LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Wednesday vowed to stay in power despite the resignations of two top Cabinet ministers and a host of junior officials who said they could no longer serve under the country’s scandalous leadership. he.
Johnson told lawmakers that “the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when you are given a huge task, is to keep going”.
Johnson’s hold on power was shaken by Tuesday’s resignation of Treasurer Rishi Sunak and the Minister of Health Sajid Javid. They gave up saying they could no longer support Johnson because of his handling of ethics scandals, including the case of a senior official accused of sexual misconduct.
Johnson quickly replaced the two men, but a host of junior ministers also resigned, and Johnson’s support within his Conservative Party was rapidly dwindling.
Opponents also hope to change party rules to allow a new vote of no confidence that could oust Johnson. He survived one such vote last month, with 41 percent of lawmakers voting against him.
The most immediate challenge for the leader is to get through two public sessions: The weekly Prime Minister’s question-and-answer session in Parliament is already underway and a long scheduled interrogation late on Wednesday by a committee of senior legislators.
The way he handles conundrums may indicate whether a smoldering uprising within his Conservative Party can muster enough strength to topple him.
Johnson is known for his extraordinary ability to dodge scandals, but a string of allegations of misconduct have pushed him to the brink and some of his Conservative Party lawmakers are now worried. that a leader known for his likability can be a liability in elections.
Many are also concerned about a waning Johnson’s ability to govern at a time of growing economic and social tensions.
Months of discontent over Johnson’s ruling and ethics within the ruling Conservative Party erupted when Sunak and Javid resigned within minutes of each other on Tuesday night. Two Cabinet heavyweights are responsible for tackling two of the biggest problems facing Britain – the cost of living crisis and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a scathing letter, Sunak said “the public really expects the government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. … I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Javid said the party needed “humility, restraint and a new direction” but “it is clear that this situation will not change under your leadership”.
Johnson quickly promoted Nadhim Zahawi from the department of education to treasurer and appointed his director, Steve Barclayas health secretary.
But the danger to Johnson is far from over.
Over the past few months, Johnson has been fined by police and scripted for an investigator’s report on government parties that have introduced COVID-19 restrictions they imposed on others; narrowly survived a vote of no confidence; and witnessed loyal former lieutenants urging him to resign.
Through it all, he has vowed to stay in charge – even hinting that he wants to stay on until the 2030s.
But former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is among several members of the Conservative Party who have told Johnson his time is up.
“It’s a bit like Rasputin’s death. He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, his body was dumped in a frozen river and he’s still alive,” he told the BBC. “But this is an unusual prime minister, with outstanding charisma, very funny, very interesting, great personality. But I’m afraid he doesn’t have the qualifications and temperament to be our prime minister.”
The final draw for Sunak and Javid was the prime minister’s shifting explanations of his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior Conservative lawmaker.
Last week, Chris Pincher resigned as Conservative deputy director after complaining he groped two men at a private club. That triggered a flurry of reports about past allegations against Pincher and questions about what Johnson knew when he tapped Pincher for a high-profile job enforcing party discipline.
Johnson’s office initially said he was unaware of the previous allegations when he promoted Pincher in February. By Monday, a spokesman said Johnson was aware of the allegations – but they were “resolved or not progressing to a formal complaint”.
When a former top State Department official contradicted that, saying that Johnson had been briefed on a 2019 allegation that led to a formal complaint, Johnson’s office said the prime minister had forgotten for a brief meeting on the matter.
It was all too much for ministers who were sent on radio and television to defend the government’s position, only to see it change.
Bim Afolami, who stepped down as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party on Tuesday, said he was willing to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt – until the Pincher affair hit.
“The difficulty is not in the overall government program. … The government has done a lot of positive things to unite the Conservative Party,” he said. “The issue is character and integrity in Downing Street, and I think the Conservatives and people in the country know that.”
But Paul Drexler, President of the International Chamber of Commerce, warns that soaring food and energy prices are reaching crisis proportions and need to be addressed by a leader who is not distracted.
He told the BBC: “I would say the most important thing to do is give food to people who are hungry. “I mean it’s a burning platform at the moment. The poorest people in our society will starve to death in the second half of this year. That needs to be addressed.”
Johnson’s opponents in the party expect more Cabinet ministers to follow Sunak and Javid, although currently other top officials – including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and the Home Secretary are present. Priti Patel case – remains the same.
Opponents are also trying to hold another vote of no confidence in the prime minister. Current rules require 12 months between such votes, but the rules are made by a party committee and can be changed. Elections for that committee’s executive board will take place in the next few weeks.