Boris Johnson became UK’s new prime minister on July 2019 after beating Jeremy Hunt to the post. The main issue Johnson was tasked to resolve is that of Brexit. As a firm Brexiter, Johnson was labelled a good fit to help the country after Theresa May, a Remainer, failed to do so. As the vote to leave the EU won the majority during the 2016 referendum, to finally have a prime minister who supported Brexit from the beginning, gave hope for a smoother attempt to leave the EU. However, this has been far from the case.
Before even becoming Prime Minister, Johnson had held multiple beliefs and ideas regarding Brexit and how the Government should handle the matter. Now in the position to make a noticeable difference to the instability of the country, Johnson appears to be making the situation worse. As Ian Blackford brilliantly put it, Johnson’s appointment as Prime Minster has been, ‘the shortest honeymoon in British political history’.
All began on August 28th when Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament was accepted by the Queen, thereby resulting in the closure of the Parliament session. Closure during a critical period meant potentially leaving MPs with little time to discuss ways to block Johnson’s plans for a no-deal Brexit. At this point, Johnson and his supporters were under the impression events were moving according to plan. However, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case.
The first defeat of the week
As Johnson was addressing the House of Commons, MP Philip Lee dramatically quit the Conservative Party. Lee physically crossed the floors of the House of Commons and sat with the Liberal Democrats. At this point, Johnson’s government lost its majority.
Johnson’s defeats do not end there
With the Opposition and other members of Parliament being in disagreement over Johnson’s disregard for democracy, the SO24 process was initiated. SO24 (Standing Order Number 24) allows MPs to table to the speaker, John Bercow, the need for an emergency Parliament debate in order to pass legislation to block Johnson’s plans for a no-deal Brexit.
On September 3rd, Johnson lost as 328 MPs to 301 voted for the control of the parliamentary agenda to be removed from his government, allowing MPs to construct legislation to block a no-deal Brexit. Johnson’s second defeat of the week led to one Wag shouting, ‘Not a good start Boris’. The results of this vote were made more significant when it was revealed that 22 members of Johnson’s own party, all supporters of Brexit, were among the MPs who voted against the Government. This was despite Johnson’s threats to remove the whip from any MPs who would go against his planned agenda. The rebels were clearly opposed to the methods being used to get Brexit, and so, stood their ground — at the cost of their career within the Conservative Party.
Then on September 4th, the final icing on the cake was added to Johnson’s week of defeats. After losing the first vote, Johnson adhered to his promise of motioning for a vote on a snap general election on October 15th. Johnson presented this as a way of allowing the general public to be the ones to decide who would lead and represent the country in the Brexit-focused meeting with the EU leaders on October 17th.
However, once again, Johnson’s backup plan was defeated. The Opposition had noted yet another method Johnson was using to distract MPs in order that his plans for a no-deal Brexit may work. During a general election, MPs’ energies are focused towards the election instead of drafting legislation to delay the country’s current scheduled time of leave the EU on October 31st, therefore ensuring what Johnson had wanted; leaving the EU without a deal. Whilst Johnson mocked how Corbyn is the first leader of the Opposition to ‘refuse the invitation to an election’, Corbyn’s actions suggest that his concerns are to solve the crisis that is Brexit in a manner that is beneficial to the country, instead of merely obtaining the chance to be the next prime minister.
Within just six weeks as Prime Minster, Boris Johnson has managed to suffer dramatic and humiliating losses. From one defeat to another, last week has proved to be an especially challenging time for Johnson. The only success he may claim so far is his ability to unify Parliament, including members of his own party, against himself.