It is rare for a prime minister to have such a bloody nose during a term. The two shards Boris Johnson suffered this week are a blow not only to him but to a country gripped by a new health emergency. The riot nearly 100 his own MPs resisting the introduction of Covid passes for major UK venues was the biggest thing of his tenure as prime minister. The lose to the Liberal Democratic Party of a North Shropshire seat that the Conservatives have held since the pre-Victoria era is the seventh-biggest change ever in a by-election. The Congressional Christmas holiday period reduces the risk of a quick leadership challenge. But the middle of a pandemic is the worst time for Britain to be led by a man whose authority has run out.
The special thing is that this disaster is almost entirely self-inflicted. Six months ago, the prime minister was riding high. A Tory election victory in the centre-left stronghold of Hartlepool shows Labor struggling to counter Johnson’s brand of Conservatism and a party that has tried to distance itself from previous Tory governments and deal with their own pandemic. Tory’s poll lead remains substantial through the fall.
Fatal errors, largely from the prime ministers themselves, followed. The North Shropshire by-election came about only because Johnson mishanded Owen Paterson, when he tried to overturn the parliamentary system of standards to help a Tory MP who broke the rules of measure. salaried households.
That effort and the next, embarrassed face, turn around severely dented his position. The real bottom line is the revealing sequence of Downing Street parties held during the lockdown last Christmas, and Prime Minister’s Confusion. Events from a year ago cannot be undone. But Johnson may have drawn a lot of pain he was straightand writes on, with MPs and voters from the moment the story first appeared.
Even if Johnson can move on, the second half of this congressional term promises to be much tougher than the first. Voters so far seem ready to give him the benefit of the doubt over his failure to begin making an electoral pledge to level the areas left behind. They will now be less inclined to trust the assurance that sunlit highlands are nearby. Local issues often lean towards elections, but worrisome for the Tories as a key player in North Shropshire is anger over inadequacy after Brexit support for farmers, in a constituency that voted heavily to leave the EU.
However, the leadership crisis has serious short-term implications for the country. Discontent with Johnson ignited a revolt this week over measures to limit the Omicron variant, forcing him to rely on Labor votes. If the outbreak takes a turn for the worse, the prime minister faces problems in pushing the appropriate measures through his party and will be reluctant to turn down opposition support. Breaks provide some scope to introduce temporary restrictions if needed. In addition, he may need to rely more heavily on guidance and direct appeals from the public.
This could give Johnson the beginning of a road back, if he is willing and able to seize it. As the author of his own political unhappiness, he can turn the tide. The best way he can restore power is to show the prime minister’s concern for the virus crisis confronting the country. That means not delaying joining his party or obsessing over his position, but demonstrating the serious, clear and decisive management that Britain needs at a delicate time. This is not just the right thing to do. It will also give him the best chance to save his own leadership.