| 1 October 2022, Saturday |

Mired in scandal, British PM Johnson fights to shore up authority

On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fought to bolster his authority after a senior adviser quit over a bogus assertion that the head of the opposition Labor Party had failed to pursue a prominent child sex offender.

Johnson, who gained the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher in 2019, has repeatedly refused to quit in the face of accusations that he and several of his staff attended Downing Street parties while the country was under COVID lockdown.

These discoveries have raised doubts about Johnson’s sometimes chaotic leadership style and have resulted in the largest danger to his presidency since he entered office. They come after a slew of previous controversies.

Johnson acknowledged that issues needed to be addressed at Downing Street, which functions as both his house and the nerve core of the British state.

Munira Mirza, his 14-year policy head, resigned on Thursday in response to Johnson’s accusation that Labour leader Keir Starmer failed to pursue peadophile Jimmy Savile during his tenure as director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Rishi Sunak, Johnson’s finance minister, stated emphatically that he would not have made such a comment. Starmer has portrayed Johnson’s remark as a stupid insult – and conspiracy theory – that demonstrates Johnson is unsuitable to govern the United Kingdom.

Ministers presented three additional resignations which followed Mirza as evidence that Johnson was fixing the problems at Downing Street and “taking charge”, though there remained considerable anger at Johnson within his own party.

“I’m deeply troubled by what’s going on,” Huw Merriman, a Conservative lawmaker who chairs the transport select committee, told BBC radio.

Merriman said that if a prime minister did not shape up then he would have to go, adding that many Conservative voters were upset and saddened about recent events at the highest levels of the British state.

A member of Johnson’s policy unit also quit on Friday, the editor of the Conservative Home website said. Downing Street declined immediate comment.

While opposition parties and some of Johnson’s own lawmakers have called on him to quit, there is concern that toppling a British leader at this juncture would leave the West weakened as it faces a potential military crisis in Ukraine.

With inflation soaring at the fastest rate in 30 years, anger at the government is likely to deepen ahead of the May local election.

Leading rivals within the Conservative Party include Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak, 41, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, 46.

To trigger a leadership challenge, 54 of the 360 Conservative MPs in parliament must write letters of no confidence to the chairman of the party’s 1922 Committee.

Asked what was going on in Downing Street, junior energy minister Greg Hands told Sky: “Resignations have been made, resignations have been accepted.”

“This is the prime minister taking charge,” he said.

  • Reuters