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Ladies and gentlemen, BoJo has left the building.

Boris Johnson stepped down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on Tuesday. Three years in charge of the nation had come to an abrupt conclusion. His presence on the domestic and international stage was all but forgotten. His political successes had started to fade into thin air.

It was a stunning reversal of fortune, and he had no-one to blame but himself.

Johnson earned a degree in Literae humaniores (classical studies) at the University of Oxford specializing in ancient literature and classical philosophy. He’s authored several books, written for The Times and Daily Telegraph, and is a former editor of The Spectator. He became a Tory MP for Henley (2001-2008), served two terms as Mayor of London (2008-2016), and returned to Parliament as an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in 2015.

He earned 66.4 percent of Tory caucus votes to defeat former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on July 23, 2019, and officially became Prime Minister the following day. Johnson has described himself as a one-nation conservative, or a paternalistic model of British conservatism that supports a democratic society’s established institutions and traditional principles. He’s also been a high-profile Eurosceptic and staunch supporter of Brexit, and a powerful advocate for economic conservatism and the free market economy. He’s also taken a decidedly libertarian streak on social issues like gay marriage – and felt the U.S. Supreme Court took a “backward step” in bringing down Roe v. Wade.

Johnson’s first term had its challenges. Public sector spending on police services and hospitals and increasing access to broadband had its supporters and detractors. Brexit was achieved, but issues with the formal departure from the European Union and the backstop controversy with Ireland and North Ireland gave him fits. He lost his working majority due to Brexit, and the support of his brother Jo Johnson, a Tory minister.

While Labour and the Liberal Democrats licked their chops in anticipation of defeating Johnson and the Tories, they were far too confident. The former was led by Jeremy Corbyn, an enormous lightning rod for controversy, and the latter was viewed as an also-ran from the very start. The PM ran a superb campaign, and found ways to connect with large and small business owners, middle class families, single mothers and union members. He won the Dec. 12, 2019 general election with a majority of 80 seats and 43.6 percent of the popular vote. It was the largest margin of victory for the Tories since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. Johnson won seats in constituencies that hadn’t voted for his party in years, decades – or, in some cases, ever.

Alas, everything fell apart in dramatic fashion.

The biggest body blow was “Partygate.” This referred to a birthday party held for Johnson during the first COVID-19 lockdown in spite of rules forbidding indoor social gatherings. It caused a mass eruption, a Metropolitan Police investigation, the resignation of several political staffers, and loads of fines. Johnson received a fixed penalty of £50 for breaching COVID-19 regulations his own government had set in place, becoming the first PM in British history with this dubious honour.

Johnson faced a vote of no-confidence in early June over “Partygate.” He exceeded the threshold with 59 percent support (or 211 MPs), which was enough to carry on and potentially rebuild his lost support.

Until the Chris Pincher controversy arrived on the scene, that is.

The then-Deputy Chief Whip was accused of sexual misconduct after allegations he had groped two men at London’s Carlton Club. He resigned on June 30, and an additional six allegations of sexual misconduct over a course of a decade were revealed three days later. Although Tory ministers initially claimed Johnson didn’t know anything about Pincher’s conduct, a BBC report proved otherwise. The PM’s carelessness and arrogance had created yet another embarrassing situation.

Johnson lost the confidence of 63 of 179 ministers, parliamentary private secretaries and trade envoys between July 5-7. He announced his resignation as party leader, and remained as a caretaker PM until his successor was chosen. Liz Truss, former Foreign Affairs Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities in his government, has now assumed this role. She’s an intelligent, competent politician who will work hard to become a successful PM.

Yet, an intriguing political drama is happening simultaneously: Johnson will continue to sit as a backbencher.

While Johnson will obviously be a loyal supporter of Truss’s government, he also knows his successor’s inexperience could work heavily against her. She’s been thrust into a difficult role where she has to deal with major issues like COVID-19, Brexit, the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the impending energy crisis this winter. It remains to be seen how Truss will do, and whether she’ll be able to successfully lead the UK for the foreseeable future.

If things go awry, Johnson will still be around to help pick up the pieces – and maybe, just maybe, return to power once more. Stranger things have happened in politics, after all.

Hmm. Maybe my opening line needs to be crafted a bit differently. Let’s try this on for size: Ladies and gentlemen, BoJo has left the building…for now.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Poor Boris.

