On the first morning of what might be his last week as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson was out jogging again. He’s been jogging a lot lately, which is well known because he can hardly take a step unobserved, and Johnson makes it easier for photographers by running in the middle of London, near his office and home on Downing Street. The photos of Johnson jogging in the usual style, with a dog on a leash, cheerfully colored shorts and a white shirt under a dark sweater, have no news relevance, but are still worth a look. Johnson has mastered the language of images, which he used to use as mayor of London. Look here, the pictures say now. I’m still here.
For how long, nobody knows, not even Boris Johnson. On Johnson’s scandal scale, the weekend was manageable and mediocre. By normal standards, however, his situation has continued to deteriorate.
For one thing, Sue Gray, the officer investigating the “Partygate” affair, is said to have questioned the police officers assigned to guard Downing Street over the weekend. The actually Johnson-close and well-informed Telegraph wrote, citing his own research, that the police officers’ statements were “extremely distressing”. The paper quoted an inside source as saying: “I would be surprised if he were still prime minister at the end of this week.” It’s quite possible that Gray will present her report this week.
Your Muslim faith as a reason for dismissal?
On the other hand, the conservative MP Nusrat Ghani spoke up at the weekend. Ghani, 49, was a kind of secretary of state in the Ministry of Transport from 2018 to 2020. When Boris Johnson changed his cabinet in February 2020, Ghani lost her job, which wasn’t a big deal at the time. Personnel changes, called “reshuffles”, are common in British politics. But Ghani said it was revealed to her at Downing Street at the time that her faith played a role in her sacking. Ghani is a Muslim and was told that some colleagues were “uncomfortable about her status as a Muslim minister”. It felt “like a punch in the pit of the stomach,” said Ghani now Sunday Times. The accused rejected this as “false and defamatory”.
Ghani also wrote on Twitter that she informed the Prime Minister of the process in June 2020, after which he wrote to her that he “could not be involved”. You should bring your complaint to the party. At the party? That would have been “clearly inappropriate for something that was happening within the government,” Ghani wrote. In addition, she was signaled that her career could be over if she made such allegations. She has tried various avenues internally, Ghani wrote, but now realizes that she needs to go public for the government to take the matter seriously. Headlines sometimes help.
Several ministers and Downing Street reacted immediately and condemned all racism. But Dominic Raab, the Minister of Justice, also said that because she had not lodged a formal complaint, as she had been advised at the time, there could be no investigation either. On Monday morning, however, Boris Johnson ordered an internal investigation to be carried out by the Cabinet Office, which also includes Sue Gray. A racism scandal would be a problem even on its scale.
MP speaks of “blackmail”
And then there was the statement by William Wragg, one of the Tory MPs who have already publicly called for Johnson to resign. Wragg’s topic was the behavior of the “whips”, which are supposed to coordinate the day-to-day business of a party in parliament and secure votes. “Whips” could also be translated as “whips”, Wragg now said that the Tory “whips” had recently been very aggressive with their whip. After it became known that some MPs had already submitted letters of no confidence to the so-called 1922 Committee, MPs were pressured to withdraw their letters. Some had been threatened that they would otherwise lose their constituency’s financial support. Wragg spoke of “blackmail”.
The 1922 Committee is the coalition of Tory backbenchers that collects, among other things, those letters of no confidence that are being talked about a lot these days. 54 such letters trigger a vote of no confidence. The 1922 Committee is chaired by Graham Brady, his deputies are: William Wragg and Nusrat Ghani.
William Wragg was said to be questioned by police Monday about the extortion allegations. Almost simultaneously, Sue Gray apparently received Dominic Cummings in the Cabinet Office. Cummings, once Johnson’s chief adviser, dropped out of the dispute and is now considered the primary source of most party allegations.
No one likes Mondays but at the moment there is nothing to suggest Tuesday could get any better for Boris Johnson.