Boris Johnson facing a crisis of confidence at his party convention

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LONDON | Less than a year after his triumph at the polls, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, criticized for his management of the pandemic, is preparing to face a crisis of confidence at the annual Congress of his Conservative Party which opens on Saturday.

Coronavirus obliges, fiery speeches in huge rooms and boisterous asides will give way to debates and speeches online.

What potentially weaken the verve of “BoJo” but also save him from suffering head-on the wrath of some of his troops. Because the leader concentrates the reproaches of the public concerning the management of the epidemic which has already made more than 42,000 deaths in the United Kingdom – a record unparalleled in Europe – and leaves again in recent weeks.

According to a survey carried out by the ConservativeHome site, party members are increasingly less supportive of forced confinement measures, now preferring for almost half of them an approach that promotes voluntary physical distancing.

Paul Goodman, editor-in-chief of ConservativeHome, noted support for the Prime Minister’s health policy “which has clearly deteriorated among party members”: “This drop in confidence echoes that observed in polls with the general public and reflects the decline in popularity of the Prime Minister himself ”.

Boris Johnson delivered his sentiment in an interview with Telegraph Friday: “I think everyone has had enough, I just urge people to be a little patient. We will overcome that and we will save many lives, and that is really the best I can say. I think there is a moral imperative in saving lives where you can ”.

The atmosphere was very different last year when Boris Johnson was elected head of the Conservatives before triumphantly winning the legislative elections in December, on the promise to “achieve Brexit” after years of debates on the exit from the European Union, voted in 2016.

The European bloc has now launched an infringement procedure against its ex-member. He criticizes the British government for a bill, approved by MPs on Tuesday, which partly goes back to the Brexit agreement reached a year ago.

The text, which by London’s own admission violates international law, has sparked criticism within the Tories themselves, who fear that this turnaround could damage the diplomatic credibility of the United Kingdom.

“Replace” Johnson?

Normally, the Conservatives revel in his attacks on Brussels, where Boris Johnson himself was a journalist. But Brexit is over and if a trade agreement remains to be found, tensions with Brussels are now eclipsed by the pandemic, which is in full resurgence in the United Kingdom.

Some Conservative MPs have criticized the Prime Minister for not consulting Parliament enough on health measures, as well as his restrictive approach, described by MP Philip Davies as “socialist”.

The conservative press has now found a new darling with its young and telegenic Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, whom it would see as a successor to Downing Street.

In the TelegraphMr Johnson called the assumption “totally wrong” before adding: “We are one. I think it’s fair enough to say that there is a team spirit between number 10 and number 11 ”, referring to his residence, 10 Downing Street, and that of his Minister of Finance, at number 11 on the same street.

It will be Rishi Sunak’s turn to speak to the party members on Monday. For the opening of the congress on Saturday, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab will speak. Boris Johnson will not speak until Tuesday during the closing speech.

“A single speech – even from a banter like Boris – will never be enough to reverse the situation, especially if it is contradicted by the facts,” said political scientist Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London, interviewed by AFP.

“The only advantage for Boris Johnson is that holding the congress online will not give his disgruntled colleagues the opportunity to bitch and even wonder – over an overly hot white wine and a sad booth sandwiches – if they would not do better to replace it before it is too late, ”notes the researcher.

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