updateDespite a fine for violating corona rules, the position of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not threatened at present. Johnson’s biggest critics in his own Conservative party believe it’s not time to oust their leader. They point to the war in Ukraine and do not want to endanger the government.
London police have fined Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie for violating corona rules during the shutdowns. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak was also fined, as were dozens of government employees. Pending a report on the specific nature of the offenses, calls for Johnson’s resignation have increased.
However, two of the fiercest internal critics have now expressed their support for the head of government. “It would not be appropriate at this stage to remove the Prime Minister,” said Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross. He had withdrawn his trust in Johnson because of the affair surrounding the parties with the prime minister in corona times. He now called it important to remain united against Russian aggression.
A Conservative MP who was the first to call on Johnson to resign, Roger Gale, made a similar statement. There will come a time when the prime minister will have to answer for what he has done wrong, Gale said. “That time is not now. But I do not think the Prime Minister will lead us to the next election.”
Johnson was at Westminster Abbey two weeks ago to worship Prince Philip, who died last year when the Metropolitan Police announced it had issued 20 ‘fixed fines’ to politicians, officials and staff in some ministries. The name of the Prime Minister was not included here. It was his turn on Tuesday.
For Johnson, the temporary escape came as a gift from God. Twelve months earlier, Queen Elizabeth was sitting alone on the pews of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle at her husband’s funeral. The elderly monarch dutifully observed the corona rules, which prevented her from mourning with her family. It later emerged that officials were holding a (forbidden) drinking party the night before.
For the British people and a number of MPs, this revelation was the icing on the cake in a long line of gossip surrounding Johnson’s official residence. The Prime Minister has long denied the parties’ existence. He later claimed that the rules had been followed. When pictures of him popped up over a drink in Downing Street’s garden, he admitted he had mistakenly assumed it was a work meeting.
An independent investigation, conducted by senior official Sue Gray, appeared to herald Johnson’s death. Within his own party, group members lost patience with him. Quite a few of them sent letters to a special committee to enforce a no-confidence motion. Pending the report, the threshold of 54 posts has not yet been reached.
Conservative politicians suggested that the limit would be reached shortly after the results were announced. Thanks to a bizarre intervention by the London Metropolitan Police, Johnson unexpectedly got a respite. Chief Commissioner Cressida Dick, previously uninterested in the violations of the covid restrictions, suddenly announced that he himself would start a police investigation.
Gray had to hand over piles of evidence. She was not allowed to mention anything in her report on the twelve parties that the London Met was to investigate. What was left for her was an ‘interim update’ in which the former bar owner found room to insert painful passages for Johnson. In particular, the qualification ‘failing management’ caused a great stir.
Internally, the loss of the ‘secure seat’ in North Shropshire in a by-election particularly hit a chord. Several leaders of the Conservative Party foresaw an inevitable federal court procedure for Johnson. The invasion of Ukraine parked the discontent with him. With national interest at stake, some MPs withdrew their no-confidence motion.
Due to the energy crisis, high inflation and tax increases, his acclaimed performance as war leader hardly protects him. Keir Starmer, leader of the Labor opposition party, immediately called for his and Sunak’s resignation. “They have lied to the people several times,” he said. “They have to go.” When Sue Gray’s final report comes out, it can no longer be ruled out.
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