Boris Johnson seems to have occupied the cutting edge position in the sphere of political scandals which are quite likely to affect his approval rating. It can hardly be considered a negative PR measure, as media quite seriously outlines the trap in which the British PM is caught.
Headings in British and US editions are solid and not really encouraging:
“In the Court of King Boris, only One Thing is Certain: This Will All End Badly”, the Guardian reads.
“Boris Johnson must resign if he lied over the comment”, The Independent says.
At the same time, Politico says that “Boris Johnson stays afloat in a swirl of scandal”. Does this mean he can successfully cope with the unfolding clashes? Will they be able to destabilize the PM and push him out of office?
Early suspicions of his possible illegal activity were caused by financial schemes used by Johnson to renovate his Downing Street 10 flat. The bill is said to reach not less than £200,000, while the Prime Minister should only have access to the annual public grant of £30,000, which may be spent on flat redecoration.
This is directly related to the row with Johnson’s ex-chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, who is currently sharply criticizing the British PM. This politician was actively described by media as a “Brexit architect” and a figure that had a great impact on Boris Johnson and his actions. Nevertheless, at the moment, he is accused of having leaked Johnson’s personal texts with the British billionaire Sir James Dyson. In this correspondence, Dyson allegedly asks Johnson to “help with additional taxes which his firms may face” in exchange for securing the supply of COVID ventilators by his staff.
Cummings strongly denied the accusations in his blog. However, he mentioned the following: “The PM stopped speaking to me about this matter in 2020 as I told him I thought his plans to have donors secretly pay for the renovation were unethical, foolish, possibly illegal <…>. I refused to help him organize these payments”.
This means Johnson might have intended to use money from covert Conservative party donors, which means almost direct robbery with breaking the rules of disclosure of data concerning political donations. Naturally, the government rushed to confirm that Johnson personally paid for this lavish redecoration.
The situation goes on to be exaggerated. The Daily Mail and BBC, with reference to sources, reported about a harsh and inhumane statement made by Johnson in autumn 2020, when introduction of the second lockdown was discussed.
“No more fucking lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands”, he said.
Actually, his statements during the COVID crisis may generally be described as rather blunt. These words must have contained the whole MP’s frustration concerning huge economical losses caused by the new coronavirus waves and the following lockdowns. Though this is once again actively denied by Johnson himself and his representatives, this incident is a part of the briefing war that includes all the allegations that fell on Johnson’s shoulders.
All these events may negatively affect Johnson in the light of the forthcoming midterm elections scheduled for May 6. Both Prime Minister’s and the Conservative Party’s rating number have decreased: IPSOS poll shows that only 35% of Britons trust the prime minister, while 59% consider him unreliable. It is important to take into account that scandals could also affect the issue of a new referendum on the independence of Scotland.
Experts do not exclude a sad possibility that Boris Johnson may not need his newly refurbished Downing Street flat anymore. The mentioned set of factors may be well-grounded enough for the Conservatives to change their leader. On the contrary, it is the strong figure of Johnson, controversial and uncompromising, that let him become a national leader and successfully stay afloat in all the political twists and turns that have been accompanying him.
Polina Bobko, special for News FrontShootout of security forces on border of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan