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The More BoJo Runs Into Trouble, the Better the Odds Are For Labour in Next Election, Academic Says

© REUTERS / POOLBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference for the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) update in the Downing Street briefing room, in London, Britain December 8, 2021.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference for the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) update in the Downing Street briefing room, in London, Britain December 8, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.12.2021
Over a hundred Conservative MPs opposed the introduction of COVID certificates for nightclubs and large events in England, marking the largest Tory rebellion faced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson since the 2019 general election. How could this internal political battle affect BoJo's future and the balance of power in the future Parliament?
The House of Commons on 14 December approved PM Boris Johnson's new pandemic restrictions for England stemming from the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Even though the number of Tories opposing the prime minister's measures was larger than previously expected, the rebellion did not come out of the blue. The Guardian listed at least five instances when some the Tories have disapproved of the government's COVID measures, starting from 30 September 2020. The last one prompted Senior Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to issue a warning to Johnson: "Now the prime minister has really got to think very carefully about how he's going to reset his performance to actually govern with a united party, because we all know what happens to disunited parties”.

BoJo Faces Many Challenges in 2022 and 2023

BoJo might face a challenge from his own party next year, while Labour is breathing down the Conservatives' neck ahead of the next general elections, according to Dr Ben Williams, a tutor in politics and political theory at the University of Salford.

"The people being counted at the moment are probably what you call the usual suspects so they are all the senior Cabinet ministers, the ones that recurrently get mentioned are Rishi Sunak, who is the chancellor, who's kind of like a rising star, relatively young, a new figure in politics", Williams says. "And Priti Patel, who is the home secretary, she's been rumoured to be wanting to pitch herself as a possible prime minister as well".

The scholar also believes that one should take into account Michael Gove, who's been around quite a while in various senior positions in politics. There is no shortage of Conservative candidates from different backgrounds, Williams highlights, adding that if BoJo continues to run into trouble, his place could be rapidly filled.
Although the Labour Party is currently doing well in the polls, they got a bit of an uphill task to win people round at the next election in 2023, according to the academic.

"I think the best option Labour could have at the next election is if they reduce or remove the Conservative majority, and that would be progress", he suggests, not ruling out a "hung Parliament", i.e. a Parliament in which no political party has enough seats to secure an overall majority. "If we then had a hung Parliament, we could then possibly have a Labour-led hung Parliament coalition of some sorts where Keir Starmer was the prime minister".

BoJo is running into more and more problems, creating more opportunities for Labour to improve their position and come out on top, according to the academic.
Britain's PM Johnson walks outside Downing Street in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.12.2021
Will Tory Rebellion Over 'Omicron Emergency' Rules Cost BoJo Prime Ministership?

How BoJo Failed the Tories

"These announcements of further COVID restrictions - it's a problem for lots of Conservative MPs who instinctively believe in freedom, liberty, and the free market - all these kind of ideological views, and there's a significant number who feel that what's happened in the last couple of days with these new restrictions announced is a step too far", says Williams. "They are questioning science; they are questioning the justification for it".

Some Tories even went so far as to compare the government's plans to introduce COVID-19 health passes to "Nazi Germany": "We are not a 'papers please' society", Conservative MP Marcus Fysh told the BBC. "This is not Nazi Germany. It’s the thin end of an authoritarian wedge".
The discontent over BoJo's anti-COVID measures has been further exacerbated by the fact that his own administration did not observe the pandemic rules while holding an "illicit" Christmas party during a COVID lockdown in 2020.
However, it's not only the pandemic restrictions that triggered the recent rebellion, according to the academic: there's also growing frustration with Boris Johnson's own leadership and plummeting approval ratings.

"There are some who are now saying, really, 'he's made too many mistakes'", Williams notes. "There are too many problems. He's not really in control of things. And there are even some Conservatives actually saying it's time to consider his position, and maybe he should stand down as prime minister sooner rather than later".

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) at the House of Commons, in central London on November 3, 2021  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2021
Tories Will Oust BoJo Like They Ousted Thatcher if Public Gets Tired of His Blunders, Academic Says

Why North Shropshire By-Election is Important

The North Shropshire by-election will be a litmus test for the Tories, according to Williams. North Shropshire is a traditionally Conservative constituency. It had previously been represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 1997 by Owen Paterson, who was mired in a sleaze scandal. Meanwhile, The Guardian notes that bookmakers have made the Liberal Democrats the favourites to win this week’s by-election, while Sky News suggests that "opinion polls might give the impression the Conservatives are set to lose" North Shropshire which has long appeared as "an extremely safe seat".

"If the seat was lost, then obviously that would be a real blow because it would suggest that even some diehard traditional Conservatives are getting fed up now and have now turned on the party", the academic explains.

The Tories' potential defeat could backfire on BoJo, the scholar presumes, adding that there is still a silver lining for the Conservatives:
"In North Shropshire, the word on the street is that the two opposition parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, may actually split the votes because they're both running campaigns to try and win", Williams presumes. "And if the two opposition parties split the opposition votes, then the likelihood is the Conservatives could come in through the middle and hold on… If that happens, then that actually gives Johnson a bit of breathing space over Christmas and into the new year".
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