“My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And indeed opportunities for fresh disasters.”
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The charismatic, Teflon-skinned election winner was beginning to look like anything but.
“You see [the Conservative Party] tanking in the polls, and you see the prime minister personally starting to tank in the polls, which is when people start thinking, ‘Hang on a sec, has he moved from being an electoral asset to electoral liability?’” Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London, told Grid.
With the onset of the pandemic, Britain, like other countries around the world, soon introduced restrictions on social gatherings. But revelations in recent months, including leaked photographs, showed that even as ordinary citizens faced police fines for socializing, Johnson and his colleagues were behaving otherwise — and doing so in brazen fashion.
Evidence of several gatherings, including alcohol-fueled parties when the restrictions were at their most stringent, began to turn opinion against Johnson — who also, following an official investigation, earned himself the (dis)honor of becoming the first sitting British leader to face a police fine. His chancellor, or finance minister, Rishi Sunak, was among more than 80 people in his orbit who were issued with a total of 126 fines.
The fallout was bruising. Voices from the Conservative camp openly called for him to go, among them the Johnson government’s point man on anti-corruption issues, the lawmaker John Penrose, who resigned saying: “I hope you will stand aside so we can look to the future and choose your successor.”
“[It] just kind of brought it all together,” Menon, from King’s College London, told Grid. “It distanced the public still further.”
For a while, he didn’t, even as the resignations piled up — among them Sunak, who himself was facing growing scrutiny over his personal financial affairs. He was among the first, along with Johnson’s health minister, Sajid Javid, to put in his papers this week. Both made their resignations public on Twitter — around the same time that British television aired tape of Johnson apologizing for giving Pincher a job.
But ultimately, Johnson acknowledged that he had no choice: His party had had enough. As he put it in his departure speech: “Them’s the breaks.”
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