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London Eye: Parties may follow Boris Johnson to Ukraine

London Eye: Parties may follow Boris Johnson to Ukraine

London Eye: Parties may follow Boris Johnson to Ukraine
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By Sanjay Suri  Jan 30, 2022 9:53:38 AM IST (Updated)

Boris Johnson will seek to leave the Partygate scandal behind him, but it is doubtful that the scandal will leave him.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call President Vladimir Putin and visit Eastern Europe over the next few days, Downing Street has announced. It is the announcement that counts almost more than any visit.

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There is little Johnson could do to ease the crisis, but his office clearly wants to project him as an international statesman on the global scene.
Boris Johnson will seek to leave the Partygate scandal behind him when he goes, but it is doubtful that the scandal will leave him. If anything, the foray on to the world stage seems to have annoyed a lot of people even further. It comes as another sign that he is seeking to disregard criticism at home.
The attempt through the announcement of the visit has been, as it has been over the last appearance in Parliament, to project the PM as engaged with the bigger issues of the day, not trivia such as garden parties and birthday cakes. The trivia is as serious, though, as questions whether the PM himself broke the rules he laid out for others, and more, whether he misled Parliament.
The trivia is serious also because just about everyone gave up much and for long through the lockdown on the commandments that the PM made week after week in television appearances. It is particularly galling to see now that he himself was not following those rules. And that is seen now because of revelations that have surfaced in the media to confront him, not because he himself volunteered any information that he may have broken the rules.
And now, a day before the tough civil servant Sue Gray was to submit her report, the London Metropolitan Police, the Met as it is commonly called, announced an inquiry of their own. And followed up by an announcement that Gray must not report on matters they are investigating – in effect censoring parts of the report.
The newspapers have screamed “fury” over this latest from Johnson’s government. “Gray Gagged”, the ‘i’ ran. ‘Anger at Met party inquiry’ read the banner headline in The Times. Some other banner headlines splashed on the front pages Saturday: ‘Outrage at police over NO;10 Probe Shambles’ (Daily Mail), ‘Don’t worry Sir, I have a Cunning Plan’ (Daily Star, showing cartoonish pictures of Johnson with the Met chief Cressida Dick), ‘Met Sparks Fury With Bid To Cut Details From Gray Report’ (The Guardian). The lead headline in even the guarded Financial Times ran ‘Met Accused of Stitch-Up Over Gray’s Delayed Partygate Report’.
Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey had tweeted, “A stitch up between the Met leadership and Number 10 will damage our politics for generations and it looks like it is happening right in front of our eyes.” Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster said there has been “collusion” between the Met police and the Cabinet office. “This does look as if it’s a stitch-up and the only person who benefits from that is Boris Johnson.”
Voters
The ultimate boss of the police is Home Secretary Priti Patel who has been among the most emphatic in defending Boris Johnson. Priti Patel is a particularly unpopular figure in both the country and the party, as recent polls have reconfirmed. It is widely believed that if Boris Johnson were to go, Patel’s career on the front benches of parliament would be over.
From opinion polls to real polls is not a long way now. Local elections are due in May. If Boris Johnson remains as unpopular as he currently is, and is seen to manipulate his way out of Partygate, his party is certain to get a punishing in the local elections. Those do not touch Parliament, but these would be a convincing barometer of the national mood. If the Conservatives suffer a big setback, MPs will begin to worry yet more about winning their own election in 2024.
Many Tory MPs are seriously worried already. Most have been receiving torrents of emails from their constituents demanding that they ditch Johnson, and force him out. One MP received 1,500 emails in a day. The winning margin of many MPs is less than that. MPs will hardly hesitate to ditch Johnson if their own careers seem at stake.
— London Eye is a weekly column by CNBC-TV18’s Sanjay Suri, which gives a peek at business-as-unusual from London and around.
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