Boris Johnson faces most difficult week in office since becoming PM

No 10 is fighting fires on multiple fronts as the week begins.

Geraldine Scott
Monday 13 December 2021 13:24
Boris Johnson is facing perhaps his most difficult week since becoming Prime Minister (PA)
Boris Johnson is facing perhaps his most difficult week since becoming Prime Minister (PA)

Boris Johnson is facing perhaps the most difficult week since the start of his premiership.

As dissatisfaction on the Conservative backbenches has grown, the Prime Minister heads into the next few days against a backdrop of rebellion.

Meanwhile, the threat of the Omicron variant of coronavirus looms in the background.

Mr Johnson’s first big challenge comes on Tuesday, as MPs are asked to approve the Plan B measures he has set out in a bid to stem the spread of Omicron.

Boris Johnson is facing perhaps his most difficult week since becoming Prime Minister (Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/PA)

Already, more than 70 of his own MPs have signalled they either will, or are considering, opposing some of the plans.

Anger mainly centres on the introduction of Covid passes – where a person must prove their vaccination status or that they have had a negative test – for large venues.

However, the bad blood comes as Tory MPs have been left burned by their leader in recent weeks.

The standards row over former MP Owen Paterson left a sour taste in the mouths of many, as they felt they had been asked – and most obliged – to back the Government in a difficult position, only to be left embarrassed when ministers U-turned.

The resulting by-election in North Shropshire is on Thursday, and what should be a comfortable win for the Tories – Mr Paterson had a majority of almost 23,000 – is now looking precarious.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said by-elections are sometimes used by voters to “send a message”.

Ill feeling has also been stirred up by the revelations of alleged parties held in Downing Street and elsewhere in Government during lockdown restrictions.

After denying any parties took place, Mr Johnson has now asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to investigate and report back, with the Times suggesting the outcome could come as early as the end of the week.

The Conservative Party leader also faces allegations that he misled his ethics adviser over what he knew about a controversial refurbishment of his No 11 flat.

Lord Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers’ interests, has sought answers from the Prime Minister about the situation and could produce his findings this week, with speculation that he is considering his position.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson and his adviser speak on a regular basis and “we are continuing to liaise with Lord Geidt and answer any further questions he may have”.

Amid all of that, Mr Johnson is attempting to convince the country that it is essential to follow new coronavirus measures, as the Omicron variant threatens to put even more pressure on the NHS.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, the Prime Minister called the variant a “tidal wave”, and brought forward the deadline for offering booster jabs to all adults.

However, the question ministers continue to face in interviews is whether the public health messaging has been undermined by the Government’s – and Mr Johnson’s – actions, and what that means for his future.

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