- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was pressured into resignation on July 7th over a year’s worth of scandals and controversy.
- Allegations of sexual misconduct within Westminster have erupted and Johnson’s handling of the situation has caused distrust.
- The consequent wave of resignation amongst the conservatives has pressured him to resign.
Why is Johnson’s heat level Freezing?
Answer: Boris Johnson’s resignation has rendered him powerless and his party’s disapproval of his leadership position has isolated him politically.
Boris Johnson’s standing within the British government had already been falling for some time as a result of repeated controversies and scandals in his name. One of the most memorable controversies involves the ‘partygate’ scandal, where the PM organised a party with his colleagues while the entire nation was facing its harshest COVID-19 restrictions. Moreover, revelations about his Brexit campaign using flawed statistics came out once the exit from the European Union had already taken place.
More recently, Tory lawmaker Chris Pincher was accused of sexual misconduct, and Johnson admitted he was aware of these allegations before appointing Mr. Pincher as deputy chief whip. This new scandal was perceived as the last straw as it led to a mass wave of resignations within the conservative party; numerous junior and senior ministers disapproved of Johnson’s actions.
As the number of resignations within the conservative party rapidly increased, Johnson lost all governing power and was forced to announce his resignation. This means that – although he will remain in power until a new candidate is found – the PM finds himself in a position of complete impotence and is hence in a freezing state.
Who is changing Johnson’s heat level?
Answer: The conservative party and the resignation of its ministers is directly responsible for Johnson’s freezing state.
Boris Johnson’s domestic heat level has taken a complete hit after numerous ministers began resigning in a span of hours. In fact, over 50 members of the government resigned on the same morning of the 7th of July. Education Secretary Michelle Donelan – who was only appointed two days earlier – also resigned, showing the high level of discontent amongst the conservative party.
Some ministers resigned for strategic purposes. For instance, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have been announced as the ‘final two contenders’ for the substitution of Boris Johnson. This shows that some ministers used the opportunity of this new scandal to fast-track his substitution (and hence get ahead in their bid to become the next PM).
Boris Johnson’s resignation speech on the afternoon of the 7th of July consolidated his freezing state as the government now seeks an alternative Prime Minister. Until then he will serve as ‘caretaker’ prime minister with no real change-making ability. For example, the Online Safety Bill, the Privatisation of Channel 4, or even the modification of the Northern Ireland Protocol (which breached international law) are all policy plans that have been frozen until a new PM comes to power. These bills and policy plans were central to Johnson’s administration and their halt shows its complete ‘disarmament’.
Consequently, Boris Johnson’s policy will be constrained to the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, and dealing with end-of-pandemic management. Although these responsibilities remain extensive, they are an extreme reduction from Johnson’s previous political ability.
What is driving Johnson?
Answer: Johnson’s decision to announce his resignation enables him to maintain power until another PM is found.
Although Johnson’s resignation is evidently not his personally desired outcome, his decision to stay in power until a new PM is found remains somewhat strategic; it enables him to frame his achievements and protect his perceived legacy. During his resignation speech, for instance, he boasted his administration’s achievements instead of addressing the scandals surrounding his leadership position.
This showcases his personal driving factor in these circumstances – he is attempting to leave the office in a positive image by protecting both his international and domestic legacy.
Internationally, Johnson considered the Ukrainian conflict to be “his moment of destiny”. He has viewed the war in Ukraine as an opportunity to install a positive legacy internationally by primarily portraying himself as a fighter for freedom. This is reflected through the extensive foreign aid sent by the UK (as it sent an additional 1.2 billion USD in military aid in late June), making it Ukraine’s second-largest military partner after the USA.
Domestically, Boris Johnson has often used foreign policy and the war in Ukraine to distract the population from his scandals. After the ‘partygate’ scandal hit his domestic reputation, the PM unified the government over the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine is as pivotal to Boris Johnson as the war in the Falklands was to Margaret Thatcher. This is his ultimate battle that – in the future – will serve as a reference point when evaluating the PM’s efficacy, and he knows that capitalising in the conflict may protect his legacy from being tarnished by his personal scandals.
More generally, however, Johnson’s Freezing state reflects his inability to drive his political fate – he is entirely losing control. The PM’s plan to gain political capital over the war in Ukraine has been compromised as his personal scandals continue to pile up.
After a Brexit campaign which did not fulfil all promised outcomes, Johnson had already lost popularity. However, his unpopularity grew worse over time and the scandal linked to Mr. Pincher has proven to be the last straw. Ultimately, he has completely lost control of problems he is partially responsible for himself.
What does this mean for you?
Answer: Boris Johnson’s resignation means Ukraine may be losing out on one of its closest partners.
Although the United Kingdom will evidently face domestic alterations due to a change in governance, Boris Johnson’s resignation will also affect the ongoing war in Ukraine. As the UK has been praised by Ukraine for leading NATO discussions regarding the ongoing war, a new PM means that the UK’s strategy in Ukraine will alter; the general discontent against the increasing cost of living in the country might pressure the new government to focus its spending on domestic programmes rather than foreign aid.
Moreover – and largely depending on the future elected PM – the UK’s economy will also be heavily affected as new fiscal policies will be introduced. Given that Rishi Sunak was Boris Johnson’s finance minister, his potential election would mean that fiscal changes would be minimal. If Mordaunt or Truss prevail in the upcoming elections, however, changes to the energy fiscal caps are likely.