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JAMIE STONE: 'I almost expected to see the Prime Minister make a run for it...'

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Jamie Stone MP.
Jamie Stone MP.

Last Wednesday was a day that will stick in my memory for a very long time indeed. Sitting in my office on the fifth floor of Richmond House, opposite Downing Street on Whitehall, I almost expected to see the Prime Minister making a run for it, so fast was the rate of ministerial resignations after the conclusion of a catastrophic Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Jamie, why don’t you go down to the fourth floor and tour about the Tory offices? Find out what’s really happening,” suggested the redoubtable Ayesha Hasan. And so I duly did.

“Ah! Here he is, a Liberal spy in our midst. Look at this, Jamie, five ministers have all signed en bloc on a single sheet of headed paper announcing their joint resignations.”

A piece of House of Commons headed paper was thrust under my nose.

“It looks like someone from recycling has had a word and suggested that if they’re all going to resign, they at least save paper!”

The atmosphere felt a strange combination of festival and wake. Though personally I felt far more celebratory, it was clear things were pretty terminal for Mr Johnson.

Yet all afternoon, he hung on. His closest supporters said that it would take a JCB to remove him from Number 10.

Later still, on Wednesday, I found myself with his predecessor, Theresa May, in a lift in Portcullis House.

“The Prime Minister had a pretty rough time this morning...” I commented as we ascended.

“He certainly did!”

Did I detect the ghost of a smile on Theresa’s face?

As I walked back to my flat, I rang my better half. What was happening, she asked. I had to confess I had lost count of the number of resignations, but I had heard that a delegation of Cabinet ministers had gone into Number 10 to have “a word” with the PM, urging him to go.

"Yet all afternoon, he hung on. His closest supporters said that it would take a JCB to remove him from Number 10."

No sooner had I finished the call when I received a text telling me another delegation had also gone to Downing Street, this time to urge the Prime Minister to stay.

Before I went to bed, I poured myself a glass of Old Pulteney and checked the news on my phone. As unbelievable as it was it seemed he would stick it out and only a second vote of confidence by Conservative MPs would ensure his removal. I also noted a news item that suggested that, in desperation, he might ask the Queen for a General Election.

As I closed my eyes, I wondered how the good people of the Highlands would feel about yet another vote – not least when the sabre of another independence referendum was being rattled in Edinburgh.

The next morning I rose inordinately early and headed for a flight to Inverness. Before I boarded the plane, I bought a copy of the Times. It had a piece by Andy Coulson (he of hacking fame when David Cameron was Prime Minister) saying Boris intended to go down gloriously in flames, a bit like the finale of a Wagner opera – Götterdämmerung in Whitehall.

Once I had landed my mobile buzzed. It was a text from Lord Thurso, who was also on the aeroplane. It was short. “He’s resigned.”

As I drove back to Tain, I suddenly felt weary with it all, so I did the best thing a bloke can do. I parked up at the Dingwall Mart and ordered two fried egg rolls and a mug of hot, sweet tea.

Coming home to the Highlands, no matter what cataclysmic events are taking place further south, always restores.

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