LONDON – A day after suffering two disintegrations from his cabinet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday vowed to fight back. But the odds of his political survival seemed even more dubious as lawmakers prepared to grill him in parliament over the recent scandal, and members of his own Conservative party met to lay the groundwork for another possible no-confidence vote.
Two ministers – Exchequer Chancellor, Sage Sunak, and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – have resigned after Mr Johnson apologized for the latest scandal involving his government, which included allegations of sexual misconduct and excessive drinking by a Conservative party. The lawmaker has since been followed by several other officials, including Will Queens, the minister for children and families, who strongly defended Mr Johnson’s role in the scandal earlier this week.
Their departure has sparked a movement within his party against Mr Johnson that has been building against him for months, sparked by a stream of embarrassing reports from social gatherings on Downing Street that violated the government’s own coronavirus lockdown rules.
Mr Johnson moved quickly to announce the replacements of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid, indicating that he planned to try to stabilize the government and fight for his job. And he did his best to portray a defensive image: according to the Times of London, when a friend asked him on Tuesday evening if he planned to resign, he replied with the title “F-That.”
Yet, as all, the Prime Minister was in more political danger than at any other time in his tumultuous three-year tenure on Downing Street.
Having become a free-wheeling journalist and politician, Mr Johnson appears to have violated the law of political gravity, survived multiple investigations, a criminal fine by police, and a no-confidence vote among lawmakers at his Conservative party last month – all party-related. Coronavirus held on Downing Street during the lockdown.
But it was a recent outcry over the promotion of Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker from Johnson, who has been seen to tip Mr Sunak and Mr Javid and set the stage for the latest round of crime.
Last week, Mr Pincher resigned as the party’s deputy chief whip after admitting to being drunk at a private members’ club in London, where he allegedly pushed two people. On Tuesday, Downing Street acknowledged that Mr Johnson had been told about previous allegations against Mr Pincher in 2019 – which Mr Johnson’s office initially denied. The Prime Minister apologized to the BBC for promoting Mr Pincher, which has become a well-known trend in British politics.
On Wednesday, Johnson will face questioning by Labor leader Carey Starmer during the PM’s question. In the afternoon, the Prime Minister goes before the Liaison Committee in the House of Commons, where he may face unfavorable questions from conservatives as well as members of the opposition.
Mr Starmer could face his own reckoning on Wednesday: Police in Durham, England, are about to release the results of an investigation into whether he broke the law by taking part in beer-and-Indian-dinner with others. Party officials during the epidemic lockdown. Mr Starmer has vowed to resign if police fine him.
Separately, a meeting of members of the Conservative Party’s 1922 committee is scheduled to take place, possibly turning the wheel for another no-confidence vote by Mr Johnson. Since he survived a recent confidence vote, he will not be able to face another for a year until the party rules change – a possibility if the committee chooses well-known opponents under his leadership.
Part of Johnson’s strength was the unified support of his cabinet despite the uninterrupted tide of negative headlines. But recent losses have raised fears among many Conservatives that Mr Johnson has lost his touch as a champion voter.
Tim Bell, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London, said: “It is easy to dismiss the seemingly endless drip-drip drip of resignations submitted by underage members of the government.” “But it only reinforces the notion that Boris is bleeding slowly but surely.”