tories last time, and who is widely tipped to be planning to run again if Mr Johnson is ousted.

Mr Hunt said: “Many of you have written to me greatly angered and upset about some of the things that have happened.

“Given we are at such a critical juncture in the Ukraine war, I did not want to have this debate right now.

“I therefore did not send in a letter to the 1922 Committee, nor encourage others to do so.

“I felt Monday was a moment when I needed to let everyone know where I stood — even though I knew some would disagree strongly with what I said. So with a heavy heart I said I did not believe the Conservatives were giving the country the leadership it deserved and that we were set to lose the next election if we did not change our leader.”

Many local news sites covered events in real-time, trying to pin down MPs on how they would be voting. Jamie Lopez of LancsLive attempted to round up what MPs in Lancashire would be doing. Lancashire is at the heart of the red wall the Tories need to keep hold of, yet four Tory MPs wouldn’t comment before the vote.

Many of Tuesday’s local newspapers led on the evening drama from Westminster. Few were as pointed as the Liverpool Echo:

Political Editor Liam Thorp wrote: “Boris Johnson may have clung on tonight, but he is unlikely to ever recover from these fatal wounds.

“Johnson is a shameless spinner. Let’s not forget that he saw the Sue Gray report — which to most people read like a damning indictment of his leadership, his character and the culture he created at the heart of government — as some sort of exoneration. He is a man who cannot handle being criticised, so when he is — he usually just acts as if it has not happened.”

“Some have commented on what a remarkable turnaround it is for a Prime Minister to coast to power with an 80 seat majority only to face a humbling vote of no confidence just two and half years later, but many will not be surprised. When you elect a man with a reputation for lying, misleading, bending the rules and acting with impunity — you were always likely to reach this point. It is shameful that it’s taken this long.”

If Tories weren’t surprised to find a lack of support from Merseyside, they certainly won’t have expected backing from Scotlands National newspaper — which is just as well:

For a prime minister whose administration have placed a lot of stock of being in touch with the regions of the UK, overall Tuesday’s papers made for bleak reading:

The Yorkshire Post splashed on Johnson’s result on Tuesday — followed by his plea to be allowed to get on with the job of running the country on Wednesday:

The Post’s leader column was particularly savage on the Prime Minister: “As a student of political history, Mr Johnson will know only too well that history has not been kind to his forbears when faced with a leadership challenge.

“Even in victory Mr Johnson is now heavily wounded. Likely by-election defeats this month in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton will further damage the beleaguered Tory leader.

“As the nation suffers its worst cost of living crisis in a generation, we must ask how much longer must the nation endure such ineffectual moral and political leadership?

“And more broadly, how long before the Queen is handed a Prime Minister worthy of the office?”

For every national news story there is normally a local one sitting within — and this week’s front page of the Uxbridge Gazette was a prime example of that. For the the free Gazette, Mr Johnson isn’t just the PM — he’s also their local MP. Naturally, he was front page news this week.

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

>> See the series so far, here

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