Mix of jeering and support from papers for PM
After a wretched first week in Parliament as Prime Minister, exacerbated by Thursday’s resignation of his MP brother Jo, Boris Johnson has come in for the expected mix of condemnation and support from the nation’s newspapers.
Some, including the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, used the review of the week to ramp up calls for an election to be called immediately.
The Daily Mirror, on the other hand, summed up the Tory leader in a banner headline: “Boris Johnson: Worst Prime Minister ever”.
The Daily Telegraph backed Mr Johnson to lead the country out of this time of turbulence, with a front page column using an analogy of how pilots come to the fore in rough weather.
And a Guardian opinion column drew another comparison, speaking of the four major votes Mr Johnson lost in the Commons this week over Brexit and his hopes of an early election.
“When a football team loses its first four games of the season, the manager’s job is on the line,” wrote columnist Martin Kettle. “Could the same thing happen with Boris Johnson’s prime ministership? It seems unlikely, so soon after the ousting of Theresa May. And yet politics, like football, is a results-driven game.”
The Times’s editorial said it was “hard to overstate the wretchedness of the position in which Boris Johnson finds himself”.
“Just three days into the parliamentary term, the prime minister has seen his majority shrink from one to minus 43, lost four votes out of four in the House of Commons, lost control of the parliamentary order paper and failed to secure his goal of an early election,” it said. “His MPs are in revolt … and his own brother has quit the government.
“As was once said of another beleaguered Tory prime minister (John Major), he is in office but not in power.”
Times columnist Philip Collins said Mr Johnson had, since taking office, peddled a “tiresome type of playground politics” based on “pretending to be the tough guy”.
He added: “When a member of the prime minister’s own family resigns … declaring that his brother can not be trusted with the national interest, you have to start to question the strategic genius of the team in charge.”
The Daily Mirror did not miss the opportunity to attack Mr Johnson while he seemed down.
“Even Boris’ own family don’t trust him,” the tabloid’s front page jeered, alongside reports on his brother’s resignation and a call from their sister, Rachel Johnson, for the PM to change his mind on crashing out of Europe.
The Daily Mirror’s editorial said Mr Johnson was “charging on with his reckless Brexit plans as he seeks to turn his party into a rump of right-wing zealots. We deserve much better than this talentless, pound shop Donald Trump and his shambles of a government.”
The Mail appeared to side with the Prime Minister by highlighting his brother’s alleged betrayal under a headline of: “Et Tu, Jo?”
“Even seasoned observers were yesterday left astounded by the self-serving tone of the younger Johnson’s stage-stealing intervention,” the Mail said.
The Daily Mail called for an early election, and the Daily Express concurred, saying in its editorial: “These are unprecedented times. But Boris Johnson is right, not Jo. We cannot move on until we leave the EU and then this country can return to normal politics and look forward to a bright future. For that to happen, the people’s voice must again be heard. Let’s get on with it and have the election that will finally resolve this crisis.”
Some told the story in headlines. The Metro’s front page featured “Blond leaving the blond”, along with “BoJo blow as bro Jo goes”.
But some were more supportive of the new PM, such as The Sun. Its editorial attacked Remainer MPs and called for an election to choose a better parliament, alongside a column on the alleged evils of Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
While the Daily Telegraph carried one inside report on Mr Johnson’s “bizarre” and “rambling” speech in Yorkshire on Thursday, its front page featured a column by Allison Pearson insisting he was the right man to lead Britain through its current troubles.
“None of this is easy for a PM whose default setting is mirth and buoyancy,” she wrote. “You could tell yesterday that his brother’s betrayal had hurt him.”
She added: “Boris Johnson is a patriot. He is ready and millions of us, whose voices are rarely reported, are grateful to him.
“Yes, it’s been a bumpy week but our captain is upping his game to power on through the turbulence. Fasten your seat belts!”