With a strong majority in Parliament and a high popularity among the grassroots, the British Prime Minister can actually look forward to celebrating him at the Conservative Party conference. But there are indications that things may become uncomfortable for Boris Johnson soon.
Before Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party Conference, there was a crisis in the UK. Motorists have to face enormous difficulties at gas stations. Many petrol pumps are unused, and where there is still fuel, people often have to queue in traffic jams that stretch for miles. The reason is the massive shortage of truck drivers. This has already caused some shelves in supermarkets to be emptied which could drive up prices for many products.
Prime Minister Johnson had been in hiding for several days, then downplayed the crisis. “We are starting to see the first signs of improvement,” he said in a short clip, promising to adjust the status of supplies at Christmas.
Hardly any gas supply
But as if the shortage weren’t enough, UK consumers are facing a sharp rise in energy costs, which is hitting the country particularly hard due to its gas shortage. And if inflation rises, interest rates may soon rise, which could get many homeowners into trouble.
In addition, the “leave scheme”, the British version of short-time work benefits, expired at the end of September. The program has kept thousands of people in jobs that may no longer exist. It all comes after Johnson’s unpopular decision to raise Social Security contributions, despite campaign promises to the contrary, in order to fund an urgently needed reform of long-term care. There is already talk of a looming “cost of living crisis” and a “winter of discontent” (winter of discontent). It is feared that large numbers of people will slip into poverty.
However, political scientist Anand Menon of King’s College in London believes the Tories Johnson party will celebrate “like a champ” at the four-day party convention in Manchester that begins on Sunday. “Members of the Conservative Party love him and Tory MPs also love him because he won (the election),” Anand said in an interview with dpa. The fact that Johnson was late to comment on the fuel crisis has met with occasional criticism, but Menon sees this as tempting Johnson to hide away when the going gets tough. Then others must answer.
Johnson adjusts the cabinet
Johnson had already gotten rid of some of these human body armor before the party convention: In a cabinet reshuffle, he removed former Secretary of State Dominic Raab to the Department of Justice and fired Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. Neither of them cut a good figure. Williamson has been criticized in this pandemic for the chaos in school leaving exams and the organization of teaching in this pandemic. Raab was reluctant to return from vacation when the hardline Islamist Taliban movement took control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, and British and other Western forces left the country in a hurry.
Menon said there will certainly be “a lot of tough discussions” about economic decisions at the party convention. But he still does not believe that the prime minister has suffered any harm as a result. But he warns: “If things really go wrong economically, and especially if there is high inflation and unemployment, the government will be in trouble.” However, in the long run, a negative economic forecast could push Johnson to an early election, as the scientist believes: “I think spring 2023 is a possibility.”
Florian Voss, who does research in the area of political behavior at the London School of Economics, also sees risks for Johnson in a weak economy. But he believes that the intensification of the epidemic could affect the mood in the country at the expense of the conservatives. As is often the case, Johnson put it all on one card with his radical opening strategy. Thanks to a successful vaccination campaign, many Britons have since forgiven him for mistakes he made in the early days, “but if things go wrong again, things may soon look different,” Voss said.
Written by Christoph Meyer, dpa
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