June 15, 2023
NEW DELHI – The decision of the flamboyant Boris Johnson to resign his seat in Parliament while leaving questions about his future unanswered compound the worries of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak even as he finds himself embroiled in another scandal linked to his party colleague and former boss. Mr. Sunak is in the line of fire for having approved ~ following convention, he insists ~ an honours list put up by Mr. Johnson that is said to contain several names of the latter’s political supporters and cronies, principally those involved in the Covid-era partying and its attempted cover-up that led to his downfall.
The trigger for Mr. Johnson’s resignation was an investigation by Parliament’s Committee of Privileges which is led by a member of the opposition Labour party but has a majority of lawmakers from his own party. The investigation into whether Mr. Johnson had lied to Parliament could have led to a suspension, and had that been for more than 10 days, may have provoked his constituents to insist that he seek a fresh mandate. In his resignation letter, the former British PM referred to the investigation as a kangaroo court and said members of the committee had wilfully chosen to ignore the truth. Accusing the committee members of having launched a witch hunt, Mr. Johnson characterised the investigation as “taking revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.” A deeply polarising figure, Mr. Johnson is accused by many, including some in his party, of acting with a sense of entitlement that impels him to cut corners. Indeed, it was this tendency, and his propensity to be economical with the truth, that led to his downfall.
But clearly Mr. Johnson has learnt few lessons, for the list he left behind for Mr. Sunak saw honours and peerages being recommended for, among others, his private secretary, his chief of staff, his communications chief, a former Press adviser and even a deejay said to be close to him. The current Prime Minister has also been drawn into the line of fire by his decision to challenge in court a call by the Covid inquiry to supply Mr. Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages. But that decision has been undermined by Mr. Johnson, who has promised the inquiry he would supply it with his communications during the Covid era. While Mr. Johnson in his resignation letter bemoaned loss of the majority support the Conservatives once enjoyed under him, Mr. Sunak’s somewhat bumbling essay in 10 Downing Street and the various controversies now dogging the party ensure that Britain’s opposition parties will be chomping at the bit. Already Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called for a fresh general election, saying it is time to put Britain out of the misery of being ruled by the Conservatives. Such calls are bound to intensify in coming days, and will increase the pressure on Mr. Sunak, just as he appears to be getting a grip on administering the country.