Calm before the storm for Johnson

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at Question Time in the British House of Commons. © Jessica Taylor/Uk Parliament/PA Media/dpa

The internal investigation into the alleged lockdown violations at Downing Street appears to be complete. But when and how the moment of truth will come for Prime Minister Johnson is still unclear.

LONDON – It could be the last hours or days for Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister.

The time leading up to the publication of the internal report on alleged lockdown violations at celebrations at 10 Downing Street must feel like the calm before the storm for the Tory party leader. Johnson reportedly stayed in Parliament late into the night on Wednesday, ostensibly to solicit support from his group’s MPs.

According to reports, the investigation was already completed on Wednesday. But when and how much of it will be made public was unclear. According to rumours, it could be as early as Thursday. But a delay until Monday is also considered possible. Johnson had promised to defend himself in Parliament after publication. After several weeks of deflecting questions by arguing that he could not comment during an ongoing investigation, the release is something of a moment of truth for the prime minister.

Nothing less than Johnson’s political survival depends on the results of the internal report. If it turns out that the state-imposed contact restrictions in force at the time were disregarded, a vote of no confidence in the prime minister by the conservative faction is likely.

Johnson under massive pressure

Johnson has been under massive pressure for weeks over reports of alleged parties at Downing Street. The police in London also announced on Tuesday that they would investigate the alleged rule violations.

The list of suspected illegal gatherings in Downing Street is long: several Christmas parties, a birthday party, a garden party and late-night drinking before the funeral of Queen’s longtime husband Prince Philip: the report by top official Sue Gray is intended to clarify who, when, where, and how often and how long partying with whom.

Around half a dozen Tory MPs have already publicly called for the Prime Minister’s resignation. Many others said they wanted to await the report. If at least 15 percent of the conservative deputies – that’s 54 members of parliament – express no confidence in him, the prime minister has to face a vote. Nobody knows how many secret letters Graham Brady, the chairman of the responsible committee, has received so far.

Animals flown out of Afghanistan

As if Johnson didn’t already have enough trouble, another topic came up on Wednesday. A committee report provided new evidence that the British Prime Minister had authorized the evacuation of around 150 cats and dogs from the Afghan capital Kabul. The action last summer during the withdrawal of Western troops from the crisis state triggered a storm of indignation. Reports that Johnson had personally campaigned for the animals to be flown out were dismissed by the prime minister as “complete nonsense”.

But an internal State Department email released by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday specifically said Johnson had authorized the evacuation of staff and animals. A spokesman for the prime minister rejected this again on Wednesday. “It remains the case that the Prime Minister has not issued any instructions to officials on any particular course of action,” the spokesman said.

Critics fear that the evacuation of the animals was at the expense of people who feared acts of revenge by the militant Islamist Taliban. Britain had evacuated 15,000 of its own nationals and local staff from the armed forces and other British agencies in days, while the Taliban seized control of the country at breakneck speed. Thousands of people with ties to Britain were left behind in the rushed action in the country.

Former British soldier Paul (Pen) Farthing campaigned for the animals to be flown out in a day-long campaign on social media and in television interviews – with success. He left the country with the cats and dogs on a last-minute charter flight. However, the employees of the animal protection organization Nowzad in Kabul, which he founded, initially had to stay behind. dpa

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