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The Nine Lives of Boris Johnson


But for the past few weeks, Boris Johnson’s tone has been different. This was particularly the case on Tuesday, during a 15-minute interview that the head of the British government granted to journalist Beth Rigby, of the Sky News channel.

Once again, the Prime Minister was asked about the multiple drunken rallies that took place at the Government House at 10 Downing Street in 2020 and 2021, during periods when this same Government imposed restrictions and containment measures to its fellow citizens.

Boris Johnson didn’t attend all of these events, but he was spotted with his wife at at least one of them; a party in the garden of the official residence in May 2020. Participants in this meeting were invited to bring their own drinks.

A protester outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

A protester holds up a sign quoting Boris Johnson which reads: ‘No one warned me. The sequel reads: “Seriously?”

Photo: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood

No one told me it was against the rules, justified the Prime Minister by adding that he thought of participating in a work meeting.

He was on television Monday through Friday; he was the one who told us what the rules were, replied a demonstrator met in front of the Westminster parliament.

If the Prime Minister’s explanation did not, unsurprisingly, convince his opponents, it was also poorly received by some members of his own camp.

The tone is rising in the conservative camp

During a particularly eventful period of questions to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, former minister David Davis did not hesitate to deliver the substance of his thoughts.

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God damn it, go! he launched, referring to a speech made by an elected official who called for the departure of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at the start of the Second World War.

Boris Johnson with a mask.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wears the mask in England.

Photo: Reuters/Peter Nicholls

Others obviously do not have the patience to wait for the Prime Minister to step down on his own. A Manchester-area MP left the Tory benches to join the Labor Party.

Other elected officials are trying to force a vote of confidence. For the moment the number of 54 conservative deputies, the threshold necessary to launch the procedure, has not been reached.

Despite growing criticism, Boris Johnson still has allies. First, caucus and cabinet colleagues, but also some grassroots voters.

There is no other politician who would have done better than him, for example launched a taxi driver met in London who considered exaggerated the criticisms leveled against the Prime Minister for a presence from a few tens of minutes to an event.

Professor Anthony Travers, from the London School of Economics (LSE), compares Boris Johnson to a cat that has nine lives.

He has lost eight in a short time, he is close to the abyss. But he generally survived in the past, he adds.

The weight of numbers

In an attempt to defuse the anger of part of its base, Boris Johnson’s government has announced several measures dear to the Conservatives in recent days. Among these, a freeze on funding for the BBC, the public broadcaster, but also the lifting of several health measures as of next week, including the wearing of masks in several places and the recommendation to work from home.

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Still, the Downing Street rallies and their political impact continue to take center stage in the UK media.

The controversy is also hurting the conservative brand.

Boris Johnson, standing in the middle of his MPs.

On December 15, Prime Minister Boris Johnson answered a question in the House of Commons related to the management of the pandemic.

Photo: Associated Press/Jessica Taylor

While Boris Johnson’s troops are generally down in the polls, the fall is particularly painful in a strategic region.

The firm JL Partners conducted a survey in the north of England, a region nicknamed the red wall because of the historical roots of the Labor Party. In the last election, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives made significant gains there. Today, they are 11% behind Labor (37% to 48%).

For many MPs, it was partly thanks to Boris Johnson that the Conservative Party won its largest majority since 1987 in the last election.

Two years from the next election, some are now wondering if their leader will not contribute to their defeat. If the electoral prospects do not improve, MPs, who can be ruthless in the Tories, will get rid of him and choose another leader, predicts Anthony Travers, of the LSE.

These days, in Downing Street, the heart is no longer at the party.

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