British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a man beset by scandals of his own making, has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party for a shocking reason: a scandal that was only partially of his own making.
The exact details are overly complicated and rather confusing, not unlike Johnson himself, but it boils down to this: He appointed a man who had been repeatedly accused of being a “sex pest” to a senior government position. Last week, the alleged sex pest, Chris Pincher, resigned, saying in a letter that he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed” himself at a private members club. (That concept—how very British.) “Embarrassed” is a weird euphemism for groping two people, which is what Pincher actually did.
Johnson’s office spent the weekend bickering over who knew what when regarding the accusations against Pincher that had floated around Westminster for years. On Tuesday, two senior Cabinet ministers quit; by Thursday morning, nearly 60 ministers (aka Johnson-appointed government officials) had also resigned. Johnson finally took the hint. (Sort of. He’s staying on as prime minister until the Conservative Party holds a leadership election to replace him.)
The weirdest thing about this whole saga, though, is that the inciting scandal had nothing to do with Johnson’s own penchant for inciting scandals. This is a man whose own romantic history is so weird that his Wikipedia entry once said that he had “at least” six children and when he confirmed that he did in fact have six children, it was headline news. He now has seven, if you’re wondering: Four adult children with his first wife, one child who was the product of an affair—whose existence he still hasn’t really confirmed—and two with his current wife, Carrie (whom he began dating secretly while he was still married to his first wife).
A real Elon Musk over here.
His other scandals ran the gamut, from Partygate (when he and his staff at 10 Downing Street had multiple shindigs during London’s strict covid lockdown) to run-of-the-mill political corruption (accepting “donations” for six-figure renovations on his government residence) to making the son of Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev a Lord (yes, British politics is wild). And none of that’s getting into his rampant racism and misogyny; overseeing the loss of frictionless trade with its largest economic partner (aka Brexit); the failure to replace combustible materials that caused a high-casualty fire in an apartment tower; horrific immigration policies; and general right-wing bullshit.
This story is far from over. One of Johnson’s former aides tweeted that the prime minister’s strategy right now is just “play for time” and that if the Conservative Party doesn’t install a caretaker prime minister, there will be “CARNAGE.”
As an American journalist, I know a thing or two about exhausting and confusing political news cycles. So to my British friends, I bid you godspeed.