- Sputnik International, 1920
Get the latest news from around the world, live coverage, off-beat stories, features and analysis.

How BoJo & Tories May Restore Their Popularity, Overcome 'Partygate' Scandal

© REUTERS / POOLBritain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives on the second day of the Global Education Summit in London, Britain July 29, 2021
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives on the second day of the Global Education Summit in London, Britain July 29, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.01.2022
Boris Johnson's main problem is not the "Partygate" scandal but the growing costs of living and increasing taxation, deems Robert Oulds, director of the think tank Bruges Group, suggesting that Labour's recent lead may be temporary.
On 19 January, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England's Plan B measures, including face coverings in public places and COVID passports, would end from next Thursday.
Johnson said that England was reverting to "Plan A" as infection levels are falling and "hospital admissions which were doubling every nine days just two weeks ago – have now stabilised."

'Plan B Was Unnecessary From the Start'

"Boris Johnson has certainly done the right thing by cancelling the Plan B measures, which were unnecessary and shouldn't have been introduced in the first place. So to a degree, the damage has already been done", says Robert Oulds, director of the think tank Bruges Group. "Conservative prime ministers of conservative governments are popular when they govern as conservatives, and that means making the country freer".

The introduction of Plan B over the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 by the Johnson government prompted a Tory rebellion with 99 Conservative MPs voting "no" to the measure in mid-December 2021. Still, the House of Commons passed the PM's COVID restrictions due to support from Labour.
Oulds argues that the restrictions brought in by Boris Johnson were not really needed at that point in time because the Omicron variant was far less deadly than previous strains of COVID-19. As a result, the prime minister's Plan B has caused unnecessary damage to the country's economy and Johnson's own reputation alienating a large section of his own party, according to the scholar.
Although the prime minister's decision to backpedal on the restrictions is likely to help him, "the damage has already been done", remarks Oulds.
People Dressed As Boris Johnson Gather For Party Outside Downing Street - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.01.2022
'Save Big Dog': Will BoJo Keep His Job or Leave No 10?

It's Not Partygate That Could Ruin the PM

Over the past few months, Boris Johnson has been under heavy criticism from the left and the right side of the political spectrum over sleaze scandals, a backbench rebellion over COVID-19 rules, a Tory by-election loss in Shropshire, and most recently, mounting allegations of lockdown-breaching parties at No 10. The British press is speculating about the possible change of leadership in the Conservative Party, naming Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as potential picks.
Earlier this month, the prime minister admitted that he had attended one of those "parties", held in May 2020 amid COVID restrictions and apologised for that. Nevertheless, senior civil servant Sue Gray was tasked with investigating the matter. On 17 January, The Independent wrote that the British PM had reportedly been interviewed by Gray within the framework of her probe into the alleged parties on Downing Street and across Westminster.
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (R) sits beside Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (C) at a Cabinet meeting of senior government ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on September 1, 2020.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.01.2022
Changing Horses in Midstream: Could BoJo be Replaced by Sunak & Would It Save the Day for Tories?

"The main problems facing him are not so much Partygate and the cheese and wine functions that he attended and was less than honest about", believes Oulds. "The real problem is tax rises, which a conservative prime minister should not be introducing, and allowing inflation to get into the system, become embedded, become endemic, and make people worse off. They're the things that are far more important. And if he doesn't tackle them, then his leadership will be finished".

The scholar explains that Johnson's base may become weary of his policies especially because they are not "conservative" in the first place. It's Labour who are advocating tough COVID policies, more lockdowns, more public spending, and higher taxes, according to Oulds.
"Everything that's causing Boris Johnson's problems is because he's following too closely to the policies of the Labour Party", he highlights. "That's where Boris Johnson's going wrong".
A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer replying to the Prime Minister's statement about the COP26 climate conference in the House of Commons in London on November 15, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.01.2022
UK Labour Leader Starmer on 'Partygate': 'I Think PM Johnson Broke the Law'

Is Labour Set to Win Both Local & General Elections?

Earlier this week, a poll showed the Conservatives plunging a whopping 32 points behind Labour in London over the "partygate" scandal, according to the Evening Standard. Meanwhile, a new study by Redfield and Wilton Strategies has indicated that 43% of Britons would vote Labour if there was an election tomorrow, while only 30% said they would vote Tory. Similarly, Labour has a ten-point advantage over the Tories, according to a recent YouGov poll.
Labour's lead is the result of frustration at the hypocrisy of the ruling class doing one thing while telling people to do another and the rising cost of living, according to Oulds.
Nevertheless, the scholar believes that Labour's lead is "just temporary" and "illusory": "This is actually Boris Johnson being unpopular and his government following the wrong policies rather than anything the Labour Party has done", he notes. "In fact, the Labour Party would do more of what most people don't actually like".
Labour leader Keir Starmer wasn't following the lockdown properly either, remarks the scholar: "[Starmer] was himself attending drinks parties and shows absolute hypocrisy that the Labour leader has shown", Oulds says, adding that many Labour voters don't actually welcome such behaviour.
There still is a way for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives to restore their popularity, believes the think tank director.

"They can restore their popularity by being conservative, which is to stop having tax rises, reduce the cost of living, and concentrate on the economy", he says, forecasting that if the PM "addresses real issues that are concerning people" the Labour lead will not be replicated in the general elections. However, upcoming local elections slated for May of this year, will be very difficult for the Conservative Party, Oulds concludes.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала