Not tired, but leaving. Why Johnson is resigning, who will replace him and how it will affect foreign policy

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led the Conservatives to their biggest election victory since 1987 less than three years ago, has resigned. Why did this happen, how will it affect foreign policy, and who can replace him?

Why is Johnson leaving?

A series of scandals and a short-sighted policy led to Johnson's resignation, as a result of which the prime minister lost the support of even his deputies. The British media usually cite five main factors that led to the loss of his positions:

The Downing Street party case has become one of the biggest Boris Johnson scandals. He and his subordinates were convicted of attending parties at the height of the pandemic and during the lockdown introduced by the parliament itself. As a result of the investigation, the police issued 126 tickets for eight parties on different dates. A total of 83 people were fined, 28 of them received two to five fines. The size and total amount of fines issued is not called. One of the fines was received by Johnson himself, who attended parties with his wife. Johnson at first denied the very fact of the parties, then claimed that he did not know about them, then that he knew, but did not take part, until photos from these parties in which he was captured surfaced.

— Rising inflation and taxes. In 2022, inflation in the UK rose to the current level of 9.1%. This was influenced, in particular, by the war in Ukraine, but some actions of the British authorities worsened dissatisfaction with Johnson's policies. In particular, the national insurance fee was increased by 1.25 pence per pound for employees of enterprises and the self-employed. Against the backdrop of rising prices, this caused great outrage in the country, despite the reduction in the fuel duty by 5d per liter. The government said the tax increase would cover the cost of health care and social assistance. “In the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades, the government has decided to raise taxes on workers,” said Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer.

- The Chris Pincher case and a number of related sex scandals became the trigger for the Prime Minister's resignation. On June 29, Conservative Party Deputy Coordinator Chris Pincher went to a closed membership club in London. According to him, he "drank too much" and "disgraced himself." He was accused of harassing two men, sparking a flurry of other allegations of sexual harassment. At first, Downing Street said that Johnson knew nothing about such cases, but later a former civil servant - Lord MacDonald - said that the Prime Minister was informed of one such complaint personally. Johnson later acknowledged that he was told about the specific case back in 2019 and apologized for appointing Pincher to a senior position in the party.

— Owen Paterson case. This is another Conservative MP who resigned during Johnson's premiership. He stepped down after a House of Commons committee recommended a 30-day suspension in October 2021 over allegations of violating lobbying rules. The lawsuit began because of the information that Paterson promotes the interests of the companies that paid him.

- Lack of self-interest. Johnson has been widely criticized for his lack of fresh ideas and inconsistency in his beliefs. In fact, journalists say, Johnson was successful and proactive only in an effort to "bring Brexit to the end." However, Brexit did not seem to be his principled position: in 2016, journalists unearthed an unpublished column by Johnson, in which he vehemently advocated maintaining EU membership. Apparently, having decided that the position for Brexit was more popular, he did not give this text to the newspapers (it leaked to the press because Johnson sent it to one of his friends), and as a result, on the same day, he published an equally emotional column for secession. Later, Johnson explained the existence of the unpublished column by saying that he simply wanted to understand for himself whether he could formulate arguments for maintaining EU membership, and only for this he drafted the text (not all journalists believed this excuse).

What's next and who is the successor

Boris Johnson will remain in office until the Conservatives elect a new leader. There were predictions that this could drag on until October. However, former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major said it would be "unwise" for Johnson to remain in office for three months.

Johnson could also step down immediately if Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab takes over temporarily. But that doesn't appear to be the case, as Johnson said in his resignation letter that he had agreed with Sir Graham Brady, President of Parliament, that the process of choosing a new leader "should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week."

Under current rules, candidates need the support of eight Conservative MPs to run. Once all candidates have declared their rights (if there are more than two candidates), the Conservative MPs will conduct a series of votes until only two remain. After passing the first round (candidates must pass the barrier of 5% of the votes), the second round follows with a barrier of 10% and further rounds in which the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. Whoever wins the competition will lead the Conservatives, become the leader of the party with the largest number of deputies in parliament. Therefore, the queen will ask them to form a government.

At the moment, there is no clear successor, but there are likely candidates. Ex-ministers Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid can run. Also expected to be nominees are International Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt, ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Chancellor Nadhim Zahavi and Attorney General Suella Braverman. Wallace is the bookmaker's favorite. Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak placed second and third in the poll.

How Johnson's departure will affect British foreign policy

As for the relations of the United Kingdom with Russia and Ukraine, the change of prime minister will not affect foreign policy in this vein. Speaking to reporters on Thursday ahead of Johnson's resignation announcement, bookmaker favorite Defense Secretary Ben Wallace declined to comment on whether he would run for prime minister, but said the political crisis would not affect Britain's wartime support for Ukraine.

Judging by the reports of the British media and the statements of politicians, nothing will change in relations with Ukraine and Russia. However, it should be noted that many conservatives are directly connected to Russia. In 2019, Britain accused Russia of trying to influence the outcome of the British parliamentary elections and published a report according to which in 2017 the Conservative Party was funded by sources close to the Kremlin.

In particular, the report lists nine Russian businessmen who gave money to the party. Among them is named businessman Alexander Temerko, who is considered close to the Russian Ministry of Defense. According to the publication, he donated more than 1.2 million pounds to the party. The report also mentions Lyubov Chernukhina, the wife of a former associate of Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Chernukhin. Over the past 12 months, Chernukhina has donated more than £450,000 to the party and paid another £160,000 in a charity auction for the right to play tennis with Boris Johnson. Johnson himself was accused of having close ties to Russia. The day before his resignation, the prime minister was reprimanded for seeing eye to eye with Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev. Johnson introduced Lebedev's son Evgeny to the House of Lords. The media also reported that these connections prevented Johnson from imposing anti-war sanctions against Russia, he had to do this under pressure under pressure from the Tories and opposition deputies.

However, none of the candidates who are now considered as potential successors to Johnson as prime minister have been seen in such ties. Moreover, some of them, like Liz Truss, seem to be more consistent hawks on Russia than Boris Johnson.

American Daily Newspaper

Learn More →