How long can Boris Johnson last when his deputies are already very clear that the Boris Johnson of Downing Street is the same Boris Johnson who demonstrated during decades of his political career his ability to cause accidents that others had to solve? How come they haven’t found out until now?
Johnson always maintained a high level of support in the Conservative parliamentary group during the David Cameron years for the widespread notion that he was a winner. Or because it seemed to have the luck of the winner. Perhaps it was more the second than the first. Everything that would have annihilated someone else’s career – his controversial past as a journalist, his marital infidelities, his lack of seriousness as understood by a British politician – ended up being forgotten in his case. The Tory bases forgave him everything.RELATED
When Johnson decided to join the ranks of Brexiters after much hesitation, he became their most important face from the get-go. Cameron could only neutralize him if he put his personal and political flaws on the table, but he did not want to declare a civil war within the party and he paid more than enough. And with him the whole country.
The internal primaries to choose Cameron’s successor after the Brexit referendum confirmed the worst expectations for Johnson. His campaign was a succession of embarrassing mistakes, some almost comical, that led to his resignation from the race and made clear his total inability to organize a structure designed to achieve a goal. As some in the party feared, Boris couldn’t even run an ice cream stand. The impression was confirmed when Theresa May was forced to grant him a weighty Ministry, the Foreign Office. Once again, the result was disappointing.
However, he remained the most popular politician among Brexiters. When May ran out of opportunities, practically only Johnson was left standing. May had previously had a reputation for serious politics, if not very brilliant or talkative, and this time the Tories decided that the time had come to go for permanent improvisation and the supposed genius of the ex-mayor of London.
There would be fun, initiatives difficult to understand and even some scandals, but Boris would culminate the exit from the EU and would prove his value at the polls. And so it happened with his vast victory in the 2019 elections.
When the pandemic hit, there was reason to tremble. The Covid has stripped almost all governments and reflected their vulnerabilities and worst trends. All of that multiplied in Johnson’s case. He was late to the first overwhelming wave, reacting later than in France, Spain or Italy. In mid-February with images of China on everyone’s mind and the start of trouble in Italy, Johnson and his girlfriend spent two weeks on vacation. When push came to shove, he was never there when he was needed.
Johnson ended up appearing on the scene. His first response only served to increase the number of victims and delay the inevitable decisions. He opted not to take the most restrictive measures, hoping to achieve group immunity by letting infections increase – it is true that with the approval of his two main scientific advisers – until he had to surrender to the evidence.
He did the same again with the second wave. Just a week before, his government I was putting pressure on big business so that they put an end to telecommuting and that their employees return to the offices. In a matter of days, he had to back down.
The blazing start to the vaccination process in the UK gave him the respite he needed. In the polls, the Conservatives rallied and overtook Labor, whose leader, Keir Starmer, did not have long grace period when he was elected. It didn’t take Johnson long to get into trouble. After all, the pandemic has been characterized by making it clear that moments of joy are temporary. Anyone who neglects himself and believes that the worst is over so he does not return soon discovers that this is not entirely true.
Along the way, Johnson had lost his top adviser, Dominic Cummings, who was the architect of the campaign for Brexit in the 2016 referendum. Cummings’ problem was that he is a very smart guy – something even those who recognized. They hated him – and that he knew it. He considered himself above the rules that force the rest of the mortals and in that he was very much like his boss. When he was infected with Covid, he skipped all the existing prohibitions and instead of isolating himself he went to the other side of the country to the house where his in-laws lived.
Cummings was forced to leave the Downing Street post. He didn’t take it well. With few options to return to politics, he decided to count in texts of thousands of words on his personal blog many examples that reflected Johnson’s manifest incompetence. Some of his revelations are so startling that they seem hard to believe until one remembers who we are talking about. Boris was perfectly capable of not being aware of what it meant to leave the customs union after Brexit.
The scene related by Cummings occurs when someone explains to Johnson the consequences of leaving: “The prime minister’s face was priceless. He leaned back in his chair, looked around the room with an air of not believing what he had heard, and He shook his head. The phones of the horrified officials at the table began to ring. A senior official sent me a message: ‘Now I understand how you managed to get Brexit done.’
