Boris Johnson will submit this Monday to a vote of internal censure over the ‘partygate’ scandal | International
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With the Platinum Jubilee over, the UK Government is facing a holiday hangover. Not those that have commemorated the long reign of Elizabeth II for four days, but those that Boris Johnson and his team celebrated in Downing Street during confinement, which caused the outrage of the British. The conservative parliamentary group will finely submit its prime minister to a motion of internal censure this Monday, starting at six in the afternoon (seven in the afternoon, Spanish peninsular time). The magic figure of 54 “confidence withdrawal” cards has been reached. At least 15% of the deputies Tories he has sent Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, a text stating his wish that Johnson be replaced in office. The committee brings together the so-called backbenchers (literally, back-seat MPs), the majority of Conservative MPs who do not hold government office, and therefore have more loyalty to their constituents and their own political future than to Johnson. Brady earlier warned Johnson on Sunday of the storm brewing in a few hours, when Parliament resumes business. If a majority of Conservative MPs, that is, 180, voted against the Prime Minister, his dismissal would be almost immediate. Before it will be necessary to start some internal primaries to choose the replacement. In that intermission, Johnson can resign or remain in Downing Street.
“The Prime Minister welcomes the opportunity to make his case to MPs, and reminds them that only when we are united and focused on the issues that matter do we become a formidable political force,” said a Downing Street spokesman. The strategy is clear: a warning about the damage that the image of a party submerged once again in an internal war can cause. In fact, Johnson plans to address his deputies once again at four in the afternoon (five, in Spanish peninsular time) to claim his support before the vote.
Johnson’s main rival during the July 2019 primaries, Jeremy Hunt, has re-emerged these days as the favorite candidate in the face of possible impeachment. “[Los ciudadanos] we were entrusted with power, and the Conservative MPs know in their hearts that we are not giving the British people the leadership they deserve. We are not offering the integrity, effectiveness and vision necessary to unleash the enormous potential that this country has, ”Hunt wrote on his Twitter account, in a message with a clear personal campaign sound.
It was the hardest political blow against Johnson, but not the only one. John Penrose, the deputy confirmed by the Prime Minister himself in 2019 as Anti-Corruption Czar (a position attached to the Ministry of the Interior, which supports the Government in its fight against corrupt practices), announced this Monday that he is leaving the post. Johnson, the deputy has claimed, has clearly violated the Ministerial Code (the government’s code of ethics) by lying to Parliament, and he must resign. “Even if I end up winning the vote this afternoon, the general feeling is that this is the beginning of the end. I think it’s all over”, Penrose has sentenced in statements to SKYNews.
The no-confidence motion will take place almost two weeks after the report on parties in Downing Street during the pandemic was published, a text by the deputy secretary of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office, Sue Gray, in which they asked responsibilities to Johnson. Although the conservative leader then returned to apologize to Parliament and the public in an attempt to stop a rebellion in the party, the content of the report has once again caused a political storm. In the 37 pages of the text, Gray, without direct appointments to Johnson, explained that “many people will be shocked at the scale of the behavior that took place in the very heart of the Government.” And she added: “The highest level leaders, both politically and administratively, must take responsibility for this culture. [de alcohol y fiestas]”.
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Since the scandal hit the headlines last January, Johnson has been on a rollercoaster ride in which he has come to believe that, once again, he could turn things around. Conservative deputies, however, who travel to their respective constituencies every week and know first-hand the rage of voters, have been ruminating on the precise moment to punish the prime minister. It was not during the first information, waiting for Johnson to explain; not even after Scotland Yard announced the fines against Johnson, his wife, his finance minister, Rishi Sunak, and dozens of members of the government team; not even when Gray published the devastating final report on him. It was just the day after the entire United Kingdom celebrated the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth II’s reign, with an implicit message: the institutions remain. Politicians, no matter how popular they are, no. The huge booing suffered by Johnson and his wife, Carrie, last Friday, outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, was a clear signal. All those citizens concentrated around the religious service in honor of the queen – monarchists, and presumably of a conservative tendency – expressed their rejection of the prime minister.
It is the same mechanism, with rules that have been changing in terms of figures and procedure, that Margaret Thatcher, John Major or Theresa May suffered. The three achieved a majority of support in the motion of internal censure. But in all three cases it was a weak majority, between 50% and 60%, which made it clear that almost half of her deputies were against her. You can hardly resist that situation. Johnson’s team is also confident of winning the vote, although at this point it is not clear. It is a secret ballot and therefore difficult to control by Downing Street. You will need around 180 deputies to succeed. But in any case, amid rampant inflation, a deepening cost-of-living crisis and the looming threat of a recession, the ability of Johnson, whom many have defined as the Houdini of politics, to survive , is minimal. The only strategic reason the Conservative politician clings to is the consolation that the vote will take place before the elections in the constituencies of Wakefield and Tiverton. Both hold partial elections on June 23 – their two Conservative deputies have resigned, in both cases due to a sexual scandal, and the polls announce an overwhelming victory for Labor and the Liberal Democrats. That would have been the final straw for Johnson. But with the current rules, if it passes the internal censure motion this Monday afternoon, another one cannot be held again within a year. Unless the rules change again, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady, has warned. And in the case of Johnson, not even the well-established uses and customs of the House of Commons are taken for granted.