If you told me that Boris Johnson’s downfall would start from a flat refurbishment, I would’ve thought that something was very wrong. However, after a few days of wrestling with murky leaks from Downing Street, the Electoral Commission’s decision to investigate the funds that went into Johnson’s renovation of Downing Street seems to be the first nail in the coffin. Or sort of.
His performance at PMQs showed just how shaky the situation is — his bluster and anger was deeply highlighted in the face of Keir Starmer’s lawyer-like coolness. It was like watching a game of verbal dodgeball play out. One where Keir Starmer was throwing a hard basketball instead of the usual soft balls found at the back of the PE cupboard.
Instead of answering direct questions about Lord Brownlow being asked to donate £58,000, the Prime Minister just blatantly ignored them — which made him look worse, if that’s even possible. His defence — the same being parroted out by Conservative Ministers on breakfast TV — is that the voters don’t care about this issue, especially with the Local Elections coming up. There are bigger fish to fry.
However, that in itself is a problematic statement. Are we to ignore potentially major problems just because it isn’t cutting too deep with voters yet, instead banishing them to the realm of the “Twitter and Westminster Bubble?”
This is the start of something substantial. Already fuelled by the alleged remarks made by the Prime Minister regarding another lockdown — where he would rather see “bodies piled high in their thousands” — and the developments of the Greensill scandal, it’s no surprise to see the situation take a sharp turn. This is something Labour are keen to capitalise on ahead of the Local Elections — Starmer called Johnson “Major Sleaze,” something he hopes will stick. The Conservatives think that there are bigger problems for the voters. If it doesn’t involve tax-payer money, then there isn’t a concern.
If we were to set this precedent though, it’ll be the start of a slippery slope. The bar of integrity and honesty in politics would be set even lower, if that’s currently possible.
It’s not just about the financial complications. He’s not someone that ordinary, normal people can relate too — the comments over Theresa May's John Lewis "nightmare" further proves that. Is it an ‘interior nightmare?’ As someone who writes on a desk from Ikea and thinks it’s a cool bit of furniture, I don’t think so. Like many in the country, I would be too happy with furnishings from John Lewis (it definitely wouldn’t be living in a skip.) The whole refurbishment issue has shown, yet again, just how out of touch the Prime Minister is with the country. Just because his hairbrush has never seen the light of day or his “Call me Boris” attitude has followed him his whole political career doesn’t mean he is one of us. He’s not someone that ordinary, normal people can relate too — in any way.
Will this be the end of Boris Johnson? Not yet, in my view. He has survived a range of missteps throughout his time as Prime Minister — the whole fury over Barnard Castle being one major example. His mishandling of the pandemic is another, more painful set of mistakes too. I don’t think it’ll knock him over directly just yet. It’ll be a sort of “drip drip” effect, or more like chipping wood by hand. Tensions and pressure will rise inside Downing Street, and among Conservatives in general, like a pressure cooker. It will definitely start to filter through to voters too. No matter what happens though, there’s one thing that’s for certain — it will end badly.
Zesha Saleem is a freelance journalist and Editor for Youth Politics UK.