Increasingly isolated, Boris Johnson pledges to fight

  • Support drops as quits rise
  • Questions about how long Johnson can last
  • PM faces grilling in parliament

LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) – Britain’s Boris Johnson defiantly pledged on Wednesday to fight back growing calls for him to step down as prime minister, but his promise to continue drew scornful laughter during a parliamentary appearance .

Seriously hurt by the resignations of a stream of senior colleagues and junior ministers who said he was unfit to govern, Johnson sought a fight during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in parliament.

“A prime minister’s job in difficult circumstances ‘is to carry on,’ Johnson said. ‘And that’s what I’m going to do.’

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Earlier, he tried to reassert his authority by swiftly appointing Nadhim Zahawi, a rising Conservative Party star widely credited with the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as finance minister.

But Johnson’s performance was met with a heavy response.

Highlighting the tenuous position he finds himself in, some colleagues in his ministerial team of senior ministers struggled to contain their laughter as the Labor opposition leader mocked his cabinet for being ‘in charge of the brigade light”.

Three members of Johnson’s own party asked if he would step down.

To one he replied, “There’s a very simple reason why they want me out and that’s because they know otherwise we’re going to go on and deliver our term and win another election. general.”

“Obviously, if there were any circumstances in which I felt it was impossible for the government to continue and fulfill the mandate given to us, or if I felt, by example, that we were frustrated in our desire to support the Ukrainians … so I would,” Johnson said.

All in all, it was a muted performance for a prime minister who saw his political fortunes plummet from a landslide election victory in 2019 to today, when the resignations of his finance and health ministers have opened the floodgates for more junior ministers to resign.

Shortly after, his former health minister, Sajid Javid, detailed the scandals, missteps and gaffes that have marked Johnson’s tenure so far.

“Walking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months,” Javid told a silent parliament, Johnson listening to the stone face.

KICKING AND SCREAMING

The Prime Minister is later due to appear before the chairs of select committees for a scheduled two-hour grilling later on Wednesday.

“I suspect we’ll have to drag him kicking and shouting from Downing Streetz,” a Tory lawmaker told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But if we have to do it this way, we will.”

A former journalist and mayor of London who became the face of Britain’s departure from the European Union, his landslide victory in the 2019 election quickly gave way to a combative and often chaotic approach to governance.

His leadership has been mired in scandals and missteps in recent months, with the Prime Minister fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws and a damning report released into the behavior of civil servants from his Downing Street office who broke their own lockdown rules. Read more

There have also been policy reversals, an unfortunate defense of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules and criticism that he hasn’t done enough to tackle a cost of living crisis, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food. prices.

The latest dramatic episode at the heart of Britain’s power comes as the economy deteriorates rapidly, with some economists warning the country could tip into recession.

The latest scandal saw Johnson apologize for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, even after being told the politician had been the subject of sexual misconduct complaints.

The Downing Street narrative has changed several times over what the Prime Minister knew about the past behavior of the politician, who was forced to quit, and when he found out. His spokesperson blamed a lapse in Johnson’s memory. Read more

It prompted Rishi Sunak to resign as Chancellor of the Exchequer – the finance minister – and Javid to resign as health secretary, while others quit as junior ministers or ministers. sent.

“It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – and therefore you have also lost my trust,” Javid said in his resignation letter.

Several of the ministers cited Johnson’s lack of judgment, standards and failure to speak the truth.

A YouGov snap poll found 69% of Britons believe Johnson should step down as prime minister, but for now the rest of his top ministerial team have offered their support.

A month ago, Johnson survived a vote of confidence from Tory lawmakers, and party rules mean he can’t face another such challenge for a year.

However, some lawmakers are seeking to change those rules, while he is also under investigation by a parliamentary committee into whether he lied to parliament about breaches of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Those changes could come as early as Wednesday at a meeting of the so-called 1922 Committee that sets the rules for leadership votes of confidence.

If Johnson leaves, the process to replace him could take a few months.

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Additional reporting from the London bureau, writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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