Since Boris Johnson became British Prime Minister in July 2019, comparisons between him and Donald Trump may have been a little exaggerated. But the two undoubtedly share one trait: gratuitous shamelessness. So on Monday night, when Johnson addressed a group of Tory MPs, shortly before a vote of confidence in his party’s leadership, there was no prospect of him sincerely confessing his transgressions.
The vote was sparked by revelations about how, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson and his staff repeatedly flouted the strict social distancing rules they had ordered their fellow citizens to observe. An independent report published last month detailed a number of social events at 10 Downing Street where staff partied late into the night, drinking heavily and, in at least one case, playing karaoke .
Without specifically naming Johnson, the report’s author, Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, pointed to serious “failures of leadership and judgment at No 10 and the Cabinet Office”. Evidence collected by Gray indicates that Johnson misled Parliament when he claimed to be unaware of any unlawful social gatherings in his office or residence, and also when he said he was sure that no lockout rule had been breached. A photograph from November 2020, during the deadly second wave of the coronavirus, showed Johnson standing in a room at 10 Downing Street, surrounded by other people and bottles of liquor, raising a glass to a departing colleague.
At the meeting of Tory MPs on Monday evening, Johnson skirted those damaging details. According to reports from journalists, he reminded his audience of the great electoral victory he had led the Party to in 2019 and the fact that he had, in his opinion, solved the long Brexit crisis by finally withdrawing Great Britain. Brittany. EU Then he asked, “Do you really think anyone else would have done this?” At least one of the deputies present asked him about the conduct detailed in the Gray report, to which he apparently replied, “I would do it again.” Shortly after the meeting ended, an unnamed Conservative Party source told reporters that the British public did not care about the covid offences, adding: ‘Is there anyone here who hasn’t gotten angry in their life? Is there anyone here who doesn’t like a glass of wine to decompress?
When the Tory votes were tallied later that night, they showed two hundred and eleven MPs had backed Johnson and one hundred and forty-eight had expressed no confidence in him. If Johnson had lost the vote, he almost certainly would have been forced to resign. The Prime Minister survived, but more than forty percent of his own party abandoned him. After the result was announced, Johnson brazenly hailed it as “a compelling result, a breakthrough result.” The title in the FinancialTimes was closer to the truth: “Weakened Boris Johnson walks away after damaging confidence vote. »
Johnson received a lower vote share from Tory MPs than his Tory predecessor, Theresa May, in a vote of no confidence in 2018, which was followed, six months later, by his resignation. The current situation is not directly comparable as May, after her vote, was still weighed down by the lingering Brexit stalemate, while the covid restrictions are now a thing of the past. But many observers, including a number of conservatives, believe the Good Ship Boris has sunk below the waterline. “This is the end for Boris Johnson. The only question is how long the agony continues,” tweeted Rory Stewart, a former Conservative cabinet minister who now teaches at Yale.
If Stewart turns out to be right, Partygate won’t be the only thing that’s done to Johnson, though the scandal has certainly turned many ordinary voters against him, and especially his clumsy efforts to cover up high jinks. at No. 10. in terms of partying, it wasn’t a crazy party, although they were drinking and mingling when we weren’t,” said Barbara Robinson, a retired pharmaceutical analyst who lives in Bury, a post-industrial town near Manchester. Guardian. “But constantly lying about it and lying to the House of Commons, that’s the problem. »
The most important case against Johnson is that his disregard for covid The restrictions are one aspect of a broad neglect of duty that has alienated a wide range of Tories, from centrists to free-market Thatcherites to some of its former Brexit allies. Critics from Johnson’s own party have declared his government rudderless. “We have a grotesque gaffe clowning around like he can’t wait to get back to No 10’s last party,” wrote Bruce Anderson, a veteran Tory commentator, on the eve of the vote of no confidence.
Even more damning was a lengthy public letter to Johnson from Jesse Norman, a Tory MP and former cabinet minister who had backed the prime minister for fifteen years, first for mayor of London and then for his current post. “Under you, the government seems to lack a sense of mission,” Norman wrote. “He has a large majority, but no long-term plan. . . . Instead, you’re just looking to campaign, keep changing the subject, and create political and cultural dividing lines primarily for your benefit. Norman added, “You are apparently trying to import elements of a presidential system of government that is entirely foreign to our constitution and our law. But you are not president, and you have no other mandate than that of deputy, and the confidence of your colleagues.
That last reference was to Johnson’s Trump attempts to centralize power in his own office, neutralizing his cabinet as well as Parliament itself. In theory, this threatens the British system of government. But another thing Johnson shares with Trump is that his claims to power greatly overshadow his willingness to do the hard work to ensure his many edicts are actually implemented. Since the big Brexit drama, his rule has been more of a clown show than the revival of Il Duce, but has also done real damage. Lately, Johnson has displayed a willingness to undermine parts of the 1998 Anglo-Irish peace accord, and he’s ushered in divisive and nasty efforts to shore up the Tory base by banning loud protests and kicking out protesters. asylum to Rwanda, regardless of their country of origin. of.
How much longer will Johnson last in Downing Street? Under current Conservative Party rules, his leadership cannot be challenged for at least twelve months. Additionally, the next general election is not due until January 2025, so the prime minister potentially has time to rebuild his position. Even now, his raw political instincts – as opposed to his governing abilities – should not be underestimated. By shifting the Tories further right on social issues and further left on the economy, he is pursuing a populist strategy designed to smash the traditional working-class base of the opposition Labor Party. Just weeks ago, Johnson’s government signaled a willingness to stray from standard Conservative policies by imposing a one-off tax on oil company profits related to the pandemic – a proposal that has so far not been accepted. proved too bold for the Biden administration to endorse.
Like Trump, Johnson is too self-centered and slippery to be confined to one political philosophy, and, like Trump, he blames the media for his problems. But it wasn’t reporters who booed him outside St. Paul’s Cathedral on Friday when he arrived at a service to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee; and it was not journalists who urged their Tory MPs to vote against him in Monday’s vote. They were ordinary people from different parts of Britain. Ahead of Monday’s vote, Douglas Ross, an MP who leads the Scottish Conservatives and represents a parliamentary constituency in the largely rural Highlands and Islands region, issued a public statement. “Having listened carefully to the people of Moray who re-elected me to represent them,” he said, “I cannot in good faith support Boris Johnson. “Who could?