Boris Johnson: a bizarre mandate plagued by scandals | International

Boris Johnson was driving a forklift truck, last January in the port of Tilbury.
Boris Johnson was driving a forklift truck, last January in the port of Tilbury.MATT DUNHAM (AFP)

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (New York, 58 years old) achieved in December 2019 the feat of an overwhelming victory of the Conservative Party in the general elections of the United Kingdom. After three years of internal division around a Brexit that no one knew exactly how to put into practice, the hard wing of the formation – the Eurosceptics – bet their enormous internal power on an eccentric, controversial and problematic character, but also popular and charismatic . Johnson won a historic majority of 80 MPs over the opposition, ended the career of veteran leftist Jeremy Corbyn, and won the vote in traditionally Labor territories – the so-called “red wall” – in the north and center of England.

“Boris has a very developed sense of history. It is not a coincidence that he is the author of several books about the past. He seems to be a person guided by destiny, convinced that he must occupy the center of the scene, “Steve Baker passionately explained to EL PAÍS in the days before Johnson’s victory. The deputy is one of the leaders of the European Research Group, the powerful parliamentary current of eurosceptic conservatives who have written the script for British politics in recent years. He and he was one of those who pulled the strings so that Johnson was the prime minister who definitively removed the United Kingdom from the European Union. He does not care about the libertarian streak of the candidate, almost social democratic, alien to the group’s neoconservatism. “Right now, low-risk solutions no longer exist,” Baker concluded at the time.

In the last and agonizing weeks of Johnson’s bizarre mandate, plagued by scandals, Baker has been one of the conservative deputies who, with more viciousness, has demanded his resignation.

The “blonde ambition”, as the British media referred to the most universally identifiable conservative politician of recent decades, managed to easily win the primaries launched in July 2019 to replace Theresa May. Johnson, who held the post of foreign secretary during his predecessor’s brief tenure, had no qualms about resigning and stabbing him in the back when he felt the time had come.

In the following months, he confirmed the forecast of all his critics, who anticipated a new way of doing politics based on a lack of scruples and little sense of legality. To definitively close a debate on Brexit that paralyzed the country, Johnson dared to close the session of Parliament, and involve Elizabeth II in the decision. It had to be the Supreme Court that annulled a decision that blew up the uses and customs of a centenary parliamentarism.

“Our current prime minister is, deep in his heart, a pure liberal. Except when it comes to Brexit. In my opinion, I think he does what he does because he suits his own political ambitions, even if he doesn’t quite believe it. The most striking thing is that, the more despotic his behavior is, the more popularity the polls give him, ”explained former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption at the time.

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That popularity led him to sweep the December 2019 elections, and consolidate a powerful mandate to fulfill his promise that Brexit would finally be a reality (Get Brexit Donatewas the campaign slogan).

“No prime minister would put his name on a treaty that split the UK in two and set up a border with Northern Ireland,” May had told Brussels during their abortive negotiations. What “no prime minister” would have dared to do, Johnson did without the slightest qualms. He signed a Northern Ireland Protocol that forced this British territory to remain in the Community internal market and established a new customs barrier in the Irish Sea. It was the seed of a growing nightmare, and of a colossal confrontation between Johnson and the rest of the European leaders. The reason? From the first moment it was clear that the eurosceptics would tolerate a false promise, in order to carry out their long-awaited Brexit, but also that they would never allow Johnson to fulfill it.

And the pandemic came

Johnson was not prepared to fight against the elements, as Felipe II said about the defeat of the Invincible Armada. The coronavirus pandemic caught Downing Street by surprise, like all governments in the world. But the response, for the first few weeks, was one of remarkable neglect. The prime minister’s team even flirted with the idea of ​​”herd immunity” – letting the virus spread uncontrollably, to create resistance among the population – until they realized that they were on their way to registering the highest death tolls of Europe. Johnson himself ended up intubated in the ICU, and there were fears for his life. You might think the experience was a personal epiphany that would convince the conservative politician to take things seriously. The mirage did not last long.

Unable to control the turmoil and infighting within his government, and especially the bloody battle between his new wife, Carrie Symonds, and the Brexit ideologue and star government adviser, Dominic Cummings, it all came to a head just a year after election victory. Cummings left Downing Street through the back door, and has since devoted his days and his efforts to leaking to the media all the explosive and damaging material against the Prime Minister that he had amassed.

