Boris Johnson, saved by new baby, but for how long?

London: The birth of Boris Johnson’s seventh child this week could not have come at a better moment.

The baby girl arrived amid a torrent of disastrous headlines about a Christmas party held at Downing Street at the height of last year’s coronavirus lockdown. Her birth buys the British Prime Minister a few days to regroup – something he must do if he is to survive the fallout from the yuletide festivities scandal.

Boris Johnson.Credit:AP

Johnson had said there had been no party, but leaked footage shot four days after the event showed Number 10 staff laughing during a mock press conference about the indefensible gathering.

To understand the fury this episode has triggered – and why this alone has the power to turn the country against a seemingly Teflon-coated Prime Minister – requires a look back in time.

Last Christmas was absolute hell in Britain. We were told to spend the day alone. Millions chucked out hundreds of pounds’ worth of food, stores wasted tonnes of goods and the cold, lonely day was miserable after six months or more spent in lockdown. More than 600 people were dying of COVID-19 each day.

To know that the joke had been on us all this time, while Downing Street partied and giggled about getting away with it, is intolerable.

It is not plausible that Johnson did not know about a party held at the government headquarters where he also resides. But even upon apparently learning about the event, his response has been abysmal.

Allegra Stratton, former spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, cries as she resigns.Credit:PA

He tasked the country’s most senior civil servant to ask about the facts; the aide caught on camera joking about it cried as she quit and the staff who did attend now fear losing their jobs.

The Prime Minister should, too, be worried about his own. He is in his most precarious position since entering Number 10 in the northern summer of 2019.

Johnson is used to riding emotional highs and lows. Last year he fought off a COVID death and weeks later welcomed Wilfred, his and Carrie’s first child together, and his sixth.

See the pattern? A rollercoaster of chaos. Johnson has always lived his private life this way. Observe the string of marriages, lovers, and the inability to manage his own finances which led to Tory donors funding the redecoration of the flat above Downing Street, where he lives with Carrie and their family.

That arrangement breached the electoral disclosure laws and earned his party a big fine. It has also been revealed this week that the Prime Minister seemingly misled his own ethics adviser in claiming not to have known the identity of the donor behind the flat refurbishment fund until this year. Yet WhatsApp messages show him communicating with the donor and asking him for cash last November.

He is governing the country in the same way he has run his private life and the chaos is catching up to him.

The clown routine, the tug of his hair, the dressing up in ridiculous costumes, the inability to feel shame about playing the fool seemed to have got him through past crises. It isn’t working this time. Not on the public and not on his own MPs.

Johnson has some justification for staying out of the limelight for the next few days as he welcomes his newborn. He must use it wisely if he truly wants to continue as Prime Minister – something some MPs are beginning to question.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, observes an early morning police raid on a home in Liverpool, England, ahead of the publication of the government’s 10-year drug strategy. Credit:AP

He looks tired and jaded. His wife has made powerful enemies and her outsized influence on the running of government is angering MPs.

He could earn more and work less if he just quit, says one MP. But this would also present the Conservative Party with another problem. Who can replace Boris and replicate his election-winning connection with the public?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is viewed as politically naive and his billionaire status, through his own fortune and marriage to the daughter of an Indian billionaire, is a drawback. He gives the impression of someone who is too slick and whose ride has been a little too easy.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak.Credit:AP

Sajid Javid has tried and failed before and, despite a recent promotion back into cabinet, a rebellion is already mounting against the Health Secretary who is pushing the introduction of vaccine passports, albeit in a limited form. Vaccine passports are kryptonite to a significant proportion of the Tory backbench.

That leaves the most likely candidate, Australia’s supposed best-friend Liz Truss, who presents a working-class Tory image, rails against post-modernism and claims to stand for freedom and liberty. While she excels in delivering a speech, the Foreign Minister flounders the minute she is left to her own devices.

The lacklustre but stable Labour leader Keir Starmer would put up a good fight against all three in any battle.

Which is why most MPs don’t want a leadership change or contest. They want Boris to fix the mess he’s caused.

The question is: is he willing and capable?

Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article