BoJo Won't Resign in Short-Term, But His Political Future Teetering, Prof. Says

© AFP 2022 / ADRIAN DENNISBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a press conference for the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 8, 2021. - The UK government is reintroducing Covid-19 restrictions due to the Omicron variant.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a press conference for the latest Covid-19 update in the Downing Street briefing room in central London on December 8, 2021. - The UK government is reintroducing Covid-19 restrictions due to the Omicron variant.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.12.2021
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While a majority of UK citizens were locked down in 2020 amid strict coronavirus restrictions, Downing Street staffers appeared to enjoy Christmas celebrations - at least that's what UK media reports suggest, offering leaked images of Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting an in-person holiday party for employees.
With the Omicron COVID-19 variant already ravaging the United Kingdom, reportedly prompting governmental planning of additional restrictions, the leaked footage from the Downing Street 2020 Christmas party only adds to the frustration most Brits feel with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
His fellow party members even seem to be mulling to replace the beset PM in the event of his situation getting worse.
Alistair Jones, an associate professor of politics at De Montfort University in the UK, offered to Sputnik his take on whether these misfortunes will climax with Johnson's resignation.
Sputnik: Johnson's approval rating as PM has dropped to an all-time low. He is also facing major criticism over a Christmas party and the battle against the Omicron variant. Will Boris Johnson survive this backlash?
Alistair Jones: That is a million-dollar question. At the moment, in the short term, the answer is yes, but - and here's a big but - there's a by-election on Thursday, and the Conservative Party are defending a majority of about 20,000 votes. It's Owen Patterson’s seat, he was the one who got caught having two jobs and all the problems with all the sleaze and the scandals actually started. Now, if that seat is lost, then there will be pressure on Boris Johnson to resign, and that is on Thursday. If there is a small Conservative majority, he will hang on into the new year. But then you've got the investigations into all of the Christmas parties, and it's not just one Christmas party now. We are talking four or five or more Christmas parties, some of which Boris Johnson is alleged to have attended, and others were in Downing Street, but he may have known about. So in today's news, in England, there are pictures of him playing in or reading out questions in a Zoom quiz. But all the other contestants in the Zoom quiz were in Downing Street and it is alleged there were several of them between six and 20 in one room at a time when the rules stated there could only be two people together working in a room. So these breaches of the rules are being investigated and more and more are appearing, and it is just going to build up and build up, and suddenly the MPs will decide they've had enough. And all it takes is 55 Conservative MPs to write to the 1922 Committee to ask for Johnson's resignation and he is out. So there's a lot of pressure.
Sputnik: What do you make of the timing of the leak about the Christmas party?
Alistair Jones: The timing of the leak has a lot to do with the ill-feeling there is in 10 Downing Street, how there is just nothing in control. Whoever leaked it from 10 Downing Street, it was a very calculated ploy to see what sort of response it would provoke. The timing was done to create the maximum amount of damage to Boris Johnson, and his response to it has been, first of all, to deny, as he always does and then to say, “Well, we'll investigate”. But that leaves the question why investigate something that you said didn't exist? Whoever has leaked the story has timed it brilliantly and also knew how Johnson would respond. And he has responded perfectly to type: deny, deny, deny. And then he will blame somebody else - Allegra Stratton, one of his advisers, has already resigned. His other chief adviser, it is said, offered his resignation, but it was refused, although 10 Downing Street denied that happened. We may see more resignations or firings of Boris Johnson's 10 Downing Street support team, all of his special advisers. Many of them are getting exasperated with Johnson and how he acts. And there was a comment from somebody that it's about time the grown-ups took over again.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference, in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.12.2021
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Sputnik: Will the Tories give Boris the boot in the near future?
Alistair Jones: Subject to all those caveats, I've just said - yes. If the North Shropshire by-election is lost, then letters of demand of his resignation will go in. I know that the Loughborough University Conservative Society has passed by a supermajority a demand for Boris Johnson to go to the Queen to resign as leader of the Conservative Party and as prime minister. So the fact that there's at least one student’s union, the Conservative Society is already pushing for this - it's not made the news much yet. I have locally, but not nationally yet, but that's beginning to show that even the most committed Conservative supporters are beginning to think that the amount of damage being done to the party is getting to the point now where they will lose the next general election, even though that is over two years away.
Sputnik: But if Boris Johnson resigns, will this help the Conservatives in their struggle with Labour, which is currently ahead in the polls?
Alistair Jones: A new leader normally breathes new life into a party and then to its poll ratings. The question is going to be, the really fascinating question — is who will replace Johnson? There are three mainstream frontrunners and one outsider. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer — is very popular at the minute. How he's handled the economic side of the COVID pandemic — he's got a lot of credit for. Priti Patel is the second one. She is very popular with the grassroots of the party. She is one of those that want to take back control of our borders and reduce the amount of immigrants coming into the country and also seeking asylum or refugee status. She wants to stop as much of that as possible. And the third is Liz Truss, who is the current foreign secretary and who has been negotiating trade deals around the world and getting lots of kudos from within the Conservative Party for doing so, even though most of those deals may be rolled over what already existed when it was an EU member state. The fourth option is Jeremy Hunt, who stood against Boris Johnson last time around and was roundly defeated. But he is seen as being “Not Boris”, the “Not Boris” campaigner. The grown-up, if you like. And in that respect, he would be a safe pair of hands, even though he is not necessarily that popular compared to the popularity of Boris Johnson at the moment, he is significantly more popular. The Conservative Party membership will decide who is going to be the new leader if they get to an election, and it is the MPs who will be voting to get it down to the last two candidates. The question will be for Jeremy Hunt is whether or not he has got enough support amongst MPs. On that count, he might just make it, and then as to who the run-off person will be — it will be a very, very close election. But this is all conjecture. I don't see it happening. It won't be happening this side of Christmas, I don't think. But I think it's something that could well be happening in the new year, especially with the Omicron variant. And if we actually move to another lockdown and some of the forecasts are that we may need to move back into a lockdown, even though the government has promised that would never happen. That would be yet another lie or a broken promise that Boris Johnson has made. There are lots of things accruing, but that will all be in the new year.
© REUTERS / TOM NICHOLSONBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves outside Downing Street in London, Britain, December 8, 2021.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves outside Downing Street in London, Britain, December 8, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.12.2021
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves outside Downing Street in London, Britain, December 8, 2021.
Sputnik: Is there any chance that we will see a shift in UK politics to a Labour government?
Alistair Jones: If Boris Johnson stays in power... Boris Johnson is arguably one of the best campaigners in the country, and if he stays there, he has got the gift of the gab and he could talk the hind leg of a donkey and then make it to encourage it to walk again. He is that good. Labour have got nothing against that. Labour are going to have to appeal to people's minds rather than their hearts. They're going to have to present the rational, reasoned approach and that doesn't win elections. So if Boris Johnson is still there, Labour will struggle to defeat him regardless of what the polls are saying now. If Johnson is gone, it will depend upon who the leader is and how they treat Parliament. Because Boris Johnson has treated Parliament very, very badly. He has lied in the chamber, he has misrepresented so many things and has gotten away with it so far. His replacement has got to make Parliament look sane and sensible again, and then the Conservatives could be re-electable. But it's an 80 seat majority they are defending at the moment, and there have been very few occasions when that size of majority has been overturned in a single election. So the Labour Party have got a huge mountain to climb. The most recent polls put them at having about 41 or 42 percent of the vote. But when looking at the electoral system, that still leaves them five seats short of an overall majority. So, the electoral system and the way the boundaries have been redrawn have actually helped the Conservatives this time around, and it's going to make it even more difficult for Labour to win outright.
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