The Vaccine Breath

Johnson never lacked audacity, and he had it when it came to putting up all the money necessary to be the first country to ensure the purchase of hundreds of millions of vaccines, and also the first to start the immunization campaign. For a while there was a feeling among British citizens and Conservative voters that Johnson had turned the tide. “In important decisions, he has always been right,” assured his political allies, convinced that Johnson would be around for a while. The Prime Minister himself deluded himself in the last weeks of his term, dreaming aloud that he could hold out in Downing Street well beyond 2030.

The party scandal

In January 2022, the storm broke. The British media began to publish information first, then photos, of parties held at the Prime Minister’s residence and other government buildings. Excess alcohol, food, dancing, vomiting, music, altercations even among some of the attendees. All this during a confinement that had forced the rest of the citizens to lock themselves in their homes, not see their loved ones and even let their older relatives die alone.

And in several of those parties the same prime minister who had previously passed through the UCI had participated happily. For example, during the party with a birthday cake that his wife organized in the same room where the Council of Ministers usually met. “It is completely nauseating that the prime minister spent that afternoon sharing cake with 30 friends in an indoor space. Although nothing surprises us anymore, it still brings to mind a very vivid pain. While dozens of people sang happy birthday to him, some families could not even sing together in memory of their loved ones at a funeral, ”said Jo Goodman, the woman who helped found the association Justice for the Relatives of Victims of Covid. -19. “If he had any decency, he would do what we and the rest of the country are demanding of him and resign,” she demanded.

The die was cast, despite the fact that Johnson managed to hold his own for several months, when one after another the most critical Conservative MPs demanded his immediate resignation. As he repeated, over and over, first that there were no parties, then that no one had told him, and finally that he never thought the law was being broken, Johnson hopelessly eroded his credibility.

The decision of the Metropolitan Police to impose a fine on him for breaking the rules of confinement, but above all the devastating report of the senior official, Sue Gray, about everything that happened, were the beginning of the end of a desperate flight forward. “Many people will be shocked at the scale of the behavior that took place in the very heart of government,” she concluded Gray. “The highest level leaders, both politically and administratively, must take responsibility for this culture [de alcohol y fiestas]”, he pointed out.

The Ukrainian Mirage

Johnson’s determined stance in support of Ukraine, and against the expansionist ambitions of Vladimir Putin, allowed Johnson to regain a certain dream of grandeur. churchillian, with his triumphant visits to kyiv, his complicity with the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his regained prestige among Western nations. Even many of the critical deputies decided to momentarily bury the hatchet.

The revelations about the successive scandals, however, prevailed over the military urgencies in the internal political debate in the United Kingdom. Johnson had to face a motion of internal censure in the conservative parliamentary group. He survived by a hair’s breadth, but 148 deputies (41%) made it clear that he should go. Neither Margaret Thatcher nor Theresa May suffered such a blow in their own internal rebellions.

And even so, the prime minister ignored the discomfort of his people. He clung to the weapon that had served him the most during his tenure: Brexit. He launched a unilateral breach of the commitment signed with Brussels, the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was cheered by conservative eurosceptics and headed towards a trade war with the EU, at the worst economic time for the United Kingdom.

It was a mirage. Paraphrasing against the philosopher Ortega y Gasset, Europe was no longer the solution. Most voters had turned the page and Brexit was a thing of the past, only serving to warm the spirits of a shrinking hardline wing of the party. The growing doubts about the integrity and honesty of Johnson, and the alarming signs that the polls emitted about an upcoming electoral crash of the Tories, they weighed more on the morale of the deputies than any battle with Brussels.

It was again a sex scandal, that of MP and Prime Minister ally Chris Pincher, that ended Johnson’s survival aspirations. His clumsiness in defending him, his lies to try to convince his own that he knew nothing of the accusations of harassment against Pincher, caused the definitive maneuver to be launched to bring down the Government: the cascading resignation of The ministers.

“Long after it is obvious to everyone else that our political career is over, we continue to believe that it is our obligation to continue to be tied to the perks and privileges of office,” journalist Johnson wrote of Tony Blair’s final days in 2006. And even then, the “blonde ambition” was convinced that the rules by which the rest of mortals were governed did not affect him. Every political career ends in tears, and Johnson’s has been no different.

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