From London

The waters are increasingly choppy among conservatives. No one wants Boris Johnson among the vast majority of his MPs and, with the presumable exception of his wife Carrie and a few allies or opportunists, the rest are waiting for the right moment to strike the final blow in order to replace them in command of the Titanic.

Some deputies are more explicit, others more reserved. In his most transparent love-hate format, the former minister and former candidate for Conservative leader, David Davis, was forceful on Wednesday in the House of Commons: “in the name of god, just go” As if it had opened wide a door ajar, other conservative deputies began to flood the media with expressions just less explicit.

Among those wounded and disappointed, but who maintain loyalty to the family, is the former minister Roy Stewart. “The British have known for decades that he is disorganized, that he betrays almost every promise he makes. It’s disturbing that they still chose him when everyone knew he was a liar,” he told Sky TV on Friday.

A more extreme and so far solitary case is that of Christian Wakeford, MP for Burly South, who decided to jump ship before it sinks. The same “black Wednesday”, Wakeford announced that he was going to “cross the floor”, to cross from the Conservative caucus to the Labor party. The issue was not just the scandal or Johnson’s lies. With the conservatives in 2019 Wakeford had won in his electoral zone by a difference of 407 votes: with the Partygate in the background he had no chance of keeping the seat.

To go or not to go

Johnson’s CV lists that he was twice fired from his job for dishonesty. The first time, during his career as a journalist in the 90s, when he invented a quote in an article. The second, when as spokesman for the then conservative opposition, he lied to the party leader, MichaelHoward, about an “affair” carried out in his office in the House of Commons.

In the media his name has been in the headlines of a long list of personal or political scandals.. Vox populi is that he himself does not know how many children he has. Despite all this, he comfortably won the internal election to replace Theresa May in 2019 at the head of the party and a few months later he swept the national elections (43.6 percent of the vote).

Many Britons seemed to like the “human” fallibility of the prime minister who often spoke as a friend of drinks in the pub rather than as a pompous and hypocritical preacher of public virtues not practiced in private life, a perception that exists among many politicians .

Another song is lying to parliament in the midst of a pandemic, reiterating for weeks that there had been no parties at 10 Downing Street and that any meeting that had existed had respected the rules of confinement, replacing that with “in any case I didn’t know”, to finally, just about 10 days ago, to apologize to the House by admitting that he had been to one of the meetings, but that he hadn’t lied because he had actually thought (despite the glasses, the gin and tonic, the wine and the canapés and the laughter), that it was a “work meeting”.

Nobody believed him in parliament, in the media, in the population. There is a growing consensus that Johnson should resign for breaching the parliamentary code that prohibits ministers from “mislead parliament”. The verb “mislead” encompasses the idea of ​​lying, cheating, misleading and telling half-truths. Johnson’s conduct since the scandal began in late November covers all of these possibilities. And the penalty is clear: resignation.

Johnson’s whips

The reaction of Johnson and his mini-court of allies has varied between denial, a “clean slate” and a semi-mafia threat to the British. The parliamentary system works with a very British dynamic, linked to Victorian discipline and fox hunting, so much so that those in charge of maintaining order within their own ranks are called the “whip” (the whips). These “whips”, which are used to whip one’s own and not others, threatened Deputy Wakeford when he was still a Conservative. According to the same deputy, the whips had approached him in the corridors of the House of Commons to warn him that if he did not vote in favor of the government they would withdraw the funds that they had to give him for a new school in his electoral zone.

This is more or less what is confirmed by a dozen Tory MPs from the brand new litter that entered the House of Commons in 2019 thanks to Johnson’s resounding electoral victory.

The prime minister said that he had not seen “any evidence” of this behavior of the whips, although it is true that he will soon be nicknamed the blind man because he did not see the parties he went to. Your business minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, acknowledged that these complaints should be investigated. “Any form of extortion or intimidation is unacceptable. You have to investigate this, get to the bottom of the matter. But it seems extremely unlikely to me that something like this ever happened,” he said.

With the name reserved, a conservative deputy explained to the newspaper Guardian how this government extortion system worked. “It is not only with the funds for the electoral zone that the parliamentarians represent. It is with the technique of rumor, personal things, the “affairs”. More serious accusations of corruption or embezzlement can be used, but also slight violations of the code of conduct that governs deputies,” he said.

Family man

In his book “The political animal”, the famous BBC journalist Jeremy Paxmann He denounced the existence of a secret place of the Conservatives where compromising material was taught to the rebel deputies of the party itself. According to Paxman, a “family man” who wanted to vote against the government saw himself in photos naked and surrounded by women as naked as he was. “They passed him an envelope. He opened it up, paled and spent the rest of his career doing what he was told,” Paxman wrote. Sounds familiar?

Curiously, neither did Labor Keir Starmer they want Boris Johnson gone. With the prime minister they are doing very well. Before the Partygate scandal began in late November, they were head-to-head or slightly behind the Tories in the polls. This week they get more than 10 points. The closer they get to the next election in 2024 with the bangs in the lead, the better for them.

The tactic is to ask for their resignation because as the opposition they have no other choice and to wait for the erosion of each day, each hour, each week. There are local elections on May 5 and Labor calculates that they are going to sweep the polls because the prime minister is going to continue burying the entire Conservative Party in the mud at Partygate.

As for Johnson’s immediate fate, much will depend on the report to be released this week by race official Sue Gray. If the Partygate report is lapidary, many undecided MPs will be forced to write to Graham Brady, president of the powerful 1922 bloc (Conservative deputies without government responsibility), saying that they withdraw their confidence in the prime minister and demand his replacement as party leader.

the uncertain future

The sum of 54 cards triggers the internal election of conservative leader, but not enough to remove the crown. Boris Johnson will have to face one or more candidates in a first round of voting. If he does not get half plus one of the parliamentary bench – 180 of the 359 deputies – the prime minister will be eliminated and a new internal electoral round will be opened to find a replacement for him.

The two great candidates have maintained a tactical support for the prime minister so as not to end up like the Brutus of the tragedy hurting their own chances, but also because of a political calculation: that Johnson bear all the malarias that are coming (increasing inflation and unemployment, increase of the cost of living, growing evidence of the disaster that was Brexit). the chancellor Liz Truss She is one of Johnson’s great allies on the Brexit issue, part of the hardest and most nationalist wing of the cabinet, very popular with the militants of the Conservative party. finance minister Rishi Sunak He is a billionaire son of Indian immigrants who dreams of lowering taxes, but who moves with greater pragmatism in political-diplomatic matters.

This is how things Boris Johnson could paraphrase the neo-conservative former US defense minister Donald Rumsfield, in charge of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when in a moment of Buddhist enlightenment on the war he summed up the situation as follows. “There are things we know we know. There are things we know that we don’t know. But there are also things we don’t know that we don’t know. If you look at the history of our country and the free world, the latter tend to be the most difficult.”



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