British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, born in New York 58 years ago, has reached the end of a political journey that may have left few indifferent; a tenure as a tenant in front of Downing Street in which scandals have abounded around his figure, that of his Cabinet and the companions of the conservative caucus in Westminster. The parties held in Downing Street during the pandemic and against the rules established to prevent contagion, known as partygate, have shaken the work of Johnson’s government in recent months, but it has been the mismanagement of sexual harassment complaints against a political ally, Chris Pincher, that has given the final blow to the Tories until you turn your back.
In his three years at the head of the Government, Boris Johnson has completed the first divorce in the history of the community project, has faced a global pandemic, has obtained for the British right an unprecedented electoral victory since the zenith of Margaret Thatcher, has dragged Queen Elizabeth II to a conflict with the Supreme Court and has dared, for the first time since 1948, to close the dean Parliament of Western democracy to prevent it from blocking his intentions, a decision annulled weeks later as illegal. In his personal life, he went through the hospital (covid-19 took him to the ICU in April 2020), divorced his second wife, married his third and had another child.
But if he has proven anything throughout his career, it is that logic rarely works with him. Boris, as most still know him, has not only been forgiven sins that would sentence other leaders, but it is precisely these slips that seemed to make him connect with the electorate on a level inaccessible to his opponents.
His entry into Downing Street was an earthquake, after a primary in the Conservative Party which he had attended as a clear winner. The endorsement of the polls would be obtained in December 2019, in early general elections in which he swept, confirming an undeniable electoral talent that does not necessarily find the reflection of him as a manager.
The start of the legislature was promising: in less than two months he had managed to approve the agreement for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and the end of the 47-year marriage of convenience was a reality on January 31 last. The new era, however, has shown the fissures of a president under the apparent impression that he can rewrite the rules at will. When he had been in office for two years, Johnson sowed the seeds of a potentially lethal battle with Brussels, demanding a comprehensive review of the agreement to avoid an internal border with Ireland.
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In his eight years as mayor of London (2008-2016), a traditionally progressive metropolis, he had had the astuteness to recruit a solvent team that took care of the day to day, while he continued with his specialty: being Boris Johnson. Downing Street, by contrast, demands comprehensive involvement and, as prime minister, has shown an increasing difficulty in delegating that has transformed him, in the words of one of his advisers, into a “libertarian Stalinist.”
What premiere, Johnson demanded unlimited loyalty, a demand that has made him surround himself with a low-profile Executive, in which obedience weighs more than training for the position, but to whom he allows weaknesses that open an easy flank of attack. Despite this, he has managed to make his image of bonhomie and his curious ability to identify with the ordinary citizen scarcely suffer, partly due to the perception that he persists as free verse of the establishmentbut also because of the success of the vaccination campaign and because of the entrenched identity crisis of a Labor opposition that has still not recovered.
But there were cracks in Johnson’s kingdom that became black holes, despite the perennial joviality of a president who hates giving bad news and who, according to those who know him best, craves the approval of others above all else.