prime minister

Hungary's Opposition Leader Marki-Zay Tests Positive For COVID-19 Amid Election Race   13%

The Hungarian opposition's joint candidate for prime minister says he has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of general elections in April.

Bulgaria, North Macedonia Agree To Work On Issues Preventing EU Talks  

The new prime ministers of North Macedonia and Bulgaria agreed on January 18 to intensify efforts to improve relations between the Balkan neighbors.

The Partys Over   -1%

In Boris Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street, a vista of London hangs above the fireplace. The work was painted by his mother, Charlotte Wahl, who died four months ago at the age of 79, having lived long enough to see her son become prime minister and then win an election by such a margin that it seemed to have ushered in a new era in British politics: the Johnson era.

For Wahl, it must have been a proud moment, and perhaps confirmation that whatever difficulties she suffered during Johnson’s childhood, she had done well by him. When Johnson was young, Wahl had a mental breakdown that resulted in her spending months in a London hospital, while her children remained in Brussels. Wahl’s deep grief about this is expressed in a series of paintings that she produced during her stay at the Maudsley hospital. In one haunting image, Wahl depicts her and her husband, Stanley, along with their four children, all of them dangling by their arms with scared looks on their faces. The painting is titled The Johnson Family Hanged by Circumstances.

Today, Johnson’s political future is hanging as precariously as he is in that image, and because of circumstances entirely of his own making.

As I write this, the British prime minister is caught up in a political scandal of such extraordinary power and emotional resonance that within the next few weeks or months, he may be forced from office. This is despite the fact that he is barely two years into a five-year Parliament, having won in 2019 the biggest Conservative majority in 30 years.

[Read: What is the point of Boris Johnson?]

The scandal is this: While the rest of the country was under some degree of lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, Johnson attended various “parties” or gatherings at 10 Downing Street, where he works and lives with his wife and children. While, under British guidelines, ordinary members of the public were allowed to meet only one other person outside, officials in Downing Street got together to socialize. While people were not allowed to visit their dying friends and family in hospitals and care homes, Johnson and his wife were at a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden with about 40 aides.

At the moment, a senior civil servant—independent of Johnson’s government—has been tasked with investigating all of these parties. More than 10 events appear to have taken place on government property. Some of the gatherings are being examined to discover exactly what happened, who attended, and whether officials broke any laws at the time.

The report is expected to be published in the next few weeks. If it finds Johnson personally culpable of breaking the law, the pressure for him to go might become unmanageable, as Conservative members of Parliament, fearful for their seat during the next election, move against him. Yesterday, the Conservative Party’s leader in Scotland, Douglas Ross, became the first senior Tory to call for Johnson to resign. That may already be enough to tip Johnson over the edge. Any criminal investigation by the police into the “socially distanced drinks” in the Downing Street garden might be the final straw.

If Johnson is forced from power, it would be a political and personal failure unprecedented in modern British politics. Since 1945, no other prime minister at this stage of the electoral cycle, having won such a convincing majority, has suffered such a quick fall from grace. Prime Minister Anthony Eden, previously Winston Churchill’s wartime foreign secretary, resigned in 1957, two years after winning a majority. But Eden did so because of a unique combination of illness and foreign-policy failures after the Suez Crisis, a foundational moment of humiliation in postwar British politics. To many people, of course, Brexit is a similar disaster, but that is not why Johnson is under pressure. On the contrary, in fact, his power and popularity were based on his promise to “get Brexit done.”

The only British historical parallel of any merit that I can think of is the fall of Prime Minister David Lloyd George, whose popularity after leading the country to victory in World War I led some Conservatives to remark that he could be “prime minister for life” if he wanted. Within three years, though, he had resigned, after a series of scandals undermined his support from the public, prompting the Conservative Party to withdraw its support from the coalition he was leading.

A better comparison, though, is Richard Nixon, a man of extraordinary political gifts—far more so than Johnson—laid low by a scandal that came to represent all of his character flaws, which everyone already knew about. Watergate eventually toppled Nixon in 1974; just two years earlier he had won in a landslide of such crushing proportions, winning every state but Massachusetts, that it is barely conceivable today.

[Read: Boris Johnson keeps defying gravity]

The Shakespearean drama of Nixon’s slow political asphyxiation is like nothing else in modern democratic history: a subtle weaving of personal tragedy, human weakness, criminal folly, and natural justice, with a denouement almost made for TV. In comparison, Johnson’s Watergate—“Partygate,” as it is now known—is low-grade, cheap, and almost pathetic in its smallness, but with all the same ingredients of tragedy, weakness, folly, and natural justice.

Yet Johnson does not have to commit a “high crime or misdemeanor” to be forced out. The key to remember is that Britain, unlike the United States, is a parliamentary system, which means that a prime minister is only as powerful as his command of the House of Commons and, by extension, his party. Johnson’s only hope right now is that he can persuade his party to hold the line until the onslaught is over and pray that no new revelations come to light. For Johnson, though, like Nixon before him, the reality is that he is no longer in control.

