Sunday, December 10, 2023

Boris Johnson’s turbulent three years in power

It was “the Prime Minister who broke all the rules”, title this Thursday the BBC , on the third day of an unprecedented political crisis across the Channel. Boris Johnson has indeed tendered his resignation as leader of the British Conservative Party but will remain head of government until his successor is appointed.

57 departures have been announced in the government since Tuesday, including five ministers. Targeted by several scandals, the British leader had to face the mistrust of his own camp, after three turbulent years at the head of power, between the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit.

July 2019: resounding victory at the head of the Conservative Party

Former mayor of London and pro-Brexit figure, Boris Johnson was elected leader of his party on July 23, 2019 after a landslide victory over Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt. He was appointed Prime Minister the next day by Queen Elizabeth II, and promised a rapid exit from the European Union.

In December, his position is secured in historic legislative elections, in which the Conservative party wins seats in areas usually won by Labour.

January 2020: Brexit agreement

Very popular, Boris Johnson appears after his election as a dominant figure in British politics. MPs approve his Brexit deal and on January 31, 2020, the UK leaves the European Union, three and a half years after the referendum on leaving the Group of Twenty-Eight.

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While the negotiation of a free trade agreement with the European Union was seen as the next major project for his government, the Covid-19 crisis has imposed itself on the Prime Minister’s agenda.

April 2020: Boris Johnson is hospitalized with Covid-19

Downing Street announces on March 27 that the Prime Minister has tested positive for Covid-19, experiencing mild symptoms. He was then hospitalized on April 5 and transferred the next day to intensive care. He will stay there for three days.

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A few days earlier, the leader had announced national confinement to deal with the pandemic.

April 2021: the first scandals

Boris Johnson denies having made controversial remarks in which he opposed a third confinement when he has been criticized since the start of the pandemic for his management of the crisis. He is accused in particular of having been slow to react. At the same time, the financing of the renovation of the Prime Minister’s apartment also raises questions and is controversial. The Prime Minister’s party is still gaining ground against Labor in local elections on May 6, 2021.

In October 2021, Boris Johnson is also being criticized for supporting a Tory MP accused of breaking lobbying rules, Owen Paterson. The latter was to be temporarily suspended for having used his position as a parliamentarian to honor lobbying contracts. He finally resigned, and Boris Johnson admitted to having made a mistake in his handling of the file.

December 2021: the first revelations about “Partygate”

From December, revelations accumulate on several illegal parties organized at the heart of power during confinement, which will become the “Partygate” scandal. The British denounce the hypocrisy of the government, the Prime Minister having just announced a tightening of the restrictions. The list of parties concerned grew in the weeks that followed and investigations were opened.

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“Partygate”: Parliament opens an investigation against Boris Johnson

On April 12, 2022, Boris Johnson announced that he had been fined by the police for breaking the law, by participating in a surprise party for his birthday in June 2020 in Downing Street. He had however assured Parliament that no health rules had been broken. According to the BBC, police issued a total of 126 fines to 83 people for breaking lockdown rules at Downing Street.

The scandal plunged the popularity of the Prime Minister and the British, strangled by inflation, made it known by imposing a defeat on him in the local elections on May 5.

June 2022: Boris Johnson holds firm after a vote of no confidence

Boris Johnson survived a vote of no confidence from his Conservative Party MPs on June 6, after a no-confidence motion triggered by part of the majority, after the “Partygate” revelations. More than 40% of MPs say they no longer have confidence in the Prime Minister, reflecting the extent of the malaise.

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July 2022: series of sex scandals

A new sex scandal within the conservative camp again puts the Prime Minister under the fire of criticism. On July 5, Boris Johnson apologized and admitted an “error” in having appointed Chris Pincher to his government in February, in charge of parliamentary discipline for Conservative MPs, when he had been made aware of accusations of a sexual nature aimed at him. A few days earlier, the Conservative MP had indeed been accused by several British media of sexual assault on two men at a party. He then resigned from office before being suspended from the Conservative Party by Boris Johnson.

The revelations come in the wake of an embarrassing series of Tory sex scandals, including an MP suspected of rape arrested then released on bail in mid-May and a former MP sentenced in May to 18 months in prison for the sexual assault of a teenager.

July 2022: cascading departures

On Tuesday, weary of the scandals, two high-ranking ministers resigned. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid announced their departure from government, triggering an avalanche of resignations. This Thursday afternoon, around sixty departures had been announced within the British government, including five ministers.

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Is another Brexit possible? Boris Johnson’s difficulties revive the debate

After having ruled out resigning on Wednesday despite the efforts of several important figures in his government to convince him to leave, Boris Johnson finally announced his resignation from the Conservative Party on Thursday.

With AFP


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