London Despite harsh criticism from within his own ranks, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently not showing any signs of resigning from office. At the start of the traditional questioning of the head of government in Parliament, Johnson pointed out that a large tax cut for families came into force on Wednesday. Commentators took this as a sign that the conservative politician wants to continue his work.
However, Johnson again apologized for hoisting fellow party member Chris Pincher into an important parliamentary office despite being aware of allegations of sexual harassment. However, the Prime Minister claimed that he acted immediately when he learned of new allegations against Pincher.
The prime minister’s wordy statements bear witness to the growing pressure from his own ranks on him since Tuesday evening. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid resigned. Other government members followed on Wednesday morning.
At the same time, calls for a new no-confidence vote against Johnson grew louder. The conservative politician only just survived a no-confidence vote in his group a month ago. According to Tory party rules, no retrial may be made for 12 months after the vote.
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But the rules could be changed. It is now “crucial” that the so-called 1922 Committee creates the conditions for a new vote of confidence, Conservative MP Chris Skidmore wrote in a letter to its chairman Graham Brady on Wednesday. It is expected that a new composition of the body will be elected before the summer break.
The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday reported the harsh words of an MP who had always defended Johnson in his almost three years in office. “I’m screwed if I ever do that again.” That sentiment has become fairly common among Conservatives.
Clear the way for a vote of no confidence
The journalist James Forsyth from the conservative “Spectator” magazine, who is well connected in Tory circles, quoted an influential member of the body as saying that they even wanted to put the gun on Johnson’s chest. If he does not resign voluntarily, the way will be cleared for a vote of no confidence.
The two ministers who triggered the renewed unrest on Tuesday evening with their resignation are considered possible successors. Both Sunak and Javid are considered conservative heavyweights.
Apart from the remaining cabinet members, there is no one who publicly defends Johnson. “Those who don’t resign know that they will lose their posts under a new prime minister,” political scientist Mark Garnett told the German Press Agency.
The Lancaster University expert suspects that Johnson’s party will now do everything in its power to get rid of its boss. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve warned the party would be “destroyed” if Johnson didn’t go. “A majority in the party wants a change,” MP Chris Loder told BBC Radio 4. The opposition is vehemently demanding new elections. She is ahead in the polls.
So far, it has been ruled out that Johnson will voluntarily resign from office. The remaining allies spread the word that the prime minister is belligerent. “Fuck it,” he is said to have replied when asked about his resignation, the Times reported. Garnett predicted: “His party will have to drag him out of Downing Street.” A former Johnson adviser told the online portal “Politico” that the prime minister could run a “scorched earth policy” and drag others into the abyss.
Johnson has always worked best under pressure. But what awaited the head of government in Parliament on Wednesday is a different number than before. When he traditionally answers the questions of all MPs in the lower house – and then in the afternoon also of a parliamentary committee – he is unlikely to feel any support. Conservative members also announced tough questions.
Sexual Assault Covered
The focus is now on Johnson’s conduct in the Chris Pincher case. After days of protestations that he had no idea about allegations of sexual harassment against his party colleague when he heaved him into an important parliamentary group office in February, Johnson had to admit on Tuesday evening that he had been informed. This was followed by the typical reaction: he apologized, but he had not lied.
Now the country is waiting anxiously to see whether the political stand-up man Johnson will also master this crisis, the most serious so far. Although all the signs speak against him, even opponents do not rule out that he somehow saves himself again. “Actually, he lost all the lives of a cat long ago,” says an EU diplomat.
Tory rebel Andrew Mitchell on the BBC compared Johnson to legendary Russian tsarist adviser Rasputin, who is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts. “He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, his body thrown into a freezing river – and he’s still alive.”
Johnson’s critics have great respect for the “Boris cult”. The shirt-sleeved prime minister is seen by many conservatives as the only candidate to win elections. In addition, there is still no obvious successor in sight, said expert Garnett. After his resignation, former finance minister Sunak is once again seen as the most promising candidate. His successor Nadhim Zahawi and Foreign Minister Liz Truss are also said to have ambitions. However, both demonstratively backed the prime minister.
Danger from the hardliner corner
Danger could threaten Johnson from the hard-line corner of the Conservatives. Former Brexit Minister David Frost in particular seems to be positioning himself here. He had long hoped that the prime minister would be the one who would implement a traditional conservative version, Frost wrote in the “Telegraph” – of all places in the newspaper for which Johnson himself worked as a columnist for a long time. “But I realized that despite his undoubted ability, he just isn’t.” Frost’s conclusion: “Boris Johnson’s time to go.”
Such advances have never bothered the head of government. Johnson himself thinks big anyway. He could well imagine a third term in office up until the 2030s, he said recently. Before that, however, he must survive his first. Official end: 2024.
More: One lie too many – Boris Johnson is about to end his career