Boris warned Tory MPs remember positives of Thatcher departure as leadership in peril

Boris Johnson warned about Thatcher’s reign by expert

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Professor Paul Whiteley from the University of Essex who is an expert on political behaviour spoke to Express.co.uk about the result of the North Shropshire by-election and what could happen next for Boris Johnson. The politics academic explained it could be possible that the Prime Minister could see challenges to his leadership after a few months if things do not improve and noted how a similar thing happened to Margaret Thatcher. Professor Whiteley noted how polls have placed Labour ahead of Boris Johnson and said Tory MPs will remember how the ousting of the Iron Lady, who was also swamped in controversy towards the end of her time in office, ultimately helped the Conservatives claw back their popularity.

Speaking to Express.co.uk. Professor Whiteley was asked whether the Prime Minister will see more letters of no confidence emerging over the Christmas period.

Chair of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, who is in charge of the Tory leadership elections, told MPs they could submit votes of no confidence through email as Parliament is in recess, according to the Telegraph.

The move was seen by some political commentators to put further pressure on Mr Johnson to get his act together and to allow MPs to respond to the North Shropshire by-election upset.

Rules state if the 1922 Committee chairman receives 54 letters of no confidence, he must stage a leadership vote.

Professor Whiteley said it was “possible” to see more letters emerge in the coming weeks but drew a historic comparison with Margaret Thatcher which Tories may be currently thinking about.

He explained: “I think one of the things that might loom in that in the minds of Conservative MPs is the fact that in 1990 they sacked Mrs Thatcher – who at the time was an international leader.

“The famous Iron Lady, and she won three elections in a row.

“The polling was really against her, at one stage Labour was almost 25 percent ahead in the voting intentions in the polls.

“Of course, when they removed her and John Major took over, he then subsequently won the general election and the Tories bounced back.

“That will loom large in the minds of many Conservatives.”

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Professor Whiteley pointed out however that Labour only commands a “modest” lead in the polls currently and it was the Lib Dems who saw victory and not them in the by-election.

The political behaviour expert said he would be “surprised” to see any immediate leadership challenge but hinted the seeds of no confidence have been planted.

Ms Thatcher saw a hammer blow to her popularity as she came to the end of her premiership with her approval rating being the second-lowest of any post-war Prime Minister at the time.

Several factors played a part in Ms Thatcher’s downfall with the poll tax and high-profile resignations being the most prominent.

Polls at the time suggested the Conservatives would lose to Labour if a general election was held under Ms Thatcher with the more popular Michael Heseltine launching a leadership bid.

Ms Thatcher eventually stepped down in 1990.

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The Conservative Party lost the safe seat of North Shropshire to the Liberal Democrats which had been under Tory control for nearly 200 years.

Candidate Helen Morgan was able to swing the 23,000 Conservative majority into a nearly 6,000 vote majority for the Lib Dems.

The result means it is the seventh biggest election swing in UK political history at 34.2 percent.

The by-election was triggered following the resignation of Owen Paterson who was at the centre of a Tory sleaze scandal.

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