It’s been a difficult few months for Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He’s been ensnared in the ongoing (and seemingly never-ending) Westminster lockdown parties controversy, or “partygate.” This refers to the revelation that large social gatherings involving government and Conservative Party staff occurred during COVID-19 that directly contravened with the country’s public health restrictions.

The Daily Mirror was the first British newspaper to reveal that several gatherings had reportedly occurred the past couple of years. This includes in May 2020 (garden of 10 Downing Street, which is the PM’s residence), Christmas season 2020 (various affairs in November and December) and April 2021 (two leaving events for staff, which occurred the evening before Prince Phillip’s funeral). The affairs have been described as “booze parties,” which included large quantities of alcohol and food, and some allegedly had loud music, dancing and carousing.

Johnson and the Conservatives initially claimed some of the parties were held with proper social distancing. When it became apparent this wasn’t the case, a steady stream of apologies occurred. It’s been happening on a near-daily basis ever since.

The most recent “partygate” scandal focuses squarely on the PM.

According to ITV News’s UK editor, Paul Brand, on Jan. 25, Johnson reportedly had a “birthday party during the first lockdown in 2020 despite the rules forbidding social gatherings indoors at the time. It’s alleged that the prime minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, helped organise a surprise get-together for him on the afternoon of 19 June just after 2pm.”

How big was this affair? “Up to 30 people are said to have attended the event in the Cabinet Room,” Brand wrote, “after Boris Johnson returned from an official visit to a school in Hertfordshire.” There are now reports the Metropolitan Police will be investigating Johnson due to this public health breach.

Poor, poor Boris.

Opposition parties are calling for his resignation. Some members of his own party caucus are doing the same thing, too. Several media organizations have reported that as many as 30 Conservative MPs have requested a no-confidence vote on his leadership.

The government’s poll numbers have also collapsed at the seams. Labour leads by around 10 points, and the PM’s disapproval rating is reportedly at 72 percent, the lowest since the days of Theresa May. Two YouGov polls conducted on Jan. 25 were equally disheartening: 62 percent believe Johnson should resign (only 25 percent feel he should remain), and 74 percent support the police investigation at 10 Downing Street (including 58 percent of Conservative voters).

Poor, poor, poor Boris.

In all seriousness, Johnson and the Conservatives are the makers of their own fate. They set the public health rules during COVID-19, and broke them. They arranged these large parties, which was incredibly foolish and showed a lack of intelligence and basic common sense. They created a double standard in British society when it came to social gatherings, and tried to mask and/or swat away these allegations until the evidence proved otherwise.

Here’s something else to consider. Johnson nearly died from COVID-19 complications in March 2020. Long before the vaccines had been created and administered, in fact. If anyone should have realized that holding lockdown parties was a terrible decision and a political disaster waiting to happen, it was him.

Can Johnson survive “partygate?” That’s a tough one.

His intelligence, wit and political savvy had been undeniable until recently. His prominent role in the Brexit movement helped spearhead it to victory in the 2016 EU referendum. His success in the 2019 general election, winning a majority government (80 seats) and the popular vote (43.6 percent), was a watershed moment for Conservatives. His one-nation Tory ideology, or paternalistic model of conservatism that promotes democratic institutions and traditional principles, helped his party capture seats they hadn’t won in decades – or ever before. His brand of intellectual conservatism and populist candour won over many Britons in a way that hadn’t been seen since Margaret Thatcher led the nation.

At the same time, the Conservatives don’t want to be dragged down by this scandal. Whatever their private feelings are about Johnson, he’s the catalyst for “partygate.” There’s no way for him to escape this, and no apology has had a lasting effect. The PM has lost complete control of the narrative, and can’t seem to regain his footing. If a leadership spill, in which the party caucus decides his political fate, is required in the coming days and weeks, many are ready to proceed.

Hence, there are only two identifiable means of political survival for Johnson. He either needs a huge burst of economic success to immediately focus on, or a war to distract the domestic and international media for long enough to change the narrative.

Oddly enough, the latter is starting to materialize.

If Russia invades Ukraine, the world’s focus will shift away from “partygate” at the speed of light. This means Vladimir Putin’s militaristic vision could potentially decide Boris Johnson’s political fate. Strange times, indeed.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.