US NEWS PRESS – The Conservative government of Boris Johnson is in deep trouble, once again embroiled in a scandal over the creation of at least one of its own prime ministers.
And this time, it’s much worse than all the other times.
On Tuesday evening, while Downing Street was on the ropes to tackle sexual misconduct by a member of the government, two senior cabinet ministers resigned.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he could not continue “in good conscience”. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak also resigned saying that people “expect the government to work properly, competently and seriously.”
The immediate cause of the crisis was the result of the resignation of Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher last Thursday after he groped two guests at a private dinner that night. While he did not directly admit, Pincher said in a letter to Johnson that “I drank too much last night” and “embarrassed myself and other people.”
However, Downing Street press officials were trying to explain why Johnson was in government in the first place amid a wave of revelations of his past conduct. On Tuesday, a senior former civil servant published a letter accusing Downing Street of not telling the truth when he said the prime minister was not aware of at least one of the historical facts.
In an effort to draw a line under the swirling controversy, Johnson issued a statement in which he apologized and said it was wrong to reappoint Pincher to the office of whip – which ironically is responsible for party discipline. – earlier this year. But within minutes it was overtaken by the resignation of two cabinet members.
The details of how Downing Street itself became such a mess are coming to the fore. At first, when new reports of Pincher’s historic conduct surfaced in the light of his resignation, Downing Street initially denied that the prime minister knew anything about the prime minister.
When it became clear that this would not happen, Johnson’s team said they were aware of the historical fact, but had been “resolved”. When it emerged that one of the previously unreported charges against Pincher had been upheld, Johnson’s spokesman explained that a “solution” could mean that it was upheld.
Then on Tuesday morning, Simon McDonald, a former top Foreign Office civil servant, revealed that Johnson had been personally briefed about the outcome of an investigation into Pincher’s conduct.
Whatever justification Downing Street has attempted to provide, Johnson’s decision – and his handling of this latest crisis – are now in grave doubt.
A common theme of the plethora of scandals surrounding him – from “Partygate”, when Johnson was fined by police for violating lockdown rules, to his efforts to protect a lawmaker who violated lobbying rules. was violated – this is how the government has falsified the result from the initial problem.
“The biggest threat to this government is its own incompetence,” said a senior government official. “Discipline is completely broken.”
“It seems the team around the prime minister has no idea how badly this is going,” he said. “No one is good at giving interviews. We can’t stay in a row. We’ve completely lost control.”
A government minister told CNN he believes a major problem is that Johnson sets the tone for the behavior.
“For someone as colorful as their personal life, it’s hard to reprimand people for behaving inappropriately,” he said.
A growing sense of anarchy – and the idea that the government has lost control over yet another story – is doing nothing for the conservatives who think Johnson has become the party’s biggest election turning point.
The Prime Minister’s personal approval rating and the party’s polling numbers have both declined since the breakout of the PartyGate scandal. Trust in Johnson as a leader appears to be eroding with both the public and his own lawmakers. Conservative Party lawmakers tried – and failed – to oust him last month.
But Conservative lawmakers are losing hope that even if Johnson is ousted from power, it will not be possible to make up for the damage he has caused the party before the next scheduled election in 2024.
What is more worrying for those who have lost faith in PM, he is determined to fight.
This worries Conservative MPs, especially those in marginal seats, who have all but given up hope of keeping up. Some of them think Johnson has any real grasp on how bad things have gotten – and they can see no way of understanding the prime minister.
The government’s poor handling of Pincher’s resignation means the scandal is now personally linked to Johnson. It was he who opted to appoint Pincher to a top post in the government – despite knowing how serious the charges were against him, and even though he knew a complaint against him was upheld.
Over the years, Johnson’s main selling point has been his ability to personally connect with voters. His brand of optimistic populism was – so Conservative MPs thought – a force of nature that gave a majority of the British public a vote for Brexit in 2016 and a parliamentary majority of 80 to the Tories in 2019.
But as Johnson’s government moves from crisis to crisis, his lawmakers now fear what happens when a populist loses its popularity, they are learning the hard way.