UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Faces Its biggest crisis yetafter dozens of government officials, including two senior cabinet ministers Resigned for his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by a member of the government.
Johnson has weathered multiple storms during his tenure as prime minister, but this one crisis may be too many.
Here’s what you need to know.
The immediate cause of the crisis was the fallout from the resignation of Vice President Webb Chris Pincher last Thursday, amid allegations that he groped two guests at a private dinner the night before.
But what got Johnson into even deeper trouble were the distortions that Downing Street press officials entered into when they tried to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place.
Initially, when new reports emerged of Pincher’s historic behavior in light of his resignation, Downing Street denied that the Prime Minister had any knowledge of the allegations, which relate to Pincher’s time as a Foreign Secretary.
When it turned out that this wouldn’t hold up, Johnson’s team said it was aware of the historical claims, but they were “dissolved”.
When it turned out that one of the previously unreported allegations against Pincher had been upheld, Johnson’s spokesman clarified that a “dissolution” could mean it had been upheld.
Then on Tuesday morning, Simon MacDonald, the former chief civil servant at the State Department, revealed that Johnson had been personally briefed on the outcome of the investigation into Pincher’s conduct, sparking a flurry of resignations throughout the day.
Boris Johnson is still in control of his destiny…for now.
Conservative Party rules dictate that if a leader wins a confidence vote, then he is immune to another challenge for 12 months. Johnson survived the June 6 confidence vote.
However, the current crisis is so deep that it is possible that a 1922 committee of Conservative MPs would rewrite the rules in order to get rid of the prime minister.
The committee met on Wednesday and decided to hold elections for a new leadership on Monday. Once elected, the committee’s new executive will decide whether to change the rules and proceed with another vote of confidence – a vote Johnson is likely to lose.
Up until that point, the question had been how much public humiliation Johnson could bear. Dozens of lawmakers have resigned from the government, and on Wednesday evening a delegation of cabinet members came to Downing Street to ask the prime minister to resign.
A source close to Patel told CNN that one of them – British Home Secretary Priti Patel – told Johnson that the party’s general opinion was that he should go.
More government ministers are almost certain to resign, and opposition sources are talking about the possibility of defections.
In the United Kingdom, the resignation of the Prime Minister does not automatically lead to a general election.
If Johnson steps down, the Conservative Party will hold an internal election to choose a new leader, who will then become prime minister.
Johnson will likely remain in office until his successor is chosen, as his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron did when they resigned in May 2019 and June 2016 respectively.
Barring another resignation or an early election, the new prime minister will lead the UK until the next election, scheduled for 2024.
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