05 July 2022

Boris Johnson’s tenure as PM: Nearly level with Chamberlain but behind May

05 July 2022

The resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid from Boris Johnson’s Cabinet come just hours ahead of the Prime Minister reaching a symbolic milestone in his time in Downing Street.

Mr Johnson is currently on the 1,077th day of his premiership: almost level with the 1,078 days spent in office by Neville Chamberlain, who was Conservative prime minister between 1937 and 1940.

Mr Chamberlain’s tenure in the top job came to abrupt end in May 1940, nine months into the Second World War, after he lost the support of many of his backbenchers who were critical of his style of leadership and his handling of the conflict.

(PA Graphics)

During a debate on the conduct of the war in the House of Commons on May 7 1940, the Tory MP Leo Amery quoted at Chamberlain some words originally spoken by the 17th century politician and general Oliver Cromwell, who led the armies of parliament against the monarchy during the English Civil War: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.”

The speech hastened Chamberlain’s downfall and three days later, after only narrowly winning a vote of confidence but failing to get support from other parties to lead a new coalition government, he resigned as prime minister.

The same quotation was directed at Mr Johnson by Conservative MP David Davis in the Commons on January 19 2022, in response to Mr Johnson’s involvement in the partygate scandal.

The Prime Minister needs to remain in office until Thursday of this week to be able to say he outran Chamberlain.

He has already overtaken five prime ministers with the shortest time in office since 1900: Andrew Bonar Law (211 days in 1922-23), Alec Douglas-Home (364 days in 1963-64), Anthony Eden (644 days in 1955-57), Henry Campbell-Bannerman (852 days in 1905-08) and Gordon Brown (1,049 days in 2007-10).

Once he passes Mr Chamberlain, the next prime minister on the list is Mr Johnson’s immediate predecessor, Theresa May.

She clocked up 1,106 days in the job between 2016 and 2019.

To overtake her, Mr Johnson needs to remain as PM until August 4 this year.

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