The Ignominious End of Boris Johnson
The boisterous politician is now experiencing a humiliating end to his premiership, one that will go down in history for all of the wrong reasons, and one which he inflicted on others before him.
The French Dispatch crosses the English channel with a long read on events in the UK, where Boris Johnson Premiership lies in tatters, and where events could have a serious impact on European politics in the wider context.
Boris Johnson had developed a reputation for being bullet proof, bullishly pushing through scandal after scandal, crisis after crisis, and surviving events that would have claimed the premierships of every other PM who came before him.
But finally, he took one hit too many, engaged in
to one scandal toomany, and failed for the final time, being forced into a position of having to resign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Let’s set the scene
Boris Johnson has been under heavy fire from almost every direction for a prolonged period of time, both from the opposition, from the Conservatives, and from the aligned, biased, non-aligned, and ambivalent citizens and politicos that exist.
All of this was thanks to a fun little event called Partygate, where Johnson and his allies were found to have participated in several lockdown breaking parties and social events during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
The subsequent report into these parties, which took place as people were locked in their homes, watching their loved ones die through iPads, as many were isolated during a global crisis that seemed without end, as many struggled to make ends meet without the ability to work,found that officials in No 10 and Whitehall were drinking heavily, singing karaoke, and partying away.
The sheer outrage towards this hypocrisy led to the Conservatives consistently falling behind Labour in the polls for the first time in close to a decade, and naturally the Conservatives went in survival mode, triggering a confidence vote that was evidently the beginning of the end.
While Boris Johnson may have won it by 211 votes to 148, it outlined the deep, deep divisions within the Conservative party, and saw only an 18% majority within the party, with a worse score than even Theresa May had when Johnson was trying to become prime minister.
No matter the appearance or claims of a victory, the damage was done, and this saga eventually triggered the resignation of the PMs ethics adviser, Lord Geidt, who told MPs that it was “reasonable” to suggest that Boris Johnson had broken the ministerial code with his actions.
And this was before everything else happened.
It gets worse?
There’s a cherry on the cake, ladies and gentlemen, and one so heavy that it caused the cupcake to implode in record time: On June 30, Chris Pincher was forced to resign as deputy chief whip after claims that he had sexually assaulted two guests the night before at the Carlton Club.
With Johnson having initially given Pincher the role in February 2022, despite a history of sexual assault allegations against him, he had previously defended himself with being made to seem like “a pound shop Harvey Weinstein”. And yet ,Boris Johnson gave him a prominent position in the government.
Only, it seems that he had many more skeletons in his closet than people knew, with six allegations over the previous decade emerging, including three that were complaints of unwanted advances against male MPs. Moreover, some of these complaints were given directly to Downing Street, and Boris Johnson had been aware of these accusations as far back as 2017, despite his claims to the contrary.
There’s a cherry on the cake, ladies and gentlemen, and one so heavy that it caused the cupcake to implode in record time: on June 30, Chris Pincher was forced to resign as deputy chief whip after claims that he had sexually assaulted two guests the night before at the Carlton Club.
Having initially been given his role in February 2022, with already a history of sexual assault allegation against him, he had previously defended himself as being made to seem like “a pound shop Harvey Weinstein”, and yet he was given a prominent position by Boris Johnson.
Only, it seems that he had a lot more in his closet than people knew, with six allegations over the previous decade emerging, including three that were complaints of unwanted advances against male MPs, and that some of these complaints were given directly to Downing Street, with Boris Johnson having been aware of these as far back as 2017, despite his denials regarding this.
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And then the Party Started
Having clearly lied when Johnson had claimed that he was not aware of these allegations, and having given someone with such a horrific record of sexual harassment such a powerful position, it had become too much for many within the party, and thus the wave of resignations began.
The beginning of the end began when Sajid Javid announced that he would resign as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, followed shortly by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, doing the same; While neither holds the commanding positions they did two years ago when Sunak was still the heir apparent, is still a huge name to move against a PM, and who commands a not insignificant level of support across the party.
Over and over again, waves of MPs, including those who previously supported Johnson during his confidence vote, began to resign en masse: Sally-Ann-Hart, Saqib Bhatti, Bim Afolami, Tom Hunt were some of the early resigners.
However it kept getting worse. Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins resigns outlined how the “contortions” required to support Boris Johnson were made impossible; John Glenstated that he couldn’t continue his “service” with the poor judgement Johnson showed; Jo Churchill, the Environment minister, quit due to Boris Johnson’s ‘Jocular, self-service approach to leadership‘.
The story kept going over two days, with minister after minister resigning. For example, the minister for children and families Will Quince resigning after having defended Boris Johnson just this monday, and said that he was effectively forced to resign because he was given false information by Number 10 and “categorical assurance” that Johnson was not aware of the allegations towards Pincher when he was sent onto television platforms to defend him.
Yet things just kept getting worse. Alex Chalk, the Solicitor General, quit his post due to the “cumulative effect of the Owen Paterson Debacle, Partygate, and the handling of the Deputy Chief whip‘s resignation”. The Housing Minister, Stuart Andrew, quit due to what he felt was the untenable stress on his personal integrity.
