By Thomas McLinden | 2nd February 2022
It can be quite safely assumed that Boris Johnson’s tenure has been nothing short of dull. The electrifying, unavoidable presence of Johnson in Number 10 is the final piece to the melodrama entitled Boris Johnson’s political career. Having swooped to the rapturous applause of Brexiteers by bearing the flag of Britain’s eventual departure from the EU, Johnson now finds himself in a precarious position, with turbulence growing in Number 10.
Johnson is certainly no stranger to facing political scandals, neither is he averse to using any tactic available to him to evade scrutiny and accountability. Allegations of sleaze have erupted within the Tory party in recent weeks. With problems mounting for Johnson in recent months, this seems to be the beginning of a new storm facing Number 10.
The resignation of backbencher Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, having violated parliamentary lobbying standards, is the first of several embarrassments for the government in recent weeks. The government’s response to this was textbook Boris Johnson, an attempt to cover Paterson’s tracks and change the rules to sweep the issue further under the carpet. By doing this, Johnson has attracted anger from both sides of the Commons. Former Prime Minister Theresa May was amongst critics, describing the government’s actions as “plain wrong”.
This is simply the tipping point of the storm of troubles facing Johnson. The emergence of claims that Conservatives held numerous Christmas parties last year, whilst the country was plunged into lockdown, has stirred anger from the public and MPs alike. Discontent about the government’s behaviour, with many seeing it as hypocritical and insensitive. The impending investigation threatens to add further fuel to the flame, particularly if it is found that coronavirus laws were broken.
This revelation has led to a major political storm in Westminster. Opposition parties and some of Johnson’s own MP’s have led the allegations the government are undermining public trust. This comes at a time when the communication between the government and the public is crucial.
This increasingly strained position comes at a difficult time for the Prime Minister. Cases of the Omicron variant are soaring, with the pressure piling on Johnson to act swiftly to ensure the stability of the NHS. Johnson’s position is not made any easier. Opposition to more lockdown measures by many on Conservative benches puts Johnson in a precarious position. The Prime Minister must decide whether to appease those opposed to more restrictions or risk cases continuing to rise exponentially.
The North Shropshire by-election in December proves to be a sticking point for Johnson. A Tory stronghold, the Liberal Democrats gained a 34% swing, to take a seat held by the Conservatives for the past 200 years. Johnson faces mounting pressures when it comes to the electability of the Conservative Party, particularly given the party’s defeat to the Liberal Democrats in the Chesham and Amersham by-election, earlier in the year.
Amongst all this controversy, the heights of an 80-seat majority in 2019 for the Conservatives seems a long time ago. Instead, the polls paint a far different picture to 2019, with Keir Starmer leading the Labour Party to an increasingly consistent lead over the Conservatives in recent week’s opinion polling.
A deadly combination of a slide in the polls and controversy attracting furore amongst the public and party MP’s is certainly Johnson’s biggest challenge to date. Calls for Johnson’s resignation from his own side gaining traction is now becoming a much more likely scenario. Particularly with cabinet ministers Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak being tipped as potential successors to Johnson’s throne.
Johnson will most likely spend the early part of the new year mulling over how he can once again lead a Tory surge in the polls whilst simultaneously winning back public trust after a damaging spate of affairs. With that said, whether this will be possible, even for a politician so renowned for winning and getting his way will remain to be seen. What can be taken for certain is that he won’t face an easy ride in doing so, with Labour taking advantage in the polls, a scandal difficult to erase from the minds of the public and a pandemic threatening to spiral out of control once again.