First it was the conservative parliamentary group, with a motion of internal censure that left Boris Johnson seriously weakened. Now they have been two of his most powerful and politically relevant ministers. The Minister of the Economy, Rishi Sunak, and the Minister of Health, Sajid Javid, presented their resignations simultaneously on Tuesday in protest at the ethical drift of the Government. “Citizens rightly trust that the Government conducts itself in an appropriate, competent and serious way,” Sunak reproached Johnson in his resignation letter. “The tone that one sets as a leader, and the principles that he represents, are reflected in his colleagues, in the party, and finally, in the country,” Javid pointed out in his letter. “Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public has come to the conclusion that the Conservative Party is no longer competent or defends the national interest (…) I am sad to say that the situation will not change under your leadership, and in conclusion, you have lost my confidence”, the minister told Johnson.
The government’s internal rebellion may mark the beginning of the end for Johnson. After the harsh criticism from the parliamentary ranks, the only sign that Downing Street had lost control of the situation would be a cascade of resignations among ministers, and finally it was two of the hopefuls to succeed Johnson in the future who that have been released.
The British prime minister had previously tried, in a desperate move, to overcome the latest scandal that has put him on the ropes. Johnson has apologized early this Tuesday for having named Chris Fincher number two in the parliamentary group, a deputy who on several occasions in the past had been accused of sexual harassment of young advisers. “There should be no place in this government or in the party for sexual predators or people who abuse their power,” Johnson said.
Last Thursday, Pincher presented his resignation as number two of the conservative parliamentary group (deputy whip, or second “whip”, as those in charge of directing votes on behalf of the Government are known) after two men accused him of having tried to get their hands on them, in a drunken state that forced his colleagues to send him home in cab. It happened at the exclusive Carlton Club, on St. James Street, one of those London gentlemen’s clubs so popular with MPs Tories. In fact, it was the headquarters for years of the Conservative Party. “Dear Prime Minister. Last night I drank excessively. I embarrassed myself and other people, and that’s the last thing I want to do. I apologize to you and everyone involved,” Pincher explained in the letter he sent to Johnson. He announced his resignation as number two of the parliamentary group. Downing Street considered the incident closed. The deputy was going to keep the record of him and he would not be expelled from the party. So far, another little scandal of excessive alcohol and poorly controlled sexual desire.
The problem came when Johnson’s spokesmen insisted that the Prime Minister was not aware of the various accusations made against Pincher for his continuous sexual harassment of young advisers and colleagues, when last February he decided to place the deputy in such a delicate position. He desperately needed loyal allies at the forefront of parliamentary discipline, in an environment of growing rebellion and internal turmoil.
This Tuesday, the most damaging depth charge against Johnson came in the form of a surprise letter. Simon McDonald, former Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Office (the highest ranking official in the department) sent a text to the chair of the Parliamentary Ethics Committee, Kathryn Stone, considered by the Johnson Government itself to be a dangerous rival wanting to catch the prime minister in some resignation. “The media has been repeating Downing Street claims for days that are false. For example, that formal complaints were never filed against Mr. Pincher. It’s not true,” McDonald accused. “Mr. Johnson was personally informed of the initiation and outcome of the investigations [realizadas en verano de 2019]”, McDonald assured in his letter. In that year, Pincher had been appointed Secretary of State for Europe and the Americas. A couple of years earlier, former rowing competitor and conservative supporter, Alex Story, accused the politician of making non-consensual approaches in which he nuzzled his neck, and assured him that he would go far in the match, “behaving like a Harvey Wenstein of balance”. And in February of this year, a deputy tory He also denounced to the group’s leadership harassment maneuvers carried out by Pincher.
It has not been so much the different episodes starring the deputy, none with a criminal offense category, but again the sensation of the way in which Johnson and his team twisted the truth, which has once again stirred the waters in the Conservative Party. In the days after the scandal broke out, different members of the Government went, like guinea pigs, to the media, to defend versions that Downing Street immediately corrected or clarified. He first claimed that Johnson was unaware of Pincher’s behavior. It was later admitted that the prime minister had been informed, but “that the complaints [contra el diputado], either they were never substantiated or they did not lead to a formal file, ”said a government spokesman. “There were formal complaints,” McDonald detailed in his letter. “And Mr. Pincher was not exonerated. Characterizing the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is therefore incorrect,” he concludes.
Last April, the majority of Conservative MPs, against the initial order given by Downing Street, abstained in the vote that asked the Ethics Committee of Parliament to investigate Johnson for possible contempt, on suspicion that he had been untrue in his explanations about what he knew or did not know about the parties during confinement. That same commission, whose report is expected in the fall, now has in its hands a letter that places the prime minister in a more uncomfortable situation. Many of the conservative deputies who organized the internal censure motion at the beginning of June are already maneuvering to force a new vote before the end of the year. They should change the internal rules of the parliamentary group, which prevent the presentation of a new motion until one year after the previous one, but it is a relatively simple mechanism to carry out.
“It is clear that the Prime Minister knew the seriousness of the accusations and decided to promote this gentleman to a high position in the Government anyway. He has not wanted to do anything and has lied about what he knew ”, has accused Angela Rayner, number two of the Labor opposition.
In the midst of the continuous calamities that plague Johnson, his former adviser and Brexit ideologue, Dominic Cummings, always comes to put his foot on him. On Saturday, on his Twitter account, he recalled the joke that the prime minister repeated about the deputy in question, a couple of years before putting him in the parliamentary address: “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” (Pincher by name, pincher by nature), Johnson played with the double meaning of his ally’s last name.