Regardless, Johnson seemed immune to stumbling blocks and reports that would have killed other politicians. In the end, he tightened the rope until it broke. And he did so because his first reaction to a relatively minor scandal – the accusation of a Tory congressman of profiting from an influence peddling case – derailed everything.
Criticism of MP Owen Paterson was met by Downing Street with disdain. It was a step consistent with Johnson’s trajectory, according to which the rules are made for others, but not for him and his select group of friends, writes Simon Kuper. The same attitude he had when he was a student at Eton College. His teacher and tutor sent Johnson’s father a note quoted by Kuper in the article that reflected his attitude to life: “I think he sincerely thinks it is rude that we do not consider him an exception, someone who should be free from all obligations. that condition others “.
Johnson hasn’t changed since his student days. So he took care to prevent Paterson from applying the ethical standards of the House of Commons that would have caused him a temporary suspension for a few weeks. The subsequent scandal forced the deputy to resign and new elections had to be held in his constituency. Nor was it a drama. The North Shropshire district had been electing Conservative representatives for more than a century. In the last election, Paterson had obtained a majority of 23,000 votes over his most direct rival.
The news known in recent weeks about parties in Downing Street in May and December 2020, as well as another at the party’s headquarters in Westminster, ended up sinking the Tories. At a time when citizens were prohibited from this type of contact – only two people could meet if they lived in different homes -, Johnson’s advisers had an open bar to hang out with a few bottles of wine and some cheese.
The comparison was tragic. Many people saw forced to bury loved ones in harsh conditions by anti-Covid regulations. In Downing Street Garden, there were no such limitations in May.
The North Shropshire election date on December 16 it was a humiliation for the tories. The Liberal Democrats took the seat with a favorable difference of 6,000 votes. That district voted in favor of Brexit with 57% of the vote, which made the victory of the LibDems, who are convinced Europeanists, even more unprecedented.
Boris still had another mishap. 99 deputies voted against the Government’s plans on the Covid passport. Only opposition votes allowed the measure to go ahead. Added to the abstentions and those who did not appear in the vote without the permission of those responsible for the group, the rebels accounted for almost a third of the Tory caucus.
A deputy told the FT that Johnson “their lives are running out.” A deputy minister reported anonymously that “the prime minister should not feel safe at all.”
The right wing of the party no longer tolerates any more restrictive measures against Covid, despite the exponential increase in infections due to the omicron variant, and does not hide its discomfort at the tax increase announced for 2022. The customs limbo in which Ireland finds itself North, according to the London agreement with Brussels, is another cause for anger. The impact of the pandemic alters all economic calculations, but for now it can be said that the promised expectations of strong growth that would lead to the liberation of the tyranny of the EU have come to nothing.
Several polls already put Labor ahead of the Tories, and that’s without Keir Starmer doing anything special. The numbers are even worse when respondents are asked for their assessment of Johnson. The score is negative and has never been so low: -48. 71% have a negative opinion of the performance of the prime minister, according to YouGov.
With the deputies in the parliamentary Christmas recess, the rumor of the conspiracies has died down in recent days. It is sure to be loud again in January. Conservatives have a well-earned reputation for beheading their leaders when they suspect they could drag them into electoral defeat. Opinium’s latest poll from December 27 Gives a seven point advantage to Labor.
Most uncomfortable for Johnson is that the Tories would fare much better with Finance Minister Rishi Sunak as the electoral poster. And that Sunak has announced that in April there will be a tax increase that the conservative bases will not like very much. Another poll published by The Sunday Times anticipates a absolute majority of 26 seats for Labor.
As is customary in British politics, a few Tories believe that everything would be arranged with better advisers in Downing Street. It is a way of obviating the reality that Boris’s biggest problem will always be Boris because he is a politician who seems to enjoy moving in chaos, more than anything because he has never been able to plot and execute a defined strategy.
If he hasn’t changed his ways after such dramatic events as Brexit and a pandemic, clearly he never will.