Nfter a comparatively quiet weekend that saw few new calls for his resignation, Boris Johnson tried on Monday to regain the political offensive with sensational measures. According to a report in the Times, which has not been denied in cabinet circles, the Royal Navy is to be given responsibility for dealing with migrants in the English Channel. At the same time, Culture Minister Nadine Dorries announced that the compulsory fees for the state broadcaster BBC would expire in 2028. The Times spoke of further action as part of an “operation raw meat” intended to re-lure voters disappointed by the prime minister’s affairs.
In an interview with the BBC, Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the new initiatives. He also emphasized that Johnson had apologized for his mistakes. He is a person who can err and has now stated that he feels the pain of the people about possible lockdown violations at his office. At the same time, Zahawi tried to draw attention to Labor leader Keir Starmer, who in turn has been criticized for a questionable gathering during lockdown.
A photo shows him last May with a bottle of beer in a cramped room with employees. Starmer sees this as “no breach of the conditions” because work-related meetings were not prohibited at the time. Nevertheless, it puts the scandalous individual meetings in the garden of Downing Street in a different light. A photo showing an incriminated meeting of Johnson and employees on May 15, 2020 even contrasts favorably with Starmer’s gathering. Although alcohol was also consumed in Downing Street, it took place in the fresh air and apparently in compliance with social distancing rules.
“Drinks by far”
However, the Partygate investigation, which could conclude later this week, is likely to focus on two other gatherings in Downing Street. One is “Drinks by far”, to which Johnson’s personal advisor invited more than a hundred colleagues to the official garden on May 20, 2020. The other is a party in the office of the former head of communications, where dancing and drinking are said to have lasted until the early hours of the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral last April. According to newspaper reports, investigator Sue Gray questioned the Prime Minister in detail over the weekend.
The transfer of border duties to the Royal Navy follows a series of attempts to bring the situation in the Channel under control. The border forces that have been deployed so far should focus more on the task of arresting the smugglers, said Zahawi. Since 2020, the number of migrants crossing from France has tripled. The Ministry of Defense said that no decisions had been made about the type of deployment. But there is no evidence that the soldiers should reject migrants. Earlier announcements that border guards would turn boats back or divert them failed under international law. Experts assume that the soldiers will accompany the boats to the British coast. In November, 27 migrants capsized and drowned while crossing.
“Distraction from threats from Russia and China”
Defense Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood on Monday called it a “hasty” move and warned against a distraction from military threats emanating from Russia and China. “That’s not what the Navy is for,” he said. The suggestion that the Ministry of the Interior wants to fly migrants and refugees to Ghana or Rwanda to examine their asylum applications there also met with astonishment. Such a regulation had been discussed with Albania last year without result.
The government has long faced criticism for doing too little to stem the flow. The election promise to reform the financing of the BBC has also not been followed up by action. Now the annual fee is set to rise from the current £159 to 2027 in line with the inflation rate, after which it will give way to a new model. “This fee announcement will be the last,” Dorries promised. “The state television is running out.” It is uncertain what will take the place of the fees in six years. The Labor Party spoke of “cultural vandalism”.