British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an avalanche of potentially catastrophic series of political scandals and investigations that might put his political position in peril. Johnson, who has overseen both a terrible COVID death toll and an excellent vaccination program over the last year, is now facing stiff rebuttals from the opposition and journalist on at least three potential scandals.
The opposition to the PM has begun casting doubt on the moral integrity of the premier, with the British press already categorizing the episode as the “sleaze” (a word used to define sordid behavior) scandal. The scandal(s) are mainly three: Johnson’s leaked texts with billionaire James Dyson over the dealings to get more Protective equipment for Britain’s health workers, the allegations that Boris said that he would rather see “bodies pile up high” before mandating a new lockdown, and the way the Prime Minister financed his refurbishment of Dowing Street flat.
Many of these scandals come after sources close to the Prime Minister accused former right-hand man, Dominic Cummings, of leaking damaging information to the press. A charge that Mr Cummings denied in a lengthy post in his blog, where he accused the Prime Minister of being “mad and totally unethical”.
The leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, has pounced on the issue. Questioning the Prime Minister in Parliament about his involvement on the subjects and calling him “major sleaze” during the weekly addresses of the PM to Parliament. Johnson, on his part, delivered a fiery response denying any wrongdoing and highlighting the work his government has done over the last year.
The slew of accusation comes at a bad time for the Prime Minister. Scotland is set to have its round of local parliamentary elections on May 6th, where the SNP (the party supporting Scottish independence) is set to win a majority, which would increase the calls for a second independence referendum in Scotland.
Allegations of improper financing, lobbying, and insensitive remarks
The Prime Minister first was accused of having improper conduct when discussing a possible deal on providing Protective Equipment with businessman Sir James Dyson during the midst of the pandemic last year. The accusations come after texts over their conversations were leaked to the press, where the businessman asked the Prime Minister for his employees not to get charged an extra tax for going to the United Kingdom and helping build ventilators, to which the PM said that he will “fix it”.
Both government officials and Sir Dyson have denied any type of impropriety in the dealings, with 10 Downing Street arguing that the government did everything it had to do to get this valuable equipment quickly, while Dyson has said that he was only trying to ensure his company was being regulatory compliant and remembered that he did not earn any type of profit from the project.
The other allegation that is currently lingering around the Prime Minister is that he allegedly said he would prefer to “let bodies pile up high on their thousands” before introducing a third national lockdown (which he eventually did in January) after a meeting with government officials where the option of introducing such restrictions was discussed, a claim that the BBC has confirmed with other sources.
Johnson has vehemently denied the accusations, saying they were “total rubbish”, and Cabinet Minister Michael Gove also denying the PM had used that type of language in meetings, highlighting that eventually, the government did order a new set of restrictions in order to curb the rise of the pandemic during the second half of 2020 and the beginnings of 2021.
Finally, the potentially most damaging scandal that Johnson is facing is the financing of the refurbishing of his flat on 10 Downing Street, with former advisor Dominic Cummings accusing the PM of engaging in possible illegal or improper behaviors by government officials as he alleges the renovations were financed by political donors, and if so, then the Prime Minister should have made those contributions clear.
The prime minister was also confronted by Keir Starmer on the issue, who asked him who offered the initial payment for the refurbishment, with Johnson saying that he paid for all the renovations out of his own pocket.
The Electoral Commission has said they have found “reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred” and that they would begin an investigation on the way the renovation was funded.
Boris Johnson has previously survived a long list of political scandals/crisis that would have doomed any other politician: marital infidelities, controversial comments, Brexit, etc. However, It is yet clear how this series of scandals could affect his political fortunes.
His opponents will seize the opportunity to paint Johnson as a corrupt, out-of-touch politician who gives favors to billionaire while breaks rules to get a nicer apartment, an attack that is aimed at diminishing the appeal that the Conservative party has gained with the middle-class and that delivered them the stunning victory in 2019.
Tories, on the other hand, will defend Johnson’s record brushing them off as either non-events or blatant political attacks against the PM’s public image, while also hoping to weather the storm and let a more positive narrative, especially around the vaccine rollout, overcome any negative press.
Johnson is facing some potentially destructive political consequences, crucially with the ongoing investigation. However, the PM has proven to be an almost indestructible political figure and with 3 years away for th new general election, It is still his fight to lose.