With the world on the brink of a possible nuclear war and rampant inflation, some European heavyweights are facing trouble on their own. We’re talking about the UK,a political crisis looming since Brexit. The Brits’ most recent troubles are not your usual corrupt politician problems. Instead, it concerns a mass exodus of its ministers, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself.
At least 54 officials from Johnson’s cabinet have left the government, including four ministers. It was the first in a series of moves that resulted in a complete political meltdown in the UK. Johnson himself resigned after a July 7 press conference, bringing to an end one of the most tumultuous times in the UK’s political history.
Quit “With Dignity”
There have been plenty of calls for Johnson to resign in the past couple of years. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, his approval ratings plummeted. The reason was the controversial parties held by Boris Johnson’s party amid a crisis when the government instructed everyone to wear a mask, even outside. Johnson’s lavish parties were mask-free, and it seemed that all other rules didn’t apply to politicians.
The PM has long denied involvement in the parties, but controversial pictures later showed that he did take part in them. Other scandals piled in, and it was simply too much pressure for Johnson not to resign. He did his best to hold on to power for months. Just a few days before leaving, government officials asked him to quit “with dignity.” He didn’t even think about resigning in the first place, but too much pressure mounted in the end.
There were plenty of reasons that led to this point. The resignation comes at the worst time. Europe is facing a power crisis in the winter, and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war is causing many problems and rising prices. The bigger problem is the reason for the mass exodus from Johnson’s cabinet. It’s not like he and the other ministers were caught anonymously in a small-scale scandal playing online casino blackjack. These were far bigger controversies that raised many questions about the morality of the UK’s political elite.
The Reasons for Boris Johnson’s Plummeting Ratings
As mentioned earlier, Johnson’s plummeting ratings didn’t happen overnight. Numerous scandals have been tied to him since he took the cabinet in 2019. The first thing he did when he became UK’s new PM was to re-open Brexit negotiations. Then came the Parliament prorogue, later ruled unlawful, but it was just the tip of the iceberg.
Here’s a preview of the Brexit timeline led by Boris Johnson:
- After the initial Brexit negotiations concluded in later 2018 with the withdrawal agreement, Boris Johnson was voted a new Conservative leader and appointed Prime Minister.
- He decided to re-open the negotiations after removing the Irish backstop as a pre-condition. It took only a few months before the deal was agreed upon, effectively resulting in Exit Day on January 31, 2020.
- Many UK residents didn’t want to exit the European Union. Those who voted had second thoughts, but Johnson and his party pushed for the exit. It was only the first step in a series of controversies for Johnson and his cabinet, leading to his political demise.
On August 28, 2019, the UK Parliament was ordered to be prorogued by Queen Elizabeth II. The decision came upon the advice of UK’s new PM Boris Johnson and was eventually ruled unlawful. The prorogation (suspension) of Parliament activities should have lasted from 9 September to mid-October. It lasted from September 10 to September 24. If it lasted how Johnson wanted, it would have been a five-week prorogue, with its activity returning 20 days before the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union.
It was a highly controversial decision by Johnson that everyone saw as an attempt to avoid parliamentary scrutiny over the Brexit deal. It was even worse when the prorogue was ruled unlawful. The botched prorogation was the earliest example of Johnson’s disregard for parliamentary rules. The Queen wasn’t to blame. She stamped the request in line with her duty to stay out of politics. She only acts on the advice of ministers, so it wasn’t hard to see that it was all Boris Johnson’s doing.
The botched prorogue started the series of missteps by the UK’s new PM that spelled the beginning of his end. Johnson and his cabinet violated strict lockdown rules during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. When the nation was in lockdown and businesses were closed, Johnson and his buddies had mask-free lavish and rule-breaking events.
Johnson vehemently denied any involvement in the Partygate scandal. He knew perfectly well that it could spell the end of his political career. Reports have emerged online that Johnson’s close staff got drunk at one of these events, brawled with attendees, and insulted and abused cleaners during strict lockdowns. These parties continued until the early hours with a lot of booze. In completely breaking the rules, the PM staff organized an illegal birthday party for Johnson himself with six-packs and sandwiches. Some of Wall Street’s walls were stained with red wine stains, so these parties put a pretty big dot on Johnson’s back.
The Metropolitan Police even fined the Prime Minister for attending a party on government premises. It was held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021. It was the first time a UK premier was found to break the law. To make matters worse, the Queen sat alone at the funeral as indoor mixing was still banned at the time. For this misstep, he was forced to apologize to the Queen.
Boris Johnson’s handling of these scandals was awful. Downing Street denied any involvement in the parties at first. Johnson said he knew nothing, and if he attended, he believed they were work events.