Like Watergate, Partygate reveals the character traits that have long defined Johnson, but that, until the scandal, were seen as either irrelevant or even positive when dealing with Brexit. Now, applied to the pandemic, they are seen as disqualifying.

In a profile of Johnson that I wrote last year, I painted him as a “minister of chaos” who revels in a kind of performative disdain for the rules that apply to everybody else. Here was a politician, I wrote, who was like “another species” to most others, “superficially disheveled but in fact focused and watchful,” a man who enjoyed the messiness of life, and believed that the key was to adapt to it, not try to tidy it up. This was how he saw the world, too, and therefore why he believed that Britain could succeed after Brexit, becoming more agile and adaptable outside the European Union. The point of my story was that the chaos around Johnson was partly for show but also real. He was serious about his own advancement but also really did believe that the rules did not apply to him, because they never had, and so he appeared unserious. The challenge ahead of him, now that he was prime minister, I wrote, was to take his electoral victory and Brexit revolution and show the administrative focus to make them work. So far he has failed at that task, preferring to stay in the chaos, where he has always existed.

The great irony of Johnson is that he seems to understand his own weaknesses better than most politicians do, yet he remains unable to do anything about them, drawn like some giant blond moth to the flame of his own political undoing.

Before Johnson was a politician, he was a journalist and a writer—a profession and pastime he continued even after entering Parliament. He wrote a children’s poem (complete with his own illustrations), a popular history of Rome, a slapdash biography of Churchill, and even a trashy comedic novel. In the novel, Seventy Two Virgins, Johnson’s lead character is a blundering Conservative politician with no real friends and only a “knuckle of principle in the opaque minestrone of his views.” This figure, Roger Barlow, is being hounded by the press over a scandal that the reader must wait until the final pages of the book to discover, but that Barlow is constantly panicked about, scouring the newspapers to find out if the story that will bring him down has finally been published. “There was something prurient about the way he wanted to read about his own destruction,” Johnson writes, “just as there was something weird about the way he had been impelled down the course he had followed.”

In the book, Johnson speculates that his character might be an akratic, someone characterized by a weakness of will that results in him making decisions against his better judgment. Johnson’s critics, such as Rory Stewart, one of his former Conservative leadership opponents, say that this idea of Johnsonian akrasia is bunkum. Johnson isn’t good-but-weak, they argue; he is an amoral chancer who pretends to be weak-willed but whose only goal is power for power’s sake. Johnson, though, does offer an alternative theory in the novel: something called the “Thanatos urge,” which is, in essence, a death urge.

Are these clues to Johnson’s deeper self-consciousness, or perhaps just the meanderings of an attention-seeking novelist? Either way, it’s clear that Johnson was always aware that his lifelong quest to become prime minister would leave him and all his character flaws exposed for the world to see.

[From the July/August 2021 issue: The minister of chaos]

He has also consistently shown a deep cynical awareness about the fate of all politicians. In one article, published in his book Have I Got Views for You, Johnson writes that politics is little more than a repetition of the age-old tradition of “how we make kings for our societies, and how after a while we kill them to achieve a kind of rebirth.” He continues: “Some of the kings are innocent; indeed, some of them take away the sins of the world. Some of them are less innocent … It doesn’t really matter. They must die.”

In the end, Johnson believes that narrative matters more than facts. “People live by narrative,” he told me in one of our interviews for my profile. “Human beings are creatures of the imagination.” Whether Johnson is found innocent or guilty in the official report is, of course, hugely consequential. He may somehow survive and go on to last longer in office than currently seems possible. Yet Johnson can hardly complain if the story the country chooses to believe does not tally with his own, now necessarily legalistic version of events. If humans are creatures of the imagination, as Johnson says, they do not let their leader off on some technicality when the basic truth is that he didn’t think the rules everybody else was following applied to him.

Whether he likes it or not, Johnson is now the evil king in the great Partygate scandal. That story has been written. As such, he is now close to his end, for the sake of a national rebirth from this sordid tale of contempt. Johnson can only hope that he survives long enough to eventually distract voters with a different story altogether. That won’t be easy.

Former Ambassador on Haitian President in March: Put Him Aside and Embrace Prime Minister Option  

Four months later, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated and replaced with a U.S.-backed prime minister, fueling suspicion of American involvement.

The post Former Ambassador on Haitian President in March: “Put Him Aside” and Embrace “Prime Minister Option” appeared first on The Intercept.

Novak Djokovic deported from Australia: how the controversy unfolded video   17%

Novak Djokovic has been deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open after the full federal court dismissed the world No 1’s bid to restore his visa. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, said Djokovic was deported because he tried to breach entry rules at the border, even though the immigration minister did not dispute the tennis star’s belief he had a valid medical exemption. The Serbian tennis player boarded an Emirates flight from Melbourne to Dubai, hours after the court upheld the minister’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa

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Scott Morrison proposal to allow under-18s to drive forklifts catches states by surprise   34%

Victoria, NSW and Queensland say there are no plans to lower age, which PM had said was among proposals to ease supply chain workforce shortages

A proposal by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to allow children to drive forklifts appears to have caught the states by surprise, with the Queensland, Victorian and New South Wales governments saying they have no plans to lower the current age of 18.

