The secret of happiness, also of political happiness, is to have a bad memory. And Boris Johnson seemed this Wednesday, when he appeared before the House of Commons to answer questions from the opposition, one of those teenagers who gets up in the morning like a rose and goes to play a game, after a long night on a spree He had just suffered, 48 hours earlier, a humiliating defeat in the conservative parliamentary group. 41% of its deputies (148) demanded with their vote the dismissal of the prime minister. They had lost confidence in the politician who allowed the embarrassing parties in Downing Street during the lockdown. Johnson is not one of those characters who would feel his legitimacy and authority questioned after receiving such a punishment in his own home. He rather clung to the support of the other 211 Tories. Enough, according to him, to settle the whole matter and turn the page.
Waiting for him in Parliament was an opposition—Labour, but also Scottish nationalists—ready to make a mockery of Johnson’s weak internal situation. But the prime minister knows the culture of his party well. They can skin each other, but the enemy, or water. The shouts of support for Johnson, and the jeers to the opposite bench, were the clear signal that, for the moment, a truce had been agreed. Virtually no Conservative MP — with the exception of Esther McVey, a longtime Johnson rival — has spoken out against Johnson’s leader. Euphoric, the prime minister has challenged those who still demand his resignation, and has told them that “absolutely nothing and no one” is going to stop him in his efforts to continue governing and comply with his electoral program. “In my long political career —which has only just begun— I have made rivals of all kinds. And that responds to the fact that this Government has done very big and important things, with which those rivals do not necessarily agree, ”Johnson proclaimed.
Just as the prime minister knows the rhythms of politics and his party, so too does Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer. It was not the day to remember the infamous forbidden parties, the police tickets or the bloody report of the senior official Sue Gray, who denounced a culture of alcohol, excesses and disrespect in Downing Street, and pointed out as directly responsible to Johnson. The Conservative deputies had voted precisely on that Monday. And the result had exposed the deep internal division, difficult to repair. A fleeing enemy, silver bridge. Starmer has focused on Johnson’s unfulfilled promises in terms of public health, to highlight the supposed inefficiency of a government more focused on surviving than managing. “Pretend they didn’t break the rules [durante las fiestas del confinamiento] didn’t work; pretending that the economy is growing does not work; pretending that forty new hospitals are going to be built will not do either. They want me to change [Johnson]but simply, it is impossible, ”said Starmer.
The hard wing of the Conservative Party, which at the same time dreamed of a Brexit that would definitively detach them from Europe and allow them to develop new neoliberal economic measures, has immediately imposed on Johnson the inevitable condition for his survival: a tax cut. “I want to see tax cuts as soon as possible,” Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister for Business, told the BBC. “I would like us to be more daring in lowering taxes,” added Sajid Javid, Minister of Health and former Minister of Economy. David Frost, the politician who provided the EU with the most headaches while he was in charge of negotiating the development of Brexit, and who has ended up becoming, from the sidelines, the voice of the prime minister’s eurosceptic conscience, also demanded a march back on all tax increases from last year. Johnson has hinted, in his statements in the last few hours, that there will be a tax cut, but he wants to wait a reasonable time to check the development of the economic situation —this is what Rishi Sunak, the Minister of the Economy, has asked him to do—before taking decisions that worsen public accounts.
The economic rhythms do not coincide with the political ones. The Conservatives face a new challenge at the polls on June 23. There will be by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton constituencies, to replace the two Conservative MPs, who resigned over sex scandals. The polls predict the victory of Labor and Liberal Democrats, respectively. It will depend on the magnitude of the defeat whether or not the war drums begin to resonate within the party, and Johnson’s future is once again questioned.
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