UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in trouble. Large chunks of the British public are furious about reports of boozy summer garden evenings and Christmas parties at his Downing Street office, all taking place at a time when the rest of the country was under strict Covid-19 lockdowns. Two polls in the last week suggest as many as two-thirds of voters want Johnson to resign.
It’s too soon to tell. One factor that may work in his favor is that the process of getting rid of a sitting Conservative British prime minister is fairly complicated. Prime ministers are not elected directly by the public, of course — Brits vote for their local member of Parliament, and the leader of the largest party in Parliament becomes prime minister. The United Kingdom doesn’t have to hold another parliamentary election before 2024, so there’s no way the average voter on the street can boot Johnson out now.
The general public may not be able to vote Johnson out of office, but Conservative lawmakers can. Rumors are flying around Westminster about backbench Conservatives sending letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee. And on Wednesday, as Johnson prepared for the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament, one Conservative MP dramatically defected to the opposition Labour party. Christian Wakeford has been openly critical of Johnson in recent days, calling the scandal “embarrassing” in a January 12 tweet. “How do you defend the indefensible? You can’t!,” Wakeford remarked.