If there’s ever been a time where the past few months have been an absolute disaster for a British prime minister, it can most certainly be said that this has been the case for Boris Johnson as of late. Having experienced, and in some cases even engineered, one political calamity after another in the past few months, it’s surprising how Johnson is still the prime minister of the UK and leader of the governing Conservative Party at this point.
Having been elected on the mantle of ‘Getting Brexit Done’ and exhibiting the sense of enthusiasm and vigour which he is commonly associated with, Boris Johnson’s time at the helm seems to lack the sparkle that many had imagined to be dominated by and has almost been completely encapsulated by the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, or lack thereof.
With regards to COVID-19, in particular, Johnson has faced incessant criticism from political commentators and segments of the British general public over the public health restrictions which his administration has introduced since the start of the pandemic.
However, perhaps the most significant form of opposition that Johnson has faced in relation to these measures has emerged from within his own party. Ranging from stringent opposition towards the lockdowns which his government has instituted to nearly 100 Conservative backbenchers voting against the most recently introduced restrictions as part of a ‘Plan B’ which was unveiled in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the spread of the Omicron variant.
Whilst encountering dissent from his own MP’s, Johnson has also been on the receiving end of a swarm of unbridled anger displayed by the UK as a whole, as a result of revelations detailing how he and other government officials couldn’t bring themselves to follow the restrictions which they had instituted, and which the rest of the British population had no other choice but obey so as to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Specifically, it is now known that several parties took place in Number 10 Downing Street whilst the rest of the UK was in lockdown due to COVID-19, thus rendering these parties essentially illegal.
Needless to say, these revelations, with their fallout now being popularly referred to as ‘Partygate’, have caused widespread anger to be directed towards Johnson and the rest of his government, with his initial response to institute the previously mentioned ‘Plan B’ restrictions, amidst brewing internal dissent.
It ought to be pointed out that most of these restrictions have now been scrapped, only after they were introduced in order for Johnson to minimise the damage being inflicted on him by the reports being made on illegal parties, and that the revelations have prompted the Metropolitan Police to launch an investigation into these reports since they were held in breach of public health measures aimed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across the UK.
In what has only further amplified these increasing woes, they certainly haven’t been overshadowed by the growing amount of Conservative MP’s who have lost all trust in Johnson’s leadership due to these events. Amidst reports of letters of no confidence being to the 1922 Committee, these reports have been coupled with claims that Conservative MP’s opposed to the prime minister’s leadership are being blackmailed with having private information leaked to pro-Boris Johnson newspapers, as part of a now commonly referred to ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ or ‘Operation Red Meat‘, with this being an attempt launched by the prime minister’s allies to save his premiership, and intimidate his critics. It must be said that this wouldn’t be the first time such claims have been made, with there having been previous reports of Conservative MP’s being told that public funding into infrastructural projects based in their constituencies would be revoked should they vote against key government legislation.
Apart from internal squabbles, Johnson’s woes have also included problems of a more socio-economic nature, with these impacting the UK as a whole. These have mainly consisted of soaring energy prices and Britain being hit by the Europe-wide rise in inflation, a crisis surrounding HGV lorry drivers, and a sharp rise in the cost of living felt across Europe.
In response to the economic difficulties which Britain is facing, Johnson’s government oversaw an increase in National Insurance contributions and the introduction of tax hikes, with the lower and working classes bearing the brunt of these measures. Additionally, the gravest blow to those on lower incomes across Britain was dealt by means of the cuts in Universal Credit, with an expected uplift of £20 never materialising.
On a political level, a damaging blow to the Conservative Party’s already-waning image was dealt in the form of revelations surrounding former minister’s Owen Paterson’s lobbying activities which he conducted for several companies whilst still serving as an elected MP.
This prompted an investigation led by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, who found Paterson to have breached ethical rules, and recommended that he be subjected to a 30-day suspension from his duties as an MP. In what was a shock to many in and outside the House of Commons, the British government presented a motion in an attempt to block Paterson’s suspension, with this passing, but only for Paterson to resign from Parliament shortly after and being preceded by a separate attempt made by the government to completely overhaul parliamentary standard rules, which was eventually scrapped.
When considering all that’s taken place, Johnson’s position as prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party continues to hang in the balance, as a premiership that was based on Brexit appears to have lost its sparkle, and Brexit seems to have been overshadowed. Whilst his allies continue to mount a constant defence, Johnson continues to be lambasted and criticised heavily, with a constant occurrence also being the calls for him to resign.
Written by: Jacob Callus
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