The vote comes as Johnson and his ruling Conservatives are surrounded by such scandals and crises that members of his own party have publicly called for his resignation. Indeed, the most poignant of these scandals, when Johnson was fined by police for violating his own Covid rules during the 2020 lockdown, could have landed him under normal circumstances.
And yet Johnson has proven time and time again that he is unique among politicians and able to withstand every blow thrown at him. What is now unknown is whether any of those punches, failing to knock out the prime minister, did enough damage that Johnson was still ultimately doomed.
A brief look at the rubble that currently surrounds Johnson would be enough to get most to throw in the towel.
Numerous incidents related to the Partygate scandal, in which Johnson has already been found guilty of violating the law, are still being investigated by the police. More fines have been issued to people who have worked with the prime minister in Downing Street and it is possible that Johnson could be fined again.
Once the police are done, Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, will release her full account of the scandal, which is likely to be extremely critical of Johnson, judging by the parts already released.
Johnson is also haunted by the prospect of being found deliberately misled by Parliament when, in response to allegations of quarantine violations by Downing Street gatherings, he told lawmakers that the rules had always been followed. According to the ministerial code, such an event usually results in resignation.
The sense of crisis surrounding Johnson’s premiership goes well beyond Partygate.
Last week, his party was accused of a serious misogyny issue after one of his supporters anonymously told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party, tried to distract Johnson in the House of Commons by crossing and spreading her legs like a heroine. Sharon Stone in the movie Basic Instinct.
Reiner called the claims “heinous lies” and tweeted that “Boris Johnson’s support group has resorted to desperate, twisted slanders in their doomed attempt to save his skin.” Johnson himself criticized the Mail article as “terrible misogynistic nonsense” and said he would unleash “the horrors of the earth” on the source if they were discovered.
And on Saturday, another MP for Johnson’s party, Neil Parish, said he would step down after admitting to having watched pornography in the House of Commons several times.
Meanwhile, 56 MPs are currently under investigation for sexual harassment, and members of Johnson’s cabinet are believed by government insiders to be on that list.
Add to all this the Brexit-related cost-of-living crisis, and Johnson’s fate ahead of this election looks bleak. Inflation in the UK is at a 30-year high and critics of the prime minister accuse him of not having serious responses to the crisis.
When asked in an interview on Tuesday to give Johnson advice to an elderly widow whose electricity bills have risen so much that she has to take the bus all day to keep warm, Johnson began his response by taking responsibility for introducing free bus passes. when he was Mayor of London.
While the precariousness of his position may not be apparent from day to day, it was harshly highlighted earlier this month when he had to withdraw an amendment to a proposal allowing a parliamentary inquiry into Partygate because, despite a parliamentary majority of 75, the government was not it is fairly certain that a sufficient number of deputies will support the prime minister.
“To put it simply, the whips didn’t know they didn’t have the votes to support the prime minister,” says one senior Conservative MP. “If MPs don’t talk to whips, then you’re in serious trouble.”
Despite all this, it remains unclear whether Johnson will have to resign or be fired, and some believe it is entirely possible that he will run in the next general election in 2024.
How can this be in the case of such a great immediate danger?
First, local elections may not be as disastrous as many around Johnson fear. “Local elections ask voters a different set of questions than national elections,” explains Chris Curtis, head of political polls at Opinium Research.
“People can vote for a local councilor they know, love and think is a million miles from Westminster. It is more difficult for MPs who have to defend the prime minister in parliament,” he adds.
In fact, the results of this election may not reflect the widespread voter dissatisfaction with Johnson that is present in nationwide polls almost every week. In other words, they may be the non-smoking gun MPs want to get rid of Johnson to finally make their move.
“Many of us are very angry, but we know that getting rid of another prime minister is not very beautiful. We need a very good reason to justify this to the public, and I just don’t think these election results will be that,” he says. one former Conservative cabinet minister.
There is also a growing feeling among Conservative MPs that even Gray’s Partygate report may not be enough to force Johnson out of office, as the longer the story goes on, the less MPs think the public cares.
For Johnson’s fiercest critics, that leaves the worst-case scenario of all worlds: a chaotic government they can’t unseat while a cost-of-living crisis hits millions of Britons.
And while the cost-of-living crisis is driven by multiple factors, including the recovery from the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, there is an element to it that is unique to the UK: Brexit.
A report released last week by the UK’s independent research organization in a Changing Europe estimated that since the UK exited the European Union’s single market and customs union in January 2021, food prices have risen by 6%. If this trend continues, it could be especially devastating for Johnson, the man who led the campaign to leave the EU.
“People who say the cost of living has nothing to do with Brexit are denying it,” says Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London. “In the long run, this will reduce imports and exports, and this will probably make us somewhat poorer than we would otherwise be.”
There is no doubt that the next general election will be determined by how the incumbent government, led by Johnson or not, handles this cost-of-living crisis.
For many Conservative MPs, this causes sleepless nights. Many simply don’t think Johnson is capable of handling the problems the UK is currently facing and are privately hoping that there is something bad enough in Gray’s report that they can finally get rid of him, ideally by September.
Until this happens, Johnson remains in power, but his authority is seriously undermined. The public, polls show, largely believes that he is not trustworthy, while his own supporters cannot count on his support.
Those who want him to leave are hoping he will step down, though to date, Johnson has ruled that out. All this means that the Conservative Party is in the unenviable position of not being strong enough to fire its leader, who, in turn, is not strong enough to secure the loyalty of his deputies.
Johnson may yet turn everything around, but the longer this goes on, the more the stench of imminent death around him and his government will decay, making the prospect of a fight in the next election unenviable to even the strongest stomachs.