Unions have also criticised the proposal, saying forklifts are dangerous machines that require skilled operation.

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The 2019ers: Tory unease as some of partys newest MPs turn on Boris Johnson   43%

Members of old guard may refer to 2019 intake disparagingly, but they could hold PM’s fate in their hands

They were once among Boris Johnson’s most loyal defenders. Many of the army of more than 100 MPs who sat in Westminster for the first time in December 2019 felt they owed the prime minister their seat.

So they were initially on their best behaviour, keen in a much-expanded parliamentary party to stand out from their peers and secure early promotion to the lowest rungs of the ministerial ladder. And most still feel that way.

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Afghan acting PM Akhund calls for official global recognition of Taliban government  

Afghanistan’s acting prime minister, Mullah Hassan Akhund, on Wednesday called for international governments to officially recognize the country’s Taliban administration, saying at a news conference

Afghanistan: Taliban PM urges international recognition for government   10%

Taliban founder and acting prime minister, Hassan Akhund, has called for recognition of the new government. Afghanistan is in dire need of solutions to its economic crisis.

Boris Johnsons former aide accuses him of lying to UK parliament about boozy lockdown party   16%

Boris Johnson’s former top aide Dominic Cummings accused the prime minister of lying to parliament, saying he would “swear under oath” that Johnson both was aware of and allowed a drinks party at Downing Street at the height of lockdown during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.By saying Johnson misled lawmakers, Cummings is again upping the ante after a post earlier this month about a party in May 2020 left the prime minister fighting to save his career and apologising to the House of…

Tony Blair: the big knighthood backlash and why hes still a polarising figure  

Fifteen years after leaving office, Tony Blair has received what UK prime ministers wait for – a knighthood.But the resulting furore, including more than a million signatures on a petition asking Queen Elizabeth to rescind the title, shows how, even after all these years, the former Labour politician and UK leader remains one of the most polarising figures in Britain.The queen on New Year’s Day made Blair, 68, a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, an honour…

With Boris Johnson in peril over partygate, who could step in as UK prime minister?   18%

With Boris Johnson in his most precarious position yet as UK prime minister, speculation is swirling over who might replace him as leader of the Conservative party and take Britain’s top political job.Rishi SunakThe UK’s first Hindu chancellor of the exchequer is the current bookies’ favourite to replace Johnson, having been appointed finance minister in 2020 after only five years in politics.Rishi Sunak, 41, was credited with taking bold steps and delivering a sweeping publicly funded furlough…

Attorney general to demand Netanyahu agrees to stay out of politics in plea deal   1%

With two weeks left to reach a plea deal, Israel's attorney general will demand Netanyahu accept a finding of moral turpitude, suspending Israel's once longest serving prime minister from political office

A Netanyahu plea deal will only be as good as its terms make it   -1%

An agreement shouldn’t be rejected out-of-hand, so long as it bars Israel's former prime minister from politics and prevents from later claiming the corruption cases against him were rigged

Rushing to ink Netanyahu plea deal, can anyone stop Israel's attorney general?  

Israel's AG has backtracked on all his decisions in the cases against the former prime minister, determined to sign a deal with the man who terrorized him. But even after both sides show their cards, talks could still blow up

How many Covid lockdown parties were held in Downing Street?   18%

The prime minister has apologised for attending Downing Street drinks during lockdown, how many other gatherings were there?

24 Sussex is part of our heritage. If the politicians cant save it, take it out of their hands   60%

‘What kind of country can’t be bothered, over decades, to pay what it takes to maintain the official residence of its own prime minister?’

Silvio Berlusconi Angles for Italys Presidency, Bunga Bunga and All   -1%

The billionaire former prime minister is working hard to persuade lawmakers to vote for him next week, despite an unusual résumé for a job resting on moral authority.

Boris Johnson says Englands virus rules will ease next week.   10%

The prime minister is under intense political pressure over claims that he lied to Parliament about parties held in Downing Street during a lockdown.

A Love of Trees or a Display of Power? The Odd Park of an Oligarch.   5%

A billionaire former prime minister says he has retired from Georgia’s fraught politics. His critics say he still wields considerable power. What’s beyond dispute: his obsession with trees.

Netanyahus Lawyers Discuss a Plea Bargain to End His Graft Trial   -20%

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, has pleaded not guilty in a corruption case. But his lawyers are negotiating a deal in which he might accept some charges to avoid jail time.

Britain's Johnson faces growing calls to quit after throwing parties during lockdown   -32%

The prime minister has admitted to throwing "bring your own booze" parties at his official residence in London while ordinary Britons were told to stay away from unnecessary gatherings.