(LONDON) — Momentum is building against the controversial U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and he is in danger of being forced to resign amid accusations that he lied about a ministerial appointment.
Johnson has vowed to cling on to power, however, quickly appointing two replacements after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced their resignations from his government on Tuesday. But a string of further resignations on Wednesday has left the already vulnerable prime minister hanging onto power by a thread, with some lawmakers in his own Conservative Party even suggesting that the rules would have to be changed in order to remove him from office.
Controversy has long followed Johnson during his time in office. In recent months, the scandal over “Partygate” and the number of illegal gatherings held at Number 10 Downing Street and other government residences while the country was under lockdown throughout 2020 brought his premiership under the microscope.
Johnson himself was issued a fine by the Metropolitan Police for attending a birthday gathering held in his honor, at a time when indoor mixing was illegal to stem the spread of COVID-19, becoming the first prime minister in British history to have been found to have broken the law while in office. He then survived a “no-confidence vote” brought forward by disgruntled lawmakers in his Conservative Party, which left him wounded politically but still in charge.
Surviving the vote meant he was immune from facing a similar challenge for at least a year.
However, the latest scandal to arise concerns the personal conduct of a minister in his government, one of his appointees, the Conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher.
Last week, Pincher offered his resignation from the Conservative Party whips’ office after he was accused of drunkenness and sexual misconduct at a bar in the presence of colleagues. News then emerged in the British media that Pincher had previously faced complaints, which were upheld, about similar conduct, but Downing Street denied Johnson was aware of the complaints.
This, however, turned out to be false, as further information came out that Johnson had been briefed about Pincher’s conduct in 2019, before he was rehired.
In a raucous House of Commons on Wednesday, Johnson defended his record in government amidst the crisis which threatens to end his premiership.
“He knew the accused minister had previously committed predatory behavior, but he promoted him to a position of power anyway,” the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, who has repeatedly called for Johnson’s resignation, said.
In response, Johnson defended his handling of Pincher’s conduct, which he said was now being investigated, and said he “abhorred” bullying and “abuses of power.”
“I greatly regret that [Pincher] continued in office and I have said that before,” Johnson said.
Referring to the number of resignations from his government, Starmer said the government was facing a case of the “sinking ship leaving the rat.”
But an influential group of Conservative MPs known as the 1922 Committee, are set to meet Wednesday evening, with reports in the British media suggesting they will send a delegate to tell Johnson to resign, and they may have to change party rules to oust him.
Should Johnson resign, he will remain in office until a new leader from within the Conservative Party, who still hold a sizeable majority in Parliament, is elected. Whoever is chosen will become the fourth prime minister the country has had in six years, since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union in 2016.
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