Posted on: July 6, 2022, 09:55h.
Last updated on: July 6, 2022, 03:51h.
Beleaguered British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now odds-on with bookmakers to leave office this year. That’s after his latest misstep caused 27 (at the time of writing) ministers and aides to quit in protest at his leadership.
Labour’s Sir Kier Starmer, the leader of the opposition, said pointedly on Wednesday that it was a case of “sinking ships fleeing the rat.”
MPs are angry about Johnson’s handling of sexual misconduct claims against a chief ally, Chris Pincher. In what may be a case of nominative determinism, Pincher resigned last Thursday as an MP and Conservative Party deputy chief whip after admitting he got wasted at Piccadilly’s exclusive Carlton Club, where he was accused of groping two men.
Since this revelation, six separate allegations have emerged about Pincher’s past misconduct. These allegations include that he made unwanted advances to fellow members of parliament and a former Olympic rower.
Pincher by Name
But why are these accusations Boris’ fault? Johnson claimed last week that he did not know Pincher had been investigated in 2019 for misconduct allegations when he appointed him to the role of deputy chief whip last February. But in 2020, Johnson reportedly described Pincher as “handsy” in a conversation with aides, which he added was “a problem.”
On Tuesday, the PM admitted in a BBC interview that he did know of misconduct complaints against Pincher before appointing him to the role. Within minutes, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid quit. Both were key members of Johnson’s Cabinet, and their resignations prompted further walkouts.
Javid said that “Treading the tightrope between loyalty and integrity” had become impossible.
The affair, in isolation, would probably not spark mass calls for a prime minister’s head. But for many in Johnson’s party, not to mention the electorate, it’s the final straw.
Johnson’s tenure has been rocked by revelations of boozy parties at 10 Downing Street, the PM’s London residence, during the coronavirus lockdown, and by subsequent lies to cover them up.
In May, Johnson’s Conservative Party suffered crushing defeats in local elections. The populist PM has never been less popular. Last month, he narrowly survived a vote of no confidence, when 42% of his own party voted against him.
In 1989, a very similar split of the vote in a leadership contest prompted “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher to step down in tears. But that’s not Boris’ style.
According to his press secretary on Wednesday, Johnson believes he has grassroots support, and it’s business as usual. The bookies aren’t so sure.