Saturday, January 22

Johnson struggles to regain control


UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is struggling to get his prime minister back on track as mounting allegations of wrongdoing against him and his Conservative colleagues spiral out of control.

Johnson and other members of the Cabinet faced a new barrage of questions about their conduct on Sunday, the 11th consecutive day of negative headlines against the Conservatives since the prime minister’s misguided decision to block the suspension of prominent Brexit MP Owen Paterson. , for paid lobbying.

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The government quickly reversed its direction after a public outcry over the possibility of Paterson being acquitted, but did little to stem the wave of sordid accusations against the party. In a clear sign that the popularity of the Conservatives is waning, two polls over the weekend showed Keir Starmer’s Labor Party is ahead.

“Of course, I think things could certainly have been handled better, let me put it that way, for me,” Johnson said at the end of a press conference in Downing Street Sunday night, the biggest contrition he has offered for the debacle.

But such a wild phrase is unlikely to satisfy Tory MPs who privately demand a proper apology and explanation.

Change of tide

There is a growing sense of unease among MPs, many of whom are furious at Johnson’s handling of the current crisis, that the tide is turning against the prime minister after months of him having faced similar problems. . The fear in conservative circles is that Johnson is starting to shine, and the masses of new voters he won in the overwhelming 2019 election are beginning to question his choice.

A Savanta ComRes poll for the Daily Mail showed Labor a six point lead. And an Opinium poll for The Observer recorded a one-point lead, the first lead for the pollster’s main opposition party since January.

It’s a massive turnaround for Johnson and the Tories; Just a few months ago, senior Labor figures were pessimistic about their chances in the next election and saw little hope of beating the man many in Westminster had dubbed “Teflon.”

If Johnson constantly begins to lose his popular appeal, he knows he faces a tough fight with his party. As a Conservative MP said last week, on condition of anonymity, it is a coldly transactional relationship: Johnson wins the election and the party allows him to be prime minister.

Allegations

However, there is now a sense that Johnson can get away with less than he used to, with both his advocates and the public, as the worst of the coronavirus pandemic recedes and attention turns to his agenda. national.

Your troubles have no end in sight. On Sunday, Labor demanded an investigation into his relationship with American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri after she claimed, in a newspaper entry published by The Observer, that he asked how he could be the “accelerator” of his career while he was mayor of London.

Johnson also faces ongoing questions about a Marbella vacation in Spain last month and his inability to properly record his stay at a villa owned by his friend and fellow conservative Zac Goldsmith.

He also faced allegations this year over financing his apartment remodel, which was initially based on a loan from a conservative donor. He was cleared of wrongdoing, but was told he acted “recklessly”. On the other hand, he was accused of a “too casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House” during an investigation into the declaration of a luxury vacation to Mustique.

Meanwhile, allegations of misconduct are mounting against senior conservative colleagues, including former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg. They both say they acted according to the rules.

Johnson will hope to focus attention on his much-publicized “leveling off” agenda and pushing forward his “net zero” plans after the United Nations COP26 summit he hosted in the UK imposed the toughest decisions in the future.

But he will not be able to escape this week’s debacle. On Monday, the government will face yet another humiliation when MPs formally withdraw their failed attempt to break rules laws. And on Wednesday, Johnson faces an uncomfortable interrogation from the Commons liaison committee, a high-level panel of all select committee chairs, who can ask questions on all subjects.

© 2021 Bloomberg


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