Where is Boris? Johnson reclaims seat as Tories squabble | Health
By JILL LAWLESS – Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — It was the most defining moment so far in Britain’s Conservative Party competition for a new chef. The five remaining candidates were asked in a televised debate to raise their hands if they would let Boris Johnson serve in their cabinet. Not a single hand went up.
Johnson replacement contenders are scrambling to distance themselves from the scandal-ridden politician who has resigned as party leader but remains UK Prime Minister for a few more weeks – despite the fact that most of them have served in his government for the past three years.
Johnson, meanwhile, has largely disappeared from the scene. He did not attend any emergency government meetings over a heatwave that is expected to bring temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) to Britain.
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On Friday, Johnson visited a Royal Air Force base and took a ride in a Typhoon fighter jet, with “Top Gun” style images released by his office. He spent the weekend at Chequers, the country house that accompanies the Prime Minister’s work, hosting a farewell barbecue for staff and friends.
Johnson returned to parliament on Monday for one of his last times as prime minister for a largely symbolic vote of confidence called for by the government – mainly to give Johnson a chance to boast about his own achievements.
To the mockery of opposition lawmakers, Johnson said his “dynamic and exhilarating three years in the cockpit” had seen the UK government “overcome adversity on a scale we haven’t seen in centuries” under the shape of the coronavirus pandemic.
Labor leader Keir Starmer has accused Johnson of being “a vindictive squatter” at 10 Downing St.
Steven Fielding, a professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, compared Johnson to “a sulky teenager in the bedroom, just doing what he wants and yelling at the parents once in a while”.
Political and media attention has turned to his would-be successors, who are kicking dirt as they try to convince Conservative Party members that they can restore faith in politics and defeat the Labor Party of l opposition in the next elections, which will be held by 2024.
The number of candidates fell from five to four on Monday as Conservative lawmakers staged another playoff ballot. Lawmaker Tom Tugendhat was ousted from the race after receiving the lowest number of votes.
Rishi Sunak, who served as Treasury chief under Johnson until his resignation earlier this month, remains the favorite but is being attacked by Tory rivals for spending billions to keep British workers and businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, and raise taxes to help pay for it.
In a televised debate on Sunday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Sunak of raising taxes to the highest level in 70 years. Sunak argued that the hikes were necessary to dampen soaring inflation and accused Truss, who promised immediate tax cuts, of peddling “a saving for nothing”.
Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister who has emerged as a serious challenger, unsuccessfully appealed for an end to the “bashing”, much of which was directed at her. She has been accused by opponents of wanting to make it easier to change people’s gender – a hot topic for some conservatives – and of neglecting her government duties to prepare for her leadership bid.
Conservative lawmakers will hold another elimination vote on Tuesday to reduce the number of leadership candidates to three. Former equality minister Kemi Badenoch, currently in fourth place, is the person most likely to be deported.
A vote on Wednesday will produce two finalists who will then face a runoff of around 180,000 Conservative Party members across the country. The winner is to be announced on September 5 and will automatically become prime minister, without the need for a national election.
Fielding said that could prove problematic for the new leader, as he or she will be chosen by a conservative membership – “mostly white, southern, very well-to-do” – with political priorities very different from those of the general electorate.
Johnson led the Tories to a dominant parliamentary majority in 2019, but he has been plagued by scandals since then, including being accused of misleading parliament about government parties that breached lockdown rules. COVID-19.
Johnson clung to power despite being fined by the police for ‘partygate’, but eventually resigned on July 7 after one scandal too many – the appointment of a politician accused of sexual misconduct – prompted his ministers to resign in mass.
Cabinet minister Kit Malthouse, a longtime Johnson ally, argued the party’s petulant debate was healthy and predicted the Tories would come together in a “spirit of harmony” after the leadership campaign.
But Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said that was too optimistic.
“The way Johnson left unfortunately injected a lot of poison into the (party’s) bloodstream,” he said. “It will take time to catch on.”
Follow all of AP’s coverage of UK politics on https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson
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