The approach to this potential watershed has been cumulative. At the end of the British summer, a group of energy companies went bankrupt, there were queues at gas stations, the government raised taxes and the COVID-19 vaccination program ran out. puff.
Then came a spectacular self-defeating goal, after a former Tory cabinet minister and Johnsons tribe member was found to have used his position as an MP to defend the interests of one of his other employers. Rather than accept the arbitrators’ verdict, Johnson attempted to rewrite the rules on moonlighting parliamentarians.
When, as might be expected, this backfired on him, he abruptly reversed course, leaving all the ministers who had championed the policy in the media, and the Conservative troops who had voted for it in parliament. , exposed to embarrassment and even ridicule. Many have quietly questioned his leadership ability.
It wasn’t the first time Johnson hadn’t seen an elephant trap, blundered into it, then quickly pulled back while letting his MPs twist in his jaws. The patience within his party had already dulled and then came the speech on Peppa Pig.
It is a government that has serious problems. There is a relentless crisis over cross-Channel illegal migration, a crisis that has been largely off the air but very much in the public consciousness. It came to a head on Wednesday when 31 people died making the crossing.
Then there is the possibility that labor shortages in trucking, and many other industries, will spark a cost-of-living crisis over the next six months. The public has become accustomed during the pandemic to the government throwing money at any such crisis.
There is also a never-ending funding crisis in welfare for the elderly, which cost Theresa May her majority in the 2017 election and this week forced Johnson to break another reckless pledge.
And then there is the pandemic itself. The government is frantically accelerating a recall campaign, but infection rates are high, and while hospitalization rates are stable, they are not far from the cap beyond which capacity is overwhelmed.
Johnsons hoped that once the worst of the pandemic was over, he could return to his usual schtick of optimism, boosterism and humor, as he made a tired post-imperial country believe in itself, seize opportunities and to level his underprivileged tummy. But crises keep coming.
Critics say these dire times demand a serious person and that Boris Johnson is not, never has been and never will be. They say he has lost his grip, his Downing Street courthouse is almost deliberately dysfunctional, and there is no cure for his incorrigible flaws in character and judgment.
But its supporters say this is just hyperventilating media that, once again, doesn’t inflate anything into anything. His speech at the CBI was no different from others who had driven reporters down the aisles. His missteps are just that. He is the victim of a destabilization campaign led by his ambitious Downing Street neighbor, Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
More importantly, they say, the public still supports him. Its ratings may be down, but even the worst opinion polls for the Conservatives put them at least on par with Labor; most still place the Johnsons party in the lead.
If Opposition Leader Keir Starmer can’t give him a proper glove even now, they say, then Johnson will bounce back and lead the Tories to victory in an election in 2023 or 2024.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. His political resilience, that electoral Teflon coating, is still working for him. But if there’s a prolonged cost-of-living crisis, or some other disastrous turnaround, it has fewer layers of gloss left to protect it.
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