Boris Johnson desperately clings to power after sex abuse ‘cover-up’ – but for how long?

After losing two of his top ministers in minutes on Tuesday, an aide is reported to have asked Boris Johnson if he would step down.

“Fuck it,” he replied.

The humiliating losses from Johnson’s cabinet came as he apologized on television for his latest scandal: his appointment of Chris Pincher, an alleged serial sex offender, to a key role in government and then lying about ever knowing of any allegations against Pincher .

Both bombshell resignations partly blamed Johnson’s blatant disregard for accountability. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s outgoing finance minister, said a government is expected to meet some basic standards of competence and integrity. “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that’s why I’m resigning,” Sunak said. Sajid Javid, Johnson’s appointed health secretary, said he could no longer serve in government “in good conscience”, adding that the British public “rightly expect integrity from their government”. Chris Skidmore, a Tory MP, branded Johnson’s actions an “effective cover-up of sex abuse” in a roiling open letter urging colleagues to oust the prime minister on Wednesday.

It is strange that after the recent scandal, his close cabinet mates would suddenly find Johnson’s leadership to have an intolerable lack of integrity. After all, Johnson made something of performance art out of wrongdoing — and getting away with it. Before the Pincher scandal, mysteriously disappearing reports in the British media claimed that Johnson tried to get his then-lover and now-wife Carrie a high-paying government job while he was Foreign Secretary. Also in June, his ethics adviser resigned over a plan to protect UK industry that would “willfully” breach Johnson’s own ministerial code. And this comes in the wake of the Partygate scandal, which found Johnson had attended a series of alcohol-fueled lockdown parties at Downing Street. The list goes on and on.

So why the sudden pangs of conscience about integrity? A crushing double election defeat in late June – believed to be a key barometer of Johnson’s popularity – may have something to do with it.

More resignations followed on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for Sunak and Javid – including the attorney general, two education ministers and even trade envoys for Kenya and Morocco – and more may well be to come. But while bleeding cabinet lawmakers for integrity reasons might be enough to topple most prime ministers, this is Boris Johnson: a man who his critics say has turned the No. 10 into a machine to defend his interests, rather than interests by the British people. He quickly reshuffled his cabinet to replace those leaving on Tuesday night and looks set to cling to power.

At least until he is forced. After narrowly losing Johnson in a no-confidence vote last month, rebellious Conservative MPs are likely to be sharpening their knives again, fearing they will be crushed in the next general election if Johnson stays in power. They will feel emboldened by this week’s high-profile resignations and will seek to use party rules to make a fresh attempt to unwindow their prime minister.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Johnson will see the writing on the wall and voluntarily resign. But for now, at least, it looks like the Johnson circus will continue for a little while longer. The question is: how long? Boris Johnson desperately clings to power after sex abuse ‘cover-up’ – but for how long?


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