Where’s Boris? Johnson takes back seat as Conservatives feud

Jul 18, 2022, 10:00 AM | Updated: 10:56 pm

The Elizabeth Tower also known as Big Ben, at Parliament in London, Monday, July 18, 2022. Conserva...

The Elizabeth Tower also known as Big Ben, at Parliament in London, Monday, July 18, 2022. Conservative lawmakers will hold another elimination vote Monday to reduce the number of candidates to replace Boris Johnson from five to four. Britain's next leader is expected to be announced on Sept. 5. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — It was the most striking moment so far in the U.K. Conservative Party’s contest for a new leader. The five remaining candidates were asked during a televised debate to raise their hands if they would let Boris Johnson serve in their Cabinet. Not a single hand went up.

The contenders to replace Johnson are scrambling to distance themselves from the scandal-tainted politician who has resigned as party leader but remains Britain’s prime minister for a few more weeks — despite the fact that most of them have served in his government over the past three years.

Johnson, meanwhile, has largely disappeared from the scene. He has not attended any government emergency meetings about a heat wave that is forecast to bring temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) to Britain.

On Friday, Johnson visited a Royal Air Force base and took a ride in a Typhoon fighter jet, with “Top Gun”-style footage released by his office. He spent the weekend at Chequers, the country house that comes with the prime minister’s job, throwing a farewell barbecue for staff and friends.

Johnson returned to Parliament on Monday for one of his final times as prime minister for a largely symbolic vote of confidence called by the government — chiefly to give Johnson a chance to extol his own accomplishments.

To jeers from opposition lawmakers, Johnson said his “three dynamic and exhilarating years in the cockpit” had seen the British government “overcoming adversity on a scale we haven’t seen for centuries” in the shape of the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson of being “a vengeful squatter” in 10 Downing St.

Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham, likened Johnson to “a sulky teenager in the bedroom, just doing what he wants and shouting at the parents once in a while.”

Political and media attention has turned to his would-be successors, who are slinging dirt at one another as they try to convince Conservative Party members they can rebuild trust in politics and defeat the opposition Labour Party at the next election, due to be held by 2024.

The field of contenders shrank from five to four on Monday as Conservative lawmakers held another elimination ballots. 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 he resigned earlier this month, remains the front-runner but is under attack by Conservative rivals for spending billions to keep U.K. workers and businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, and raising taxes to help pay for it.

In a televised debate Sunday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss accused Sunak of hiking taxes to the highest level in 70 years. Sunak argued the hikes were necessary to damp down soaring inflation, and accused Truss, who has promised immediate tax cuts, of peddling “something-for-nothing economics.”

Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister who has emerged as a strong challenger, has appealed in vain for an end to “mudslinging,” much of which has been directed at her. She has been accused by opponents of wanting to make it easier for people to change gender — a hot-button issue for some Conservatives — and of neglecting her government duties to prepare her leadership bid.

Conservative lawmakers will hold another elimination vote Tuesday to reduce the number of leadership candidates to three. Former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, currently in fourth place, is the most likely evictee.

A vote Wednesday will produce two finalists who will then face a runoff by about 180,000 Conservative Party members across the country. The winner is to be announced Sept. 5 and will automatically become prime minister, without the need for a national election.

Fielding said that may prove problematic for the new leader, because he or she will be chosen by a Conservative membership — “primarily white, southern, very well-off” — with political priorities very different than the general electorate.

Johnson lead the Conservatives to a commanding parliamentary majority in 2019, but he has been plagued by scandals since then, including being accused of misleading Parliament about government parties that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules.

Johnson clung to power despite being fined by police over “partygate,” but finally quit on July 7 after one scandal too many — appointing a politician accused of sexual misconduct — drove his ministers to resign en masse.

Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse, a long-time Johnson ally, argued that the party’s testy debate was healthy, and predicted Conservatives would reunite in a “spirit of harmony” after the leadership campaign.

But Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said that was overly optimistic.

“The manner of Johnson’s departure unfortunately injected quite a lot of poison into the (party) bloodstream,” he said. “It will take time to work its way out.”


Follow all of AP’s coverage of British politics at https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

4 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

5 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

12 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

13 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

14 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

15 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.

Where’s Boris? Johnson takes back seat as Conservatives feud