Prime Minister Boris Johnson never appears to be shy from controversy, whether he is hiding in fridges from reporters, or saying inappropriate things in the papers about letterboxes and tank tops. So, what spot of bother has Mr Johnson gotten himself into this time? Especially considering the recent praise around his vaccine rollout, that has now seen over 33 million first doses given out.
Arguably, the most damning allegation is that Mr Johnson supposedly said ‘let the bodies pile high’ regarding whether the UK should go into a second lockdown last year. This allegation came after the resignation of former chief aide Dominic Cummings, after a ‘briefing war’ between Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings. The allegation alone, if true, could spark a resignation and public apology from Mr Johnson.
Another allegation, concerning the leaked conversation between Mr Johnson and UK billionaire Sir James Dyson, has also recently come to light. Now of course, politicians are people, so Mr Johnson having a conversation with another person, Sir Dyson, is not an issue on its own. The issue here is what was said in the texts, as the leaks show Mr Johnson and Sir Dyson discussing the taxation of Sir Dyson’s employees, who would come to the UK to make the Dyson ventilators. This is because UK tax would be higher to that of what the employees would normally be taxed in Singapore. Sir Dyson expressed his concern over the tax in his text exchange with Mr Johnson, whereby Mr Johnson assured Sir Dyson by saying that ‘I will fix it’. The issue here is that no individual from the public, even one with as much power and influence as Sir Dyson, should be able to influence policy outside of the right to vote, with Sir Keir Starmer stating that it was ‘one rule for those that have got the prime minister’s phone number, another for everybody else’. Mr Johnson has also stated that there will be ‘absolutely no apology’ from himself over the texts. This controversy has currently not led to any resignation or apology, making it unlikely much will come to pass.
The last piece of controversy to grace Mr Johnson was over campaign funding and renovations of the flat above No 11 Downing Street, where Mr Johnson and Ms Symonds reside. Normally, Prime Ministers receive an annual allowance of up to £30,00,0 but the recent renovations are rumoured to have cost up to £200,000. The real controversy comes from the allegation that it was partly funded by Conservative Party Donors, which would break the rules around party fundraising, as all donations over £7,500 must be reported to the Electoral Commission. This has prompted the Electoral Commission to start an investigation.
The real questions arising from these three controversies are, what does this mean for the current Conservative Government, and how will Prime Minister Boris Johnson fare from these events?
Firstly, the Conservative Party is much larger than any of its leaders, with the same going for any political party. For this reason, the Conservative Party will recover from any of these controversies with ease, as it has done in the past.
Secondly, in the case of Mr Johnson, controversy has washed over him many times in the past surrounding areas such as discriminatory remarks. Therefore, the chances of anything happening is unlikely, based solely on his prior record. Even investigations from institutions such as the Electoral Commission will at most issue a fine to pay.
Ultimately, the current British Government will endure the Prime Minister’s controversies due to the current success of the vaccine rollout. Additionally, YouGov’s opinion poll currently places Boris Johnson as the second most liked conservative politician, just behind Rishi Sunak. Boris Johnson has a 38% positive opinion over opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer’s 24% positive opinion. This may mean that the vaccine rollout is overriding many people’s opinion, allowing citizens to forgive the controversies. With vaccines being the last piece of the pandemic puzzle, this means that the UK government will mostly likely remain in positive light across the year, and maybe even in years to come.