The Johnson and Brexit bandwagons seem to be fading – and Sunak is the main beneficiary

Whisper it, but could the Brexit and Boris bandwagons be gradually trundling off into the distance?

Let’s start with Brexit.

The most politically important development of a packed Westminster Wednesday was arguably what didn’t happen.

Boris Johnson, the European Research Group of Brexiteers and the DUP all objected to the government’s EU deal and yet there was no big rebellion.

This matters, when you consider these actors have spent the last seven years successfully kneecapping administrations and individuals over Brexit.

The vote yesterday strongly suggests their influence as a parliamentary force is on the wane.

The relative stability and political productivity of recent weeks may have helped too.

More on Boris Johnson

In the space of a month, Rishi Sunak has unveiled a generally well-received Brexit deal; announced tough new legislation to tackle small boat crossings; rekindled relations with France and signed a newly expanded migrant security arrangement; found his way through a budget without any significant drama and reached agreements with unions to prevent some future strike action going ahead.

That hasn’t gone unnoticed by Tory MPs, especially amid the emergence of polls tentatively showing a narrowing gap with Labour.

As Conservative peer and pollster Lord Hayward puts it: “They are rediscovering unity and actually quite enjoying it.”

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Johnson would ‘lose by-election’

Now onto Mr Johnson.

The marathon privileges committee hearing produced no defining moment where the former prime minister crumbled in on himself.

There was no smoking gun either.

But at times the elasticity of the explanations offered felt well and truly exacerbated.

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Highlights of Boris Johnson’s evidence

Yes, allies of Mr Johnson will continue to vocally stand by him.

For more moderate Tory MPs though, days like yesterday are an exasperating reminder of how things used to be.

“If he’s convicted by his peers it might just give Tories the excuse they need to finally turn their backs on Boris Johnson,” said his former press secretary Will Walden.

There’s also a more practical crossover between the events of yesterday afternoon.

The Venn diagram of Brexiteer backbenchers and those loyal to Mr Johnson has considerable overlap.

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Johnson would ‘lose by-election’

If the former prime minister can’t lead a significant number of MPs through the no lobby on Brexit, what hope has he of conjuring a chunk of support in any vote on sanctions handed down by the privileges committee?

We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

As it stands, all indications are that Labour will win the next election and the Conservative Party will likely be looking for a new leader.

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In that circumstance, no one should bet against Mr Johnson or Brexit heating up again as political issues.

But, as it stands, the potency of these two intrinsically linked topics, that have coated everything in UK politics for much of the last decade, appears to be in recession.

And the main beneficiary of that is Mr Sunak.