Monday, August 15

Boris Johnson is barely resisting, but how much longer will he last?

It was the hit all critics of Boris Johnson had been waiting for.

Sajid Javid, the Minister of Health, and shortly after Rishi Sunak, the Foreign Minister, published their resignation letters on Twitter on Tuesday criticizing the incompetence of the Government.

Neither explicitly mentions the sex abuse scandals or pandemic-breaking celebrations at Downing Street that have dogged the government for months. Sunak, in particular, states that the reason for his resignation is the differences he has with the management of the economy.

But the backdrop to both resignations is Johnson’s catastrophic handling of the case of Conservative MP Chris Pincher, having admitted that he had appointed him as the Conservative party’s disciplining officer despite being previously informed by the Prime Minister that the past accusations against Pincher.

Just a few minutes before the resignation of his ministers, Johnson had said before the cameras that he regretted the mistake made in appointing Pincher and had walked the House of Commons tea room saying that “everyone deserves a second chance”.

Accumulation of scandals

The problem is that Johnson is not on his second chance, but has had many more, after scandals over the celebrations that broke the rules of confinement, the renovation of his apartment financed with money from donors Torieshis ignoring the advice of the Security Service to grant a noble title to Russo-British businessman Evgeny Lebedev, and his attempts to reform the House of Commons standards system.

The two most important resignations did not provoke an immediate avalanche of resignations of ministers within the Government, but the deputies Tories Johnson’s critics continue to believe this means the prime minister’s end is looming.

Now that there are two major opponents of the prime minister among the backbenchers (deputies without office in the Administration), they may spend more time building campaigns aimed at cementing the leadership of whoever will be Johnson’s successor in the future. Sunak and Javid will also be able – like Jeremy Hunt – to offer a critique of the johnsonism from outside the government. Some pro-Sunak officials, such as Huw Merriman and Kevin Hollinrake, were among those who applauded the former finance minister.

There is also the possibility of more resignations in the Government in the coming days. In that case, Johnson might be unable to muster enough support to replace the resigning cabinet members from him.

The 1922 committee

If this does not happen, the attention will be on the elections of the so-called 1922 committee, the one in charge of establishing the rules of the party tory and to call the votes to replace the prime minister. The renewal of the committee will probably result in the victory of a list made up of critics of Johnson, and with it in a modification of the regulations so that the vote on the dismissal of the prime minister can be voted again without having to wait a year as indicated by the current rules. .

In June, Johnson managed to win his party’s vote of confidence by a narrow margin, but it would only take some 32 MPs to change sides at some point in the coming months to end his term.

Some of the Government ministers who remain loyal to Johnson have spoken of preparing for what is to come, as they expect Keir Starmer to be fined by Durham police in the coming days for possibly flouting COVID restrictions by dining with his team, according to a cabinet source.

They believe Johnson may be able to weather the storm if attention soon turns to a crisis of leadership and ethics in the Labor Party.

But the situation seems equally untenable to many members of the Government tory. “I detect a greater desperation,” says one of them. “Ministers and civil servants behave as if no one is in charge, because the room for maneuver in Downing Street is so consumed by this. The system cannot be made to work effectively at this time. It’s yet another disaster. But I think this looks different because patience is wearing thin.”

Another cabinet source says: “We are resisting.”

Translation of Julian Cnochaert.