Boris Johnson has fallen from the post of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Last Thursday, July 7th, in front of the official residence, at number 10 of Downing Street, in London, he made a speech announcing that “the process of choosing a new leader must begin.” The outgoing prime minister was under pressure after a series of problems and scandals, but his downfall is far more calculated than it seems.
The most recent scandal was that of Chris Pincher, former deputy leader of the party bench in Parliament, a position called in the United Kingdom of whip, literally whip, since he is responsible for maintaining discipline and party cohesion. Pincher resigned after several allegations of sexual harassment, which he admitted, blaming drinking for his “inappropriate behavior” of groping several men on multiple occasions.
Initially, Boris Johnson denied knowing about these episodes. Later, this turned out to be a lie, which raised another question: if Boris knew about the behavior his ally, why did he appoint him vice-leader anyway? The government also quickly tried to hush up the case, deeming it “closed” after Pincher’s resignation, which contributed to the backlash.
The episode provoked an avalanche of layoffs in the Boris Johnson administration. In less than three days, sixty cabinet members resigned, including Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the official name of the British economy minister. Michelle Donelan, Secretary of Education, also resigned, as did the Secretary for Wales and Northern Ireland.
On day six, a party of Tories went to the official residence to tell Boris Johnson that it was over, that it was time to resign. Before this episode, the image of Boris Johnson and his government was already affected by the scandal of Partygate, the parties held by members of the government during the pandemic, including the period of mourning. official for the death of the prince consort, and the lies told by the prime minister.
There is also the issue of post-Brexit Ireland, an almost unsolved problem that, every other week, generates tensions in the United Kingdom and on the island of Ireland, a topic that is very present here in our space. The country is registering its highest inflation in almost forty years, it is going through strikes in its transport sector and the government is also criticized for its migration policies.
Speaking of themes present here in our column, we comment on the possible resignation of Boris Johnson still in January 2010. And the British political conjuncture has not changed since then. Going beyond scandals and parties, there is another main reason why conservative leaders have been wanting Boris Johnson’s head for months. Today, he would not even be elected as a trustee, and would sink the party.
His approval rating is in the range of 30% , one of the smallest for a prime minister in office after World War II. Each day of Boris Johnson in power was one less day for the party to recover. Election polls show that, today, the Labor Party, the main opposition party, would have around 40% of the votes, against between 2024 % and 35% of Conservatives.
The Liberal Democrat Party is heading for its best performance since 2010, with about 12% of the votes, many of them from voters who previously voted with the Conservatives, but diverge from the Brexit and Boris Johnson. In the last year, the Conservatives lost four midterm district elections. In one of them, it was the first time in history that the Conservatives were defeated in the district, precisely for the Liberal Democrats.
This is not a comprehensive assessment of the Boris Johnson administration, it is simply from the Conservative Party seeing how the British electorate is feeling. If Boris Johnson started the first national vaccination campaign against covid-10, if he did too much or too little in relation to the conflict in Ukraine, whatever, that it is part of a later balance sheet. Again, today, Boris Johnson would suffer an overwhelming defeat.
The Conservative Party, then, combines the “useful with the pleasant” ”, taking advantage of the window of political scandals that shake public opinion, and get rid of Boris Johnson, avoiding greater losses. The party maintains a majority in Parliament and internally elects someone who will have until the end of the current term, in 2024, to recover the government’s image and the party’s electoral chances.
Today, five names emerge as potential occupants of the chair of head of government in the United Kingdom. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has been noted for his tough statements against Russia; Penny Mordaunt, Minister of Commerce; Rishi Sunak; the former Minister of Economy; Liz Truss, current foreign affairs secretary; and Dominic Raab, Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.
Of these, Raab pleases the pro-Brexits, while Ben Wallace emerges as the most popular name and Mordaunt as a “technical” name. There is a possibility that, for the first time, the UK will have a prime minister from an immigrant background. It is not yet possible to pin down who will be the winner to replace Boris Johnson, but its main mission is already defined: to reverse the tide that is currently against the conservatives.