UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces yet another public crisis: a stampede of ministers and officials dissatisfied with the government’s stance on allegations of harassment involving a parliamentarian of great importance to the Conservatives.
The government’s stance on the case resulted in a loss of confidence in Johnson. The movement, which began yesterday with the almost joint departure of the Ministers of Health and Finance, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak, has extended to smaller positions, such as in the case of parliamentary private secretaries, who assist ministers of state in their duties.
Today, Secretary of State for Children and the Family, Will Quince, also announced his resignation and said he “had no other option” after he presented to the press information provided by Johnson’s office “which turned out to be inaccurate”. The other resignation of the day was that of Deputy Secretary of State for Transport, Laura Trott.
In total, there are at least 30 government officials who have left their positions so far. The most serious holes, such as in Health and Finance, were quickly filled, but the crisis seems far from over.
According to a BBC reporter, a group of ministers is about to ask Johnson to step down. Among them is the chief of staff who is in charge of organizing the party.
The prosecutor Alex Chalk, the government’s second most senior legal adviser, said the cumulative effect of a series of scandals had made the public no longer believe that the government could maintain expected standards of candor. “I regret that I share this judgment,” he said.
Before Parliament, Boris Johnson said today that he does not intend to resign. “This is exactly the time when a government is expected to continue with its work, not to resign,” he said, citing difficult times in the economy and the war in Ukraine.
In theory, the Conservative Party could not move a vote of no confidence in Johnson again – a measure provided for in British parliamentarism to assess whether the prime minister should remain in office after some relevant event that puts the integrity of the government in question.
Johnson survived the lawsuit last month as a result of the “partygate” process, which evaluated parties in Downing Street, the seat of British power, during the national lockdown by Covid-19. Therefore, Boris Johnson would be immune to a new vote of no confidence for another year, but that does not exempt the prime minister from suffering pressure from all sides to resign.
Recent electoral defeats, such as the one on June 23 in two partial legislatures, are convincing a growing number of rebels within the Conservative Party that Johnson can no longer lead the party in the general election scheduled for 2024.
The crisis timeline
Boris Johnson chose Conservative MP Chris Pincher in 2019 as “deputy chief whip”, the deputy of the post that, in the British political system, is responsible for ensuring that MPs from the ruling party vote according to the guidance of the leaders.
Pincher left the post on June 30, after reports that he groped two men at a club in 2019. Upon announcing his departure from the post, he said he had “drank a lot” and “embarrassed me and other people”.
He had already faced other allegations of sexual abuse from members of his party.
After the resignation was announced, the government and a number of ministers initially denied that Johnson was aware of specific allegations against his party colleague before appointing him to the position.
But former diplomat Lord McDonald accused the government of falsifying the truth and said the prime minister was communicated “in person” about a “formal grievance” regarding Pincher’s behavior in 2019. At the time, McDonald held a position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The government now says the prime minister was in fact informed in 2019, but was unable to “remember that” when new allegations surfaced last week. Johnson confirmed his office’s information and stated that he “bitterly regrets” that he did not act on what he knew.
In an interview with the BBC, the prime minister said: “There was a complaint mentioned specifically to me… it was a long time ago and it was said to me in conversation… but that’s no excuse, I should have done something about it. that”.
Johnson denied lying to his team about the briefing and added: “I’m sick of people saying things on my behalf or trying to talk about what I knew or didn’t know.”
*With information from AFP and BBC