Why have the Conservatives fallen out of love with Boris Johnson?

The last few months have been a conveyor belt of crises for Britain’s Conservative Party and its ever-erratic leader Boris Johnson, with the Tories seemingly lurching from one scandal to the next.

The latest was a string of resignations on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, following allegations of sexual misconduct by the party’s chief whip, Chris Pincher, and allegations that Johnson failed to come clean regarding what he knew about previous claims of sexual transgressions. 

Johnson, meanwhile, has faced pressure to explain what he knew about previous misconduct allegations against Pincher, who resigned as deputy chief whip Thursday amidst complaints that he groped two men at a private club.

It’s all a far cry from 2019 when he helped secure a thumping election victory for the Conservatives on the promise of “getting Brexit done”.

A steady stream of scandals

For some, this latest incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Others pulled their support after previous scandals, which have included losing two by-elections on June 18, which had been called after the incumbent Tory MPs were also caught up in sexual misconduct incidents. 

This led to the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, who said they “cannot carry on with business as usual” and called for the PM to go. 

Johnson has also been weakened by a series of scandals directly related to Downing Street, such as drunken parties during Coronvirus lockdowns, including ones he briefly attended, alongside claims he tried to get his then-lover Carrie Johnson a top job at the Foreign Office. 

Johnson received a fine for attending one lockdown gathering, which he claims to have thought was a work event and said he only attended for 25 minutes. Boris Johnson was the first sitting British Prime Minister to have been found to have broken the law.

Johnson is also set to still face investigation by a committee of senior lawmakers over claims he misled parliament about parties during lockdown. 

Other accusations include plans to build a £150,000 treehouse for his children, at a time when many are struggling with the rising costs of living.

Clinging on to power

Despite taking the UK out of the European Union, and securing a strong mandate in general elections in 2019, support for Johnson has been ebbing fast.

He recently survived a party vote on his leadership, despite 41% of Tory MPs voting against him. Under existing rules, a new vote cannot be organised for at least another year. 

However, rebellious Conservative MPs are trying to change the 1922 Committee, which is responsible for organising the party, to allow for a new vote. 

In a scathing resignation letter on Tuesday, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said “the public rightly expects the government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. … I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Health Secretary Sajid Javid, in his resignation letter to Johnson, said the party needed “humility, grip and a new direction” but “it is clear this situation will not change under your leadership.”

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