Boris Johnson’s Masterclass in Political Instability: 2019-22

Boris Johnson is now officially a ‘has-been’. His rejection by Conservatives MPs confirmed this in the October 2022 leadership ‘contest’. A legacy of bad government lives on. Johnson preferred incompetent people who didn’t threaten him. Only five cabinet members lasted three years in the same post. Cabinets were churned. Churning prevented overly strong, competent, ministers who knew what they were doing providing an alternative agenda. Only Priti Patel, Home Secretary, completed three years in a senior cabinet post. The Chancellorship changed hands three times and there were two Foreign Secretaries. This isn’t trivial. Policy was out-sourced to civil servants. David Frost is the worst example of this. He *negotiated* the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is a constitutional disaster.

Domestic politics under Johnson was incoherent and international politics was reduced to a mixture of tourism and photo-opportunities. This was especially true of Johnson’s repeated *visits* to Ukraine in 2022 as he was fighting for his political life. Johnson has delusions of being a latter-day Churchill.

Churchill’s wartime cabinet was, “A total of sixteen ministers [who] held war cabinet membership at various times in Churchill’s ministry. There were five at the outset of whom two, Churchill and Attlee, served throughout the ministry’s entire term.”1 Sixteen cabinet members in five war years.

Addendum (1): Ministerial changes during Johnson’s premiership

Prime Minister: Boris Johnson
Chancellor: (1) Sajid Javid2; (2) Rishi Sunak2; (3) Nadhim Zahawi3
Home Secretary: Priti Patel2;
Foreign Secretary: (1) Dominic Raab2; (2) Liz Truss3
Brexit Secretary: Stephen Barclay3 (This cabinet post was deleted after he left)
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: (1) Michael Gove2; (2) Greg Clark2
Defence Secretary: Ben Wallace
International Trade Secretary: (1) Liz Truss3; (2) Anne-Marie Trevelyan3
Health & Social Care Secretary: (1) Matt Hancock2; (2) Sajid Javid2; (3) Steve Barclay3
Environment Secretary: (1) Theresa Villiers2; (2) George Eustice2
Education Secretary: (1) Gavin Williamson2; (2) Nadhim Zahawi3
Culture Secretary: (1) Nicky Morgan2; (2) Oliver Dowden2; (3) Nadine Dorries2
Business Secretary: (1) Andrea Leadsom2; (2) Alok Sharma3; (3) Kwasi Kwarteng3
Housing and Communities Secretary: (1) Robert Jenrick2; (2) Michael Gove2; (3) Simon Clark2
Work & Pensions, Women & Equalities: (1) Amber Rudd2; (2) Theresa Coffey3
Justice Secretary: (1) Robert Buckland2; (2) Dominic Raab3
International Development Secretary: (1) Alok Sharma3; (2) Anne-Marie Trevelyan3
Transport Secretary: Grant Shapps3
Welsh Secretary: (1) Alun Cairns2; (2) Simon Hart2; (3) Robert Buckland3
Scottish Secretary: Alister Jack
Northern Ireland Secretary: (1) Julian Smith2; (2) Brandon Lewis3; (3) Shailesh Vara2
Leader of the Lords: Baroness Evans

There were 44 cabinet ministers in Johnson’s three years as PM, nine of whom shuffled between jobs. Michael Gove and Sajid Javid received payments for loss of office twice.


1 Churchill war ministry – Wikipedia

2 loss of office payment possible i.e Sajid Javid2

3 no loss of office payment possible i.e Nadhim Zahawi3

Addendum (2): These ministers received pay-offs x £18,860 = £433,7801

Robert Buckland

Alun Cairns

Greg Clark

Simon Clark

Nadine Dorries

George Eustice

Michael Gove (twice)

Matt Hancock

Simon Hart

Sajid Javid (twice)

Robert Jenrick

Andrea Leadsom

Nicky Morgan

Dominic Raab

Amber Rudd

Julian Smith

Rishi Sunak

Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Shailesh Vara

Theresa Villiers

Gavin Williamson


1 It was ridiculously hard to uncover the figures for junior ministers and their pay-offs. However, taking a heroic guess, the figure is about £1.2 million for that churn. Conservative MPs who didn’t become at least a junior minister, in the Johnson era, are a rarity.

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2 Responses to Boris Johnson’s Masterclass in Political Instability: 2019-22

  1. David Marshall says:


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