How the war has changed everything for Boris Johnson

The Prime Minister will be in Aberdeen for the Scottish Conservative conference.

INSIGHT: How the Ukraine war has changed everything for Boris Johnson ahead of Aberdeen conference Getty Images

The Prime Minister is having a busy week, meeting leaders of Nordic and Baltic countries delivering military support to Ukraine, flying to Saudi Arabia for talks on oil, flying to Aberdeen for the Scottish Conservative conference.

Just three weeks ago, before the war in Ukraine, all of this seemed unlikely.

Before the war, why would leaders of Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway have bothered flying in for a dinner at Chequers with the Prime Minister of a country which seemed to be losing international influence after Brexit?

Before the war, when petrol was about £1.45 a litre at the pumps, why would Boris Johnson fly out to a country that had just executed 81 men in one day to talk about oil supply?

And before the war, why on earth would Johnson want to turn up at the conference of a party whose MSPs all thought he should quit over partygate?

A lot has changed in the last three weeks. The Prime Minister has been heavily criticised for failing to offer enough help for refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine. But he has been praised for providing military and humanitarian aid to the country itself.  

Things have moved on since he was on the rack for Downing Street parties during lockdown. Covid is no longer the top story in every news programme. It has been replaced by war and the daily Russian attacks on Ukraine.

Before the war, the Scottish Conservative leader bravely stood up to the Conservative Prime Minister. Douglas Ross was the biggest Tory name to call the Prime Minister out and put in his letter to the party’s 1922 Committee expressing no confidence in him.

Just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, the Scottish Conservative leader looked resolute in his condemnation of the UK Conservative leader, even refusing to meet Johnson during a visit to Rosyth.   

To continue to snub the Prime Minister during the war would have seemed petty in the extreme, so Ross has withdrawn his no confidence letter and will welcome Johnson to his party conference in Aberdeen.

He feels it is the right thing to do, right now, for his party and for the country. But it is a campaigning gift for his political opponents, with the Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie saying “Douglas Ross has the backbone of a jellyfish”.

And will it still seem like the right thing to do when the Metropolitan Police conclude their investigations into lockdown breaking at Number 10? This will get Ross through his party conference, but there are elections coming up and it could well come back to bite him.  

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