The leadership of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hangs by a thread following the resignations of two of his most prominent ministers and several more top officials and ministerial aides over the previous twenty-four hours.
Following High-profile Resignations and Controversies, the Uk’s Boris Johnson Battles for Political Survival
Tuesday evening, British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak resigned, stating that the government should be administered “fully, competently, and seriously.”
Similarly, Health Secretary Sajid Javid quit in protest over Johnson’s leadership, which has been plagued by scandal and controversy in recent months.
As a number of top Tories demanded Johnson’s resignation, former Brexit negotiator David Frost joined the fight, urging the prime minister to resign immediately.
Frost echoed the sentiments of other Johnson opponents in a Wednesday newspaper piece, asserting forcefully, “It is time for him to go,” and adding, “If he stays, he risks bringing the party and the government down with him.”
Despite calls for his resignation, the prime minister shows no readiness to step aside. He reshuffled his ministerial team last night in response to the unexpected resignations.
Several ministers backed Johnson and demonstrated their support for him. Vice-Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Home Secretary Priti Patel will remain in the Cabinet.
Chances of a Quick Election
Currently, the devotion of leading ministers decreases the likelihood of a hasty election in Britain.
For this to occur, Johnson would need to resign or face another vote of no confidence. Due to the fact that he just faced a similar vote a month ago, a rule change would be required to allow another vote within the next 12 months.
“According to current party rules, Johnson cannot face another vote of no confidence until next summer.
Allan Monks, an economist at JPMorgan, said in a note on Tuesday night that the primary danger is either that the rules will be amended to require another vote or that Johnson would be pressured to voluntarily resign.
A Conservative leadership contest might install a new Prime Minister in the next couple of months or so — before the party’s annual conference in early October.
The British pound sank to a new low for March 2020 on Tuesday as political volatility in the United Kingdom continued. The next several days’ market behavior will be attentively monitored.
Ben Emons, managing director of Global Macro Strategy at Medley Global Advisors, told CNBC on Wednesday that there is “paralysis” and “so much ambiguity” about how the situation will play out.
“The markets initially reacted badly as sterling and U.K. gilt yields fell, but then they rebounded, and I believe it demonstrates that, despite the uncertainty around the Cabinet and Johnson’s position, it has not collapsed and he still has support,” he added.
“We’re not going to see a snap election; they have to pick a new leader for that to happen,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.” “We’re entering a time of uncertainty, but that uncertainty represents the status quo; nothing will change with the economy or with policy,” he added.
The most recent political upheaval in the United Kingdom follows a series of controversies, ranging from the “party gate” scandal involving Boris Johnson and multiple other government officials who were found to have violated pandemic lockdown rules to sleaze allegations involving Chris Pincher, the Conservative Party’s deputy chief whip in charge of maintaining party discipline.
Pincher resigned and was suspended as a member of the Conservative Party last week following allegations that he inappropriately touched two men in a private members’ club while intoxicated.
It has recently come to light that Johnson appointed him to the position despite prior charges of misbehavior.
Johnson apologized for naming Pincher as deputy chief whip, but it was too little, too late, as other prominent members resigned mere minutes later.
Johnson has survived a number of challenges to his leadership in recent months, as well as calls for him to resign, particularly in the wake of a humiliating vote of no confidence and the Conservative Party’s loss of two key by-elections in the last month, as the British public’s faith in its leader wanes.
A quick YouGov poll conducted on Tuesday revealed that 69 percent of British respondents desire Johnson’s resignation. The survey of 3,009 respondents revealed that only 18 percent support his continued employment.
54% of Conservative voters polled want Johnson to leave, while 33% want him to stay, indicating that Johnson has become unpopular among many voters who were first drawn to his leadership in 2019 when he secured an 80-seat majority in an election to “get Brexit done.”
Keir Starmer, the head of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, tweeted on Tuesday, “The Conservative party is corrupt, and changing one individual won’t cure that. “Only a genuine change of government can give Britain the new beginning it requires.”
Ed Davey, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, told CNBC that “it’s plainly in the national interest for Boris Johnson to go” and that Johnson had proven to be dishonest in the past.
“Having a British prime leader who clearly doesn’t speak the truth and who lies on an industrial scale is detrimental to our democracy, Britain’s international standing, and our investment… We require a government that is competent.”
Johnson has been accused of lying on several occasions during his time in government, but he has always denied it. He has also denied misleading parliament regarding the “party game” affair, which is the subject of an ongoing investigation.