Great Britain: Boris Johnson before the end – three scenarios for his future
London Boris Johnson has gone into hiding: Because of a corona case in his family, the British Prime Minister has canceled all face-to-face appointments for the coming days. In the meantime, he hopes the storm of protest over Downing Street’s lockdown parties will pass.
However, that seems increasingly unlikely. On Friday, the Daily Telegraph revealed two more parties at government headquarters. Ironically, the conservative newspaper, where Johnson himself once made a career, is now giving the scandal a potentially decisive turn.
The new revelation is explosive because the celebrations took place on April 16, 2021 – the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
Every Briton remembers how the Queen had to sit all alone in the church in front of her husband’s coffin because of the Corona rules. The fact that the government celebrated happily 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 has been done.
The question now is how long Johnson can stay in office. Three scenarios are being discussed in the London government district.
Scenario 1: He leaves in the next few weeks
The public seems to have had their verdict: Johnson is now more unpopular than his predecessor Theresa May shortly before she stepped down in May 2019, according to the latest YouGov poll.
On Thursday evening, on the “Question Time” program, a BBC talk show with a representative audience, there was a rare unanimity: one speaker after the other called for Johnson’s resignation. Even the first conservative local groups and the first members of the lower house now consider their leader to be intolerable.
The Prime Minister admitted this week for the first time that he attended a garden party in Downing Street on May 20. He apologized in Parliament for the mistake but insisted he mistook the lockdown party for a “work event”. Johnson has made himself the laughingstock of the entire country with this protective claim, designed to protect him from prosecution.
So far he has withstood public pressure, but he will probably not resign voluntarily. To force a vote on the Prime Minister, 15 percent of the Conservative faction would have to vote no confidence in 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 investigation into the lockdown celebrations reveals. Government official Sue Gray is reviewing 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 will not assign personal blame.
That would probably not be enough to bring about Johnson’s downfall. His cabinet is also still with him, not a single minister has resigned in protest. As long as this does not change, Johnson will remain in office.
Scenario 2: The Tories wait until May
A reckoning after the local and regional elections on May 5 is more likely. Another defeat for the Conservatives is expected there. Not only because of the outrage over Partygate, but also because, given the rising inflation, a crisis in the cost of living is looming.
Johnson’s power with the Tories is based on being an election winner. Should it now prove to be a burden, many party members believe there is no longer any reason to hold on to it.
Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister Liz Truss are being traded as possible successors. The next general election is expected to take place in 2024. The successor would therefore have two years to develop their own profile as prime minister and to go into the election with an office bonus. So this summer would be a good time to draw a line under Johnson’s scandalous era and dare a fresh start.
Scenario 3: Close your eyes and through
Above all, Johnson remains hopeful: the possible successors are not convincing his party either. Sunak is considered too smooth and profileless, Truss as incompetent. Some observers therefore do not want to write off the prime minister just yet. “The Conservatives might give him another chance because there are no good alternatives,” says Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London.
It is also not easy to get rid of a prime minister who does not want to go. That 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 the defeat in the 2019 European elections sealed their fate.
If the Tories do better than expected in local elections and Johnson can continue to rally his cabinet, he could remain in office beyond the summer. However, it is difficult to see how he intends to continue governing in the long term. His authority is gone, the whole country only jokes about him. Internally, Johnson is already considered a “dead man walking”, so his departure seems only a matter of time.
More: Queen mourns, Downing Street celebrates – new revelations put Johnson in distress.