Home World Two ministers have resigned, weakening the power of Boris Johnson

Two ministers have resigned, weakening the power of Boris Johnson


VHEN BARYS JOHNSON survived a vote of no confidence among the Conservative MPs, a little less than a month ago, he expressed himself in the highest degree. More than 40% of his peers voted to remove him as leader and therefore as UK Prime Minister. But he called the result “extremely good, positive, convincing, decisive.” Mr Johnson may have felt safe – and party rules say he cannot be challenged again for a year – but rumblings of rebellion continued nonetheless. Now, with the resignation of two senior ministers, Mr Johnson’s hold on the job looks as tenuous as ever.

July 5 Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or Chancellor of the Exchequer — the most powerful top job — and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, left within minutes of each other. They were followed by several junior figures, including Alex Chalk, the solicitor-general, and Bim Afalami, the party’s vice-chairman, who walked out in almost satirical fashion during an interview on TalkTV, a little-watched political television channel.

Mr Johnson quickly replaced Mr Sunak with Nadhim Zahavi, the education minister, and Mr Javid with Steve Barclay, a peripatetic loyalist who had previously served as the prime minister’s chief of staff. Even so, few prime ministers will survive such a double whammy, especially after the beating Mr Johnson has suffered in recent months. How long he will be in office, no one knows. But his authority is chronically weakened.

His latest troubles began on June 30, when The sun announced the sudden resignation of Chris Pincher, the deputy leader of the Tory party, who ensured party discipline. He admitted he had “too much to drink” and was “embarrassed” after allegations he groped two men at a conservative club. Asked whether Mr Johnson was aware of any concerns about Mr Pincher’s conduct when he was appointed in February, a Downing Street spokesman said no. This was later changed: the Prime Minister was not aware of the “specific” allegations.

After new claims of groping emerged in Sunday’s papers (which Mr Pincher denies), Downing Street said Mr Johnson was in fact aware of some of the allegations but that they had been “resolved” or not yet which they did not bring. Only on July 5 – after a former senior civil servant strongly disputed the official account – did Mr Johnson admit that he had been personally told of the claim against Mr Pincher in 2019, when Mr Johnson was foreign secretary and Mr Pinchar is a junior minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Looking back, the prime minister said he “bitterly regretted” giving Mr Pincher the whip.

For Mr Javid and Mr Sunak, it appeared to be the final straw, even though neither mentioned the Pincher case in their resignations. “The tone you set as a leader and the values ​​you represent reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country,” Mr Javid wrote. Mr. Sunak was equally scathing: “[T]The public rightly expects that government is conducted properly, competently and seriously.” Mr. Sunak also hinted at disagreements over fiscal policy. The ex-chancellor would like to be tougher with public money, but “I supported you publicly”.

A lack of candor, even when it comes to an indecent sex scandal, should not in itself prompt the resignation of uninvolved senior ministers, let alone threaten the prime minister. But last week’s events are just the latest to tarnish Mr Johnson’s three-year tenure. Most dangerous to his tenure so far has been ‘Partygate’ – allegations that officials in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson, repeatedly flouted the government’s lockdown rules imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Johnson was fined, along with Mr Sunak and dozens of public servants, following a police investigation. Report of a senior civil servant, Sue Gray, described shameful scenes, including vomiting after officials’ late-night party and rough treatment of cleaners. As in the Pincher case, Downing Street officials and the Prime Minister have repeatedly changed their stories about what happened and what he knew when. Mr Johnson will still have to face a parliamentary inquiry into whether he knowingly misled the House of Commons – by the usual standards of British political honor, a refusal to resign.

In the wake of Partygate, enough Tory MPs were so disillusioned with the Prime Minister’s behaviour, the chaotic administration and lack of openness, and the resulting drop in their party’s popularity, that they feared for their seats and called a confidence vote. Since Mr. Johnson experienced this, things have gone from bad to worse. The last month of Tory lost the by-election in Wakefield in Yorkshire (one of many stolen from Labor in 2019) and in Tiverton and Honiton in rural Devon (where they had a huge majority and which, with its predecessors, has been almost continuously Tory since 1885), both of by a large margin.

Both seats were vacated due to a sex scandal. An ex-MP for Wakefield has been convicted of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy. Tiverton was caught looking at pornography on a mobile phone in the House of Commons. The taint of sexual behavior, in yet another form, cost Mr. Pincher his job. The lack of an open response to this could now cost the Prime Minister.

It is not yet clear when or even how. Mr. Johnson still has his fans. They claim he “got Brexit right” (although Britain’s exit from the EU is still causing resentment at home and abroad) and “got all the important calls right” during the pandemic, and point to his continued support for Ukraine. Fed-up MPs could get another chance to vote for Mr Johnson by changing parliamentary party rules. Johnson’s naysayers are expected to do well in the imminent 1922 backbench rulemaking election. It is perhaps more likely that support from other senior ministers may disappear. Only one thing is certain: Mr. Johnson, who has longed for the position of prime minister all his life, will not go voluntarily.

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