Genius or ridiculous always reside in the viewer’s gaze. Boris Johnson crossed the line on Monday by stammering an impromptu comment about Peppa Pig, the children’s television character, before businessmen attending the annual meeting of CBI, the main British employer’s association. The prime minister’s speech had been misplaced, and for 20 agonizing seconds he asked for forgiveness up to three times – “forgive me”- while trying to sort the pages. Earlier he had imitated, with a strange guttural sound, the sound of the combustion engine, to defend the virtues of electric cars. And he had compared himself to Moses, the biblical prophet, in defending his 10 commandments of the new green economy. “There is a lot of concern inside the building [Downing Street, residencia y oficina de Johnson] for the prime minister … He’s not doing well. The Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes, or things will get worse, “a” high-ranking source “from the Government warned the BBC.
In recent weeks, a chain of political errors more typical of amateurs than professionals of public management, have led to the free fall of Johnson, who seems to be in that distressing moment in which the parachute does not open and the ground is falling. closer time. The problem, as you have pointed out with certainty in ConservativeHome Paul Goodman, analyst with a very clear vision of the British Conservative Party, is that his colleagues chose this politician for his eccentricity, for his ability to reach an electorate normally vetoed from the tories, for his audacity in jumping without checking if the parachute worked. “Either you love Johnson, or you have to get rid of him. There is no point in constantly demanding that you change your attitude. All Conservative MPs who complain should either get used to it or get it out of the way, “Goodman wrote.
That moment does not seem to have come yet, but the same day that the businessmen hid their embarrassment with a nervous laugh, a rebellion of conservative deputies was about to expose the Government. Many of them were new parliamentarians, coming from the traditional Labor constituencies that Johnson managed to seduce in 2019. The new Health and Social Care law was voted on Monday, and against the previous promises of the conservative Executive, the aid They were no longer going to be so generous or so redistributive. In short, the risk and derision denounced for years continued that the less well-off classes had to sell their homes and assets to pay for the residence and necessary care in the last years of life. “This law, although it goes in the right direction, is a great disappointment and is not as generous as some of us would have liked,” Jeremy Hunt, a former conservative health minister and Johnson’s rival in his party’s primaries, denounced on the BBC. Up to 19 deputies voted against the government, and almost 30 abstained. The project went ahead, but the prime minister’s growing weakness among his own ranks was reflected.
It was raining when it was wet. In recent days, Johnson had announced a reduction in rail infrastructure plans for the north of England, one of the great electoral promises to “level and equalize” the various regions of the country. He had had to retract his attempt to change the law to defend MP Owen Patterson, accused of using his position to defend the interests of two companies from which he earned more than 100,000 euros per year. Patterson eventually resigned, and young Conservative Party deputies publicly vented their anger at being forced to make a fool of themselves and vote against their own conscience, only to see the government back down hours later.
Johnson’s chaotic speech to businessmen has given the opposition ammunition to insist on the idea that the emperor is naked; that Johnson is not up to the job. “Nobody laughed during his speech, because the joke is no longer funny,” said, with special harshness, Rachel Reeves, Labor spokeswoman for Economy. “The businessmen were demanding clarity. And what they got was Johnson babbling a comment about Peppa Pig, “denounced Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. “It is the perfect metaphor for a chaotic and incompetent government that is throwing the economy in the trash. But it is not something worthy of a prime minister, ”he added.
Those were the only critical voices with first and last names. The rest, that of the members of the Government and conservative deputies who this Monday lavished on the media, were all anonymous. Many of them are still trying to save Johnson, charging at the political team he has surrounded himself with in Downing Street. “He is not capable of surrounding himself with people – either his own ministers or his advisers – who dare to openly challenge him and warn him when he is making a mistake,” said a deputy to the Financial Times.
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In defense of Johnson, Downing Street spokesmen pointed out that the prime minister has been carrying a severe cold that borders on the flu for more than a week. And he himself, when a journalist dared to ask him this Monday, after the speech run over in front of the businessmen, specifically if he was well or something was happening to him, downplayed what happened: “I think people have understood most of the arguments that I wanted to present, and that everything went quite well ”, answered Johnson.
He did not seem to understand, who until now has had the best intuition to connect with the public, that the exit from the pandemic has accelerated the political and economic rhythms, and that missed opportunities have an increasingly expensive price. At the same annual employers’ congress, the leader of the Labor opposition, Keir Starmer, won the praise of the audience by presenting an economic plan to “make Brexit work”, and showed that his party aspires to regain the respect of entrepreneurs. Johnson, however, has managed to remind all of them once again of his unhappy expression when, back in 2018, someone asked him about the concern that Brexit generated among companies: “Fuck business! [¡Que se jodan las empresas!]”.
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