Tuesday, June 28

Can Boris Johnson Survive Partygate? The betrayed public will decide | boris jhonson


Mary Soames, daughter of Winston Churchill, described the prospect of her father’s forced resignation from Downing Street, largely due to illness, as “her first death.” Prime ministers rarely leave office voluntarily. Margaret Thatcher memorably had tears in her eyes as she walked away from her 10-year-old home. Perhaps he was recalling the gracious advice of his closest adviser, Charles Powell, immediately after his third election win in 1987, suggesting that after two more years in office it would be prudent for him to resign voluntarily.

“There comes a point where your reputation and position as a historical figure are more important to your party, to your cause, and to the country than even you can be,” she wrote, suggesting that then it would be time for her to contribute something. manner. Another way.

Thatcher, of course, ignored him and instead gave an interview in which she said she intended to “go on and on”, only to be ousted by one party with a built-in resentment over her division.

Geoffrey Howe, the former cabinet minister who wielded the knife in the House of Commons, would later explain: “The insistence on the undivided sovereignty of his own opinion, disguised as the sovereignty of the nation, was his undoing.”

In his memoirs he understood the origin of his defeat and reflected that “a prime minister who knows that his cabinet has retained its support is fatally weakened.”

For Boris Johnson, who faces the greatest test of his tenure, there will be a similar reluctance to give in. His brief tenure contains something of a legacy, the UK’s negotiated exit from the EU, but not long ago his advisers informed the Times that he intended to stay in office for 10 years. He is probably certain that the cabinet, many of them uninspired men and women, will not budge on him yet, even though he will be watching every move of Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Rishi Sunak, his chancellor.

His concern will be the court of public opinion, his impact on the parliamentary party, and the real threat that Sue Gray, the ethics consultant, or the police will make for him.

'I apologize for the impression': how Boris Johnson has responded to the claims of the lockdown party - video
‘I apologize for the impression’: how Boris Johnson has responded to the claims of the lockdown party – video

Prime ministers have had the metropolitan police on their case before. Tony Blair was prosecuted by the Met on allegations that titles were offered to party donors who were asked to disguise the donations as loans and therefore went unreported. It was argued that the loans could be converted into grants if a noble title was awarded. In his autobiography, Blair recalled: “From the day the story came out to the day I left, it was a festering sore.” The file was closed shortly after he left office and Blair said the 18 months had been “absolute hell” for everyone involved.

Blair became convinced that Gordon Brown had used the scandal internally to push him to go, something that Blair had already agreed to do in principle. Many, including some Downing Street staff, were arrested, and Blair was interviewed three times, twice in office, but was not arrested or interviewed under reprimand.

It was the first time that a prime minister had assisted the police with their investigations. Channel 4 later reported that on one occasion, the police had tried to interview him under caution, and Blair refused, saying that doing so would require him to resign as prime minister. The police reconsidered.

Ultimately, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case because there was no evidence of an explicit agreement that the cash would result in an honor.

In reality, Johnson’s fate depends less on the police and more on Gray, at whose mercy he threw himself during the prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.

The Johnson and Blair cases, potentially in violation of the lockdown laws and the Honors (Prevention of Abuse) Act of 1925, respectively, are of course very different and carry very different penalties. Although honor money is objectionable and a feature of a corrupt political system, the offense may not have the same public resonance as a violation of lockdown rules, since those rules apply to everyone.

It is the stench of hypocrisy, the betrayal of a supposed sense of shared national sacrifice, that is so dangerous to Johnson. The day after the party, 24 hours after the last empty cans were removed from the Downing Street garden, Johnson stood on the steps of 10 to applaud the NHS workers.

Downing Street Party Affirmations: How May 2020 Was For The Rest of England - Video
Downing Street Party Affirmations: How May 2020 Was For The Rest of England – Video

But there is another parallel between the Blair and Johnson case. In both there was a sense that the stories were being fed by internal party sources as a political rivalry. In his short time in office, Johnson has managed to offend some savvy and ruthless people. His efforts to prove it is prime ministerial material, always an uphill task, are not facilitated by the leaks.

He may survive: some politicians, like Michael Heseltine, loved crises and others, like John Major, hated them. Johnson, who likes to be loved, seems uncomfortable when confronting his mistakes.

Conservative MPs will now have to decide whether Johnson’s prime minister has made a discreet but recoverable error in judgment, or is unable to function effectively due to personality flaws: the verdict handed down on three recent incumbents, Brown, Major and Theresa May, politicians whose reputations have improved outside Downing Street.

The fear is less that Johnson is accident-prone, or weak, but fundamentally dishonest, who completely lacks what Blair once described as an “irreducible core.” Conservative MP Huw Merriman urged his colleagues to see Johnson “in the round.” Johnson’s concern is that too many MPs have looked at that bigger picture and seen something irredeemable.


www.theguardian.com

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