Shahmir Kazi describes an intriguing political careeri
It was the end of quite a turbulent political career when exit Boris Johnson, the maverick Prime Minister of the UK resigned from just slightly more than three years in this prestigious office. After months of political bickering Johnson faced the cumulative pressure of his party members who went to the extent of revolting against him to force him out of office. In the process it took the resignation of nearly half of Conservative government political office holders, 60 of them, that compelled Johnson to finally abandon his attempts to cling on to power. He however raised more objections to his departure when he insisted that he would continue as caretaker leader while the Conservative Party launches the process of choosing a successor. This was something his senior colleagues in the party did not agree to and consider such a course of action unsustainable, given the dwindling number of people willing to work for him. A good many of his party fellows are already lining up to replace him and plan announcing the timetable for a leadership election by Monday.
Earlier Johnson played with words without saying in as many words that he was resigning that many observers interpreted as him planning to stay in the office for as long as he can. Giving credibility to such assumptions was his appointing a new cabinet to serve, as he will, until a new leader is in place. This action is taken as somewhat devious as appointing new cabinet ministers means that the government can continue to function as he prepares to depart. His political opponents suspect some kind of deviousness usually associated with Johnson and that is something his party is always worried about. There is a general feeling that Johnson can always come up with some ruse that may somehow create a situation in which he may be able to meander his way back in the higher echelons of political power in Britain. His party apparently is deeply suspicious about his intentions and considers that his continuous presence in the front ranks of the party may be damaging to its interests.
Prior to his exit Johnson was engulfed in a series of scandals that put plenty of pressure on his most close members in the government to ditch him ultimately. The latest was his botched handling of the resignation by Johnson’s former deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher, who was accused of groping two men last week. Johnson initially attempted to ride out the crisis despite an unprecedented flight of middle-ranking ministers from the government, a battering at Prime Minister’s Questions and a bruising appearance before a committee of senior lawmakers in Parliament. By the end of all such pressure he still showed resilience and insisted that he will not resign. Finally he gave up when his closest associates told him to go. Conventionally, when a Conservative leader resigns, he or she gives the party time to hold a thorough leadership contest in which Conservative lawmakers and then party members nationwide vote and that is precisely the reason that many insist that he leaves office more quickly.
It is widely believed that Johnson’s departure will mark a remarkable downfall for a prime minister who was once seen as having political superpowers, with an appeal that transcended traditional party lines. He won a landslide victory in December 2019 on the promise of delivering a Brexit deal and leading the UK to a bright future outside the European Union. But his premiership unraveled in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. In recent months Johnson faced a barrage of criticism from all sides over his conduct and that of some members of his government, including illegal, Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties thrown in his Downing Street offices for which he and others were fined. Numerous other scandals have also hit his standing in the polls. These include accusations of using donor money inappropriately to pay for a refurbishment of his Downing Street home and ordering MPs to vote in such a way that would protect a colleague who had breached lobbying rules.
Matters had already come to the head when Johnson had to face a no-confidence move and though he survived it but it was widely predicted that he would not last long in office. It was quite a tough blow for the beleaguered prime minister as 41% of his own parliamentary party refused to back him. This certainly was very disappointing for him though he tried to put a brave face and vowed to continue. He suffered a further blow late last month when his party lost two parliamentary by-elections in a single night, raising new questions about his leadership. The image he portrayed was that he was practically indestructible and blessed with a Teflon chip but in the end it all proved a fast-disappearing mirage. TW