Kemi Badenoch, the Equalities and Local Government minister, left her post due to the fact that the “government couldn’t function” as it stood. She was accompanied by levelling up minister, Neil O’Brien; skills minister, Alex Burghart; Business Minister, Lee Rowley, and; minister for media ,data and digital infrastructure, Julia Lopez.
Mims Davies also jumped ship, quitting as employment minister, due to Johnson fialing to uphold the ‘highest standards in public life’, while Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean resigned with a statement that “values, principles, integrity and decency matter more than anything”. Mike Freer added to the pain by resigning as the minister for exports and equalities, with a huge statement claiming that the government was “creating [an] atmosphere of hostility for LGBT+ people”
Johnson loyalists began to drop out and resign from key positions, including MP Henry Smith, and particularly worrying for Johnson, the Parliamentary Private Secretaries, who backed Johnson to the hilt up until this point. First of which was Jonathan Gullis, the PPS for Northern Ireland and hardcore Johnson loyalist. It was a big move, as Jessica Elgot, chief political correspondent for The Guardian, outlined: “honestly Jonathan Guillis resigning is arguable more damning than Sunak”.
The proceedings were followed by ever more resignations: Saqib Bhatti (PPS for health), Nicola Richards (PPS for Transport), Virginia Crosbie (PPS for Wales), Laura Trott (PPS for Transport), Felicity Buchan (PPS For Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Selaine Saxby (PPS for Environment), Claire Coutinho (PPS for Treasury), David Johnston (PPS for Education), Duncan Baker (PPS for levelling up), Craig Williams (PPS to the Chancellor), Mark Logan (PPS for Northern Ireland), and many, many more.
Mark Fletcher (PPS for ) has one of the most brutal resignations, calling the Prime Minister “an apologist for someone who committed sexual assault”.
With an 80+ seat majority, Johnson should have overseen one of the most stable political periods in British history. Instead, he and his acolytes, either through dependency or personal interests, gave Britons nothing more than chaotic culture wars, divisive scandals, and the moribund decline of the British state, and unfortunately, these affairs caught up with him.
During the constant barrage over the last two days, and the increasing inability of the British government to function due to the sheer level of resignations causing entire departments to stop functioning, which necessitated the cancellation of almost every committee that was supposed to debate upcoming laws, the majority of the cabinet turned against Boris Johnson and demanded that he resign for the good of the country.
And the rest can be seen in the video below:
What Happens Next?
After announcing that he would eventually resign, strange things began to happen across the halls of government, and suspicions grew that not all was what it seemed.
Johnson began fighting to be allowed to stay on as a ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister, announcing a cabinet reshuffle that he claimed was to keep the government going, but in reality, is an attempt to cling to power in the long-term. One key point is that during his resignation speech, Johnson neither stated that he was resigning, nor did he submit a letter of resignation.
All he did was state that he would wait for “the next leader to be chosen” and that he wouldn’t allow a caretaker to take his place position
The goal of this type of ploy is, of course, to make it as difficult as possible for people to move against him and ultimately finish of his Premiership. The wider political sphere was clear that he absolutely had to be removed, whether they were conservatives, socialists, liberals, or even non-aligned, there were almost no voices claiming that Johnson should stay.
However, this didn’t seem to be effective in any way, with a Johnson aide stating that he would “not stand down as Prime Minister until a new Tory leader elected”, and the Prime Minister effectively going rogue, putting into place a placeholder cabinet.
The issue at hand, of course, is that there are no rules for this kind of situation. Normally a prime minister is in the position due to the confidence of their party, and when this is lost, they cease to be the party leader and cease to be prime minister.
However, Boris Johnson appears to be gearing up to dig in and planning a way to keep going, and this type of behaviour poses a severe risk to British democracy.
The door is wide open for Viktor Orban style shenanigans, with a populist power grab more than possible if Johnson is given the time until September to sit in Number 10, which is why the 1922 Committee needs to urgently understand the gravity of the situation and move to eject Johnson from Number 10.
There is a chance for a reset in relations to take place, one that will bring the UK back to the table of global leaders, that will allow the UK to engage in a more positive, prosperous relationship with France and other EU states that would be able to move beyond the petty, brexit-fueled culture wars that Boris Johnson fed and profited from.
Contrary to what the media and politicians feed Britons, we Europeans are not against you, but want you as partners to fight for the positive future we all want, but for us to move together towards this future the poisonous influence of politicians like Boris Johnson has to be removed altogether.
However, if Boris Johnson somehow manages to cling to power, or if one of his acolytes manages to push forward and take the seat of power, then there is every chance that things will continue to spiral out of control, that relationships will stay as they are, or perhaps, even get worse.
The fate of the Northern Ireland protocol, peace on the Irish isle the fate cross-channel cooperation, and perhaps even the fate of the United Kingdom itself, hang in the balance.
But, dear readers, nobody can tell you what will happen next , and we can only hazard guesses as we watch events unfold as passengers.
Unless you live in the UK, in which case, for the love of all that is holy please get politically active and start working to reinforce your democracy
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