A new suspicion of lies by the prime minister exhausts the patience of the conservative majority
Johnson on the brink of the abyss. That is the most common expression on the front pages of the British media,
after the resignation on Tuesday of two important ministers– Treasury, Rishi Sunak, and Health, Sajid Javid- and other government positions. The division of the parliamentary group on Johnson’s leadership now extends to the Cabinet and sharpens the confrontation between factions.
The sentiment of the population also slides in favor of his departure. A YouGov survey shows that 69% of Britons want him to resign. For the first time there is a majority of Conservative voters, 59% to 33%, who do not want him as party leader and prime minister. Johnson has filled the gaps in the Cabinet and is not thinking of resigning.
Boris Johnson polarizes public opinion. He has penetrated areas previously closed to the Conservatives but supporters of ‘Brexit’. ‘Tories’ who voted for permanence in the European Union join the condemnation of voters from the Labor opposition, Scottish independentists and Liberal Democrats. But neither in the opposition nor in his party are there popular candidates to replace him.
Praised for his swift and strong response to the Ukraine invasion, he has presided over a messy and contradictory strategy to the crisis of rising costs and managing the economy. The media portray him as a prime minister in favor of low taxes and high public spending, a perspective of the economy that would have created an already unsustainable tension with Minister Sunak.
But the greatest deterioration of his reputation as a ruler is the constant immersion of the country’s politics in absurd episodes that are increased in severity by the leader’s conduct. With the embers still alive from ‘partygate’ – the name by which the numerous illegal gatherings on Downins Street are known during the pandemic restrictions – Johnson has become entangled in the Pincher case.
Conservative deputy and one of those responsible for the discipline of the parliamentary group, Charles Pincher was denounced last week by two men, whom he sexually harassed when he was drunk. Johnson initially said no one had warned him of other incidents before naming him. He would have been informed five times. The prime minister now claims that he did not remember.
Downing Street is a ship in perpetual crisis where chaos reigns. That description of those who know the operation of the prime minister’s office corresponds with the perception of the public. It would confirm the established theory about the impact that the personality of leaders has on the organizations they command. Johnson lives in a somewhat chaotic way.
He is also a lucky man. After the rebellion of 148 ‘Tory’ deputies who voted for his resignation, on June 6, a brief parliamentary recess came. After the defeats – one of them spectacular – in two elections to replace conservative parliamentarians, on June 23, he undertook a long international tour that took him away from the country at a critical moment.
The shelter in foreign affairs of heads of government with domestic problems has been torn after the return. But the conspiracies to bring it down also have their days numbered. The summer parliamentary recess begins on July 21. The committee that would organize a new vote of confidence is renewed next week. The rebels have to hurry to destroy their vacation.
This Wednesday Johnson submits to the weekly questions to the prime minister and a long questioning in a committee. If there are no more resignations in the Cabinet, he will try to weather the storm. Labor Keir Starmer has told him that he will support calling early elections, which the prime minister would need to go to the polls and avoid the present abyss with a very risky strategy.
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