Under normal circumstances, this could mean that it is time for a prime minister and his term. But Johnson has so far refused to resign from office, and with no general election scheduled until 2024, his fate will ultimately be decided by Conservative MPs, the only people who can remove him from office prematurely.
The Conservative Party poll doesn’t look good either, although party sources equitably believe Johnson remains more of an electoral asset than a problem. They understand that this could change if the police issue another fine to Johnson or if more details emerge from the so-called Partigate scandal.
What this means in the medium term is that Johnson simply has to plow and avoid the various pitfalls directly confronting him – something his allies have noted he has been able to do so far and can continue to do so.
The first stalemate arrives on Thursday, when members of parliament will be able to vote on a motion by opposition parties to refer the prime minister to a parliamentary committee to investigate his behaviour.
“We urge Conservative MPs to do the right thing. And to respect the sacrifices their constituents have made during the pandemic,” said Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party.
Johnson, who enjoys a large parliamentary majority, is expected to survive the vote, but Labor sources have quietly informed the proposal would be politically harmful to Johnson either way. If Conservative MPs vote against the inquiry, Labor will be able to go to their seats at the next election and have indicated they voted to protect the prime minister from scrutiny.
And there will be another test a few weeks down the road: local elections take place across the country on May 5th. And while they will not remove Johnson from office, the election will be an opportunity for voters to send a direct message of anger to Downing. St.
While the Conservatives suffered massive declines in multiple opinion polls ahead of the election, observers believe it would take a stunning defeat for Johnson’s MPs to commit political murder against Johnson. But that is out of the question – and those who have seriously contemplated removing the prime minister from office see summer as the best time to get rid of him, as it would give a new leader enough time to settle into the job before the next general election.
After this election, the pitfalls are a little hard to predict. At any time, Johnson could be fined again for other rallies held in Downing Street that violated the laws of his government. And the final report by a senior civil servant into the Partigate scandal could be so shocking that Tory poll numbers drop even further.
However, for now, Johnson is still at his job, unwilling to quit and no one strong enough to force him out. It’s frustrating for those who want him gone, but politics simply makes it virtually impossible to get rid of Johnson in the near future. Whether this is a good thing for Johnson and his party is an entirely different question – and there are Labor figures who believe that Johnson running in the next general election would be better than a new, more credible alternative.
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