But, pictures of Johnson with a beer in his hand at his birthday party and other pics had emerged online during a time when indoor mixing was banned. It enraged UK citizens, and his ratings plummeted after the damning report. Many have called for Johnson to step down, but he insisted he wasn’t aware of breaking any rules.
At numerous times during his PM reign, Johnson’s staff and close friends’ names popped into serious sex scandals. Two probes led to a pair of lawmakers resigning. Imran Ahmad Khan, a Conservative lawmaker, left after it was found that he sexually abused a 15-year-old boy. The second one to be found guilty and resigned was Neil Parish. He admitted to watching pornographic material on his phone in the House of Commons. He said it was a “moment of madness.”
Another Tory has been arrested on suspicions of sexual assault and rape, yet his identity was not disclosed to protect the victim.
These sex scandals were too much for the PM to handle, and he let some of his people down the river. Other misconduct allegations have surfaced too, and the worst thing about them all is that the Prime Minister seemingly knew about them but didn’t act.
In 2021, Boris Johnson tried to persuade Conservative MPs to vote in favor of overturning the suspension of a fellow Tory in Parliament. That fellow Tory was Owen Patterson, a former cabinet minister facing a one-month suspension after he breached lobbying rules.
After massive backlash from other Tory members, Johnson gave up, and Patterson quit as an MP. Ironically, his seat was then taken by Liberal Democrats. The Tories have held it for over 200 years, and if it wasn’t for Johnson’s meddling, they might have had it still.
The Pincher Affair
The Pincher affair was probably the nail in Johnson’s political career coffin. Pincher is a now-former Conservatives deputy chief who allegedly groped two guests at a private dinner. He said he probably drank “far too much,” which led to the embarrassment. Still, he didn’t admit the allegations directly – he confided those words to Boris Johnson himself.
After the media poker around, it was discovered that Pincher shouldn’t have even been in the government. He had a history of the alleged conduct, although Johnson stated he knew nothing about it. Considering his previous statements that he knew nothing about this or that, no one believed him.
He then admitted it was a mistake to appoint Pincher to his government. The first wave of resignations followed just after he was admitted. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid handed their notices, and dozens followed the next day.
The refurbishment probe was one of Johnson’s first allegations of corruption. A slew of messages on WhatsApp emerged online where the PM asked Conservative Party donors to provide funds for a Downing Street refurbishment. In total, it cost over £200,000. The UK has a tight policy about political loans and donations, and by not reporting the gifts, Johnson breached the rules.
The Conservative Party was fined almost £20,000, which was too small a fine to pay for an illegal request.
The Lebedev Link
The Observer released a story linking Johnson directly to ex-KGB officer Alexander Lebedev three years ago. This incident eventually became the defining scandal in Johnson’s reign as a PM. Their report showed that Boris Johnson and Lebedev met in person without a security detail. It was during the height of the Skripal poisoning case. Did we mention this as a scandal? Forget it – this was not a scandal. It was a breach of national security.
As many know, in 2018, the Kremlin instructed two intelligence officers to use a chemical weapon in the UK. A discarded bottle of nerve agent Novichok was found after a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died under mysterious circumstances. While the case was initially treated as a botched assassination attempt, NATO noticed that it was much bigger than that. It was chemical warfare on the civilian population of a NATO member. An attack on one member is an attack on the whole organization, so a quick reaction was needed.
Johnson acted immediately as a foreign secretary and expelled nearly 350 Russian diplomats. In late April, a meeting was convened by NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. It included foreign ministers of NATO member nations, and Boris Johnson was there too. He left the meeting with documents in hand and evaded the security detail to travel to Italy alone. He met Lebedev there, a former KGB spy in the Russian embassy in London, and this was confirmed later.
This was in total breach of all security protocols, and the biggest problem is we know precisely nothing about it. Johnson admitted they met but never said what was spoken. Politicians have been sacked for far less, yet Johnson somehow became a Prime Minister later.
A Messy Political Legacy
After facing pressure from the public, Boris Johnson resigned from his position on July 7, 2022. He will remain PM until a new party leader is elected. He left the position as the UK’s most controversial political figure. Be built a web of lies that have worked for years, but his deceits have finally reached their end.
Still, it is unclear how he managed to dodge that many bullets. From Partygate to the sex scandals and the breach of national security with the Lebedev meeting, it was incredible that his political career lasted for years. If the UK is as serious as it should be, he should face court for several allegations.
Who’s the Favourite to Replace Him?
Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and Penny Mordaunt are the frontrunners for the PM seat. That’s the result of the second ballot in the Tory leadership contest. Bookmakers have much longer odds for Sunak and Truss, with Mordaunt as the current favorite.