London Boris Johnson has gone into hiding: Due to a corona case in his family, the British Prime Minister has canceled all in-person appointments for the next few days. In the meantime, he hopes the storm of protest over the Downing Street lockdown parties will pass.
However, that seems increasingly unlikely. On Friday, the Daily Telegraph revealed two other parties in the seat of government. Ironically, the conservative newspaper, where Johnson himself made a career, is now giving the scandal a potentially life-changing twist.
The new revelation is explosive as the celebrations took place on April 16, 2021 – the day before Prince Philip’s funeral.
Every Brit remembers how the Queen had to sit alone in church in front of her husband’s coffin because of Corona rules. The fact that the government celebrated merrily a few hours earlier is a fatal signal.
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The government apologized to the head of state on Friday, but the damage is done.
The question now is how long Johnson can stay in office. Three scenarios are being discussed in the Government District of London.
Scenario 1: He is leaving in the next few weeks
The public seems to have had its verdict: Johnson is now more unpopular than his predecessor Theresa May shortly before her resignation in May 2019, according to the latest YouGov poll.
On Thursday evening, on Question Time, a BBC talk show with a representative audience, there was rare unanimity: speaker after speaker called for Johnson’s resignation. Even the first local conservative groups and the first members of the lower house now regard their leader as intolerable.
The Prime Minister admitted this week for the first time to attending a garden party in Downing Street on May 20. He apologized to Parliament for the mistake, but insisted he had mistaken the lockdown party for a ‘work event’. Johnson became the laughingstock of the entire country with the request for protection, designed to protect him from lawsuits.
So far he has resisted public pressure, but he is unlikely to resign voluntarily. To force a vote on the Prime Minister, 15% of the Conservative faction would have to vote against him. That would be 54 rebels. The first letters of no confidence have already been received by the spokesman for the Conservative backbenchers.
But many MPs are still waiting to see what the official inquiry into the lockdown celebrations reveals. Government official Sue Gray is looking at at least nine different celebrations in May and December 2020 and April 2021. Her verdict is expected in the coming week. According to the Times, she will only state facts and assign no personal blame.
That probably wouldn’t be enough to bring Johnson down. His cabinet is also still with him, not a single minister has resigned in protest. Until that changes, Johnson will remain in office.
Scenario 2: The Conservatives wait until May
A count after local and regional elections on May 5 is more likely. Another defeat of the conservatives is expected there. Not only because of the outrage over Partygate, but also because, given rising inflation, a cost of living crisis is looming.
Johnson’s power with the Tories is based on being an election winner. If it now turns out to be a burden, many party members feel there is no longer any reason to cling to it.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister Liz Truss are swapped as possible successors. The next general elections are due to take place in 2024. The successor would therefore have two years to develop his own profile as prime minister and stand for election with a job bonus. This summer would therefore be the right time to draw a line under Johnson’s scandalous era and dare to make a fresh start.
Scenario 3: Close your eyes and through
Above all, Johnson remains hopeful: the possible successors do not convince his party either. Sunak is seen as too slick and profileless, Truss as incompetent. Some observers therefore do not want to strike out the Prime Minister yet. “The Conservatives might give it another chance because there are no good alternatives,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London.
Nor is it easy to get rid of a Prime Minister who does not want to leave. This was shown by Theresa May at the time. The head of government first survived a vote of no confidence and then remained in office for another six months. Only defeat in the 2019 European elections sealed their fate.
If the Tories do better than expected in the local election and Johnson can continue to rally his cabinet, he could stay in office beyond the summer. However, it is hard to see how he intends to continue to govern in the long term. His authority is gone, the whole country just jokes about him. Internally, Johnson is already considered a “walking dead man”, so his departure seems only a matter of time.
Following: The Queen mourns, Downing Street celebrates – new revelations distress Johnson.