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Why BoJo is Likely to Brazen Partygate Out Amid Russia's Special Op in Ukraine

© REUTERS / TOM NICHOLSONBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks in Downing Street in London, Britain, April 5, 2022.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks in Downing Street in London, Britain, April 5, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.04.2022
A snap YouGov poll has found that 57 percent of the British public want UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign over "Partygate" with only 30 percent of people believing BoJo should remain in his role. Can Boris Johnson and the Tories weather this public storm?
"The short answer to that is surprisingly yes, they can," says Alistair Jones, associate professor of politics at De Montfort University in the UK. "Simply because there is nothing formally in place to remove Boris Johnson from office. So, there could be, for example, a vote of no confidence in parliament. And if that were to happen and the government were to lose, there'd be a general election. But that would assume that about a quarter of all Conservative MPs would vote against their own party, and I don't see that happening."
The Brits seem to be disenchanted by their premier. The latest YouGov survey has indicated a 10 point increase in those who think BoJo should step down since 8 March when 47 percent said he should step down and 36 percent said he should stay.
Three-quarters of British respondents also believe that BoJo "deliberately lied" when he said that he did not attend Downing Street parties during the coronavirus lockdown to avoid a potential scandal.
On 12 April, the premier apologised and said that he had paid a police fine for attending a birthday gathering in the cabinet room in June 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown. Johnson's wife, Carrie, and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, were also fined for participating in the events. This is the first time a prime minister and chancellor have been caught red-handed in breaking the law while in office.
Moreover, London's Metropolitan Police revealed they had issued more than 50 fines over the lockdown-busting parties. The police did not disclose the number or identities of those being fined.
After the disclosure, Labour leader Keir Starmer urged Johnson and Sunak to resign for “dishonouring their offices”. However, when asked whether he would step down, Johnson said that the best thing he could do now is to "focus on the job in hand." At the same time, the Mirror suggested on 13 April that the Treasury chief was told "not to quit his post over Partygate as it would be seen as 'an act of regicide' against Boris Johnson".
A police officer stands on duty outside 10 Downing Street in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.04.2022
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Tories: Change of Heart

"The alternative way of removing [PM Johnson] is for the Conservative MPs to write letters to the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee, Sir Graham Brady, and he needs 54 to trigger a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader," says Jones.
According to The Guardian, a number of Tories have already written no-confidence letters to the committee. However, Russia's special operation in Ukraine became a game changer with some conservatives backtracking on their desire to see Johnson ousted. Sir Roger Gale, Andrew Bridgen and Douglas Ross had submitted letters of no confidence, but are now saying that it's not the time to change the leader given Russia's military operation. "So, he is going to brazen it out," remarks Jones.

"Now, where there may be a change is in the beginning of May, we have local government elections and the Conservative Party are expected to do very, very badly there," the academic says. "So, it may be after that the party removes him. Alternatively, if there are more fines issued - because there are some sources who say he will be named and have repeated fines to pay - then his party may decide to remove him in those circumstances. But as it stands at the moment, he is going to stay in post."

At the same time, the British public appear to be sympathetic to Boris Johnson's position on Russia's special operation in Ukraine, according to the professor.
"A lot of people are backing his position that the British government should be supporting the Ukrainian regime," he notes. "So, in that respect, he is pushing an open door there - the vast majority of the British public are sympathetic to the position of the Ukrainian government."
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak hosts a press conference in the Downing Street Briefing Room on February 3, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.04.2022
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Who Could Fill BoJo's Shoes?

It is also still unclear who would take over the reins should Johnson step down. Previously, some media outlets named Rishi Sunak as the most likely candidate to become prime minister. However, after Sunak was caught attending the infamous parties, his chances of being tapped as the next British premier have faded.
"I have never heard that Rishi Sunak would actually replace the prime minister," argues Jones, suggesting that more probable alternatives for Johnson are Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, or possibly Michael Gove, who is Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

"Those would be the three main Tory party candidates," the professor says. "Having said that, there is talk that there could be a backbencher who may come forward to challenge the Prime Minister if - and it goes back to my earlier point - there is a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party and if he loses that vote, then there is the election and the election process in the Conservative Party is very complicated. And it is unclear as to who might win."

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