Boris Johnson Dodged a COVID Reckoning. Now He’s Doubling Down on Deportations.

After weeks in which commentators had been predicting United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s removal from office for breaking the U.K.’s own COVID-era public health laws, the impression now is that he has survived — for the time being.

The news that Johnson will not face any further fines after his staff were issued with 126 “Fixed Penalty Notices for COVID-19 breaches has been widely interpreted as proof of the prime minister’s talent for survival. As one commentator put it, “The [prime minister]Partygate avoided reckoning.”

It seemed as though the Conservative government was doomed even as recently January. Johnson has now escaped, although with weakened authority.

In the U.K.’s political system, prime ministers are not directly elected but hold office only indirectly through the support of a majority of their own members of Parliament (MPs). Many of our most recent prime ministers, including Margaret Thatcher (Tony Blair) and Theresa May were removed from office due to their failure to win an election.

Prime Minister Johnson’s support remains, from this perspective, very thin. Since December last years, the Conservatives are not leading in any poll. 148 national polls sinceThenPredicting losses for their party at next general elections.

Then, something has to change. Either the opposition Labour Party’s lead will shrink and Johnson will be able to convert his weak administration into a durable regime, or Labour’s lead will grow to the point where the prospect of the Conservatives’ defeat at the next election seems so likely that his own MPs topple him. If the opposition’s present poll advantage persists, we could see Johnson’s regime end in a palace coup.

The prime minister appears to believe that his government can boost its popularity with a new plan — announced last month — to deport refugees arriving in Britain for processing overseas. The plan is for refugees to be deported to central Africa and forced to claim asylum there. If successful, they will then be forcibly relocated to Rwanda, not to Britain. Johnson seems to believe this flagship policy will increase his support among wavering voters.

The U.K. is not a significant haven for refugees: My country holds 1 percent of the world’s total population and acceptsThe percentage of the world’s refugees each year.The U.K., however, is a significant player in the world stage as one the five permanent members to the United Nations Security Council.

The U.K. proposes to send a message to the rest of world by effectively abandoning UN Refugee Convention. Convention was signed in 1951. It was one of a number of international treaties that were all signed with the common purpose of protecting the planet from fascism. Its abandonment in favor of the U.K. would mark a small but important step in the global drift toward authoritarianism.

Prime Minister Johnson suggested, at the press conference in which he announced the Rwandan plan, that it would be challenged by its opponents. “I know that this system will not take effect overnight,” he said. “We have such a formidable army of politically motivated lawyers who for years have made it their business to thwart removals and frustrate the government.”

Competent governments don’t spend their time trying to get hostile lawyers to take the case to court. They also don’t predict, as Johnson did, that these attorneys will win. So why did the prime minister plead with his opponents to sue? What do his opponents think? That they will sue him. take the scheme to court?

To understand both sides’ thinking, it is useful to look at the 2019 general election and the events which immediately preceded it. On August 28 that year, the government had announced that it was “proroguing” (i.e., suspending) Parliament, seemingly in order to force through a settlement of the country’s long-standing Brexit crisis without a vote. Our Supreme Court ruled four weeks later that this measure was illegal.

This was the greatest constitutional crisis Britain had seen in 300 years, with ministers insisting that, according to the country’s “unwritten” constitution, they could govern so long as they had the queen’s approval. Unlike the U.S., the U.K. does not have a single constitutional document; we do have laws of very great or “constitutional” significance. They are scattered over many documents and there is not one document that identifies which laws have the unique importance.

The Supreme Court was the one to save the separation of powers and doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty by rejecting the notion that ministers could govern with support from the Crown.

The British public, despite the unanimous rejection of prorogation by the 11 Supreme Court justices, had other ideas. Just three months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Conservatives increased their seats by 48 votes, converting what had been a narrow minority government into a secure majority one. To make matters worse a large portion of the seats won by Conservatives was from rustbelt areas that were assumed to be Labour seats. They represent places such as Redcar which had never been won by the Conservatives or Leigh, Manchester, which Labour last lost. 1922.

The most common explanation for Johnson’s victory was that working-class voters had been attracted to a populist candidate promising to break all the rules. Johnson loves to tell this story, and it is in that context that we can see why Johnson is willing to take on international criticism and play the role mid-Atlantic Donald Trump. Johnson shouldn’t care if democracy fails, as long he continues to rule.

Johnson seems to view the possibility of losing in court over the Rwanda scheme as an opportunity to rerun battles that led to his victory in 2019. For his liberal critics, however, the context is better now than it was three years ago. Johnson has been prime Minister all these years. It is difficult for Johnson to act as an outsider. The U.K.’s inflation rate is currently at 9 percent, which is the highest since 1999. 40 years. Rising food and electricity costs are putting money out of the pockets key Conservative voters, including those who rely on savings and the elderly.

It is sad that the opposition Labour Party presents the issue as one of competence. As if the problem with the proposal to deport refugees to Rwanda is that the government has done this in a shambolic manner, failing to secure any guarantees from Rwanda and at excessive cost. This reflects Labour’s self-presentation as a party with no different politics than the Conservatives — only a much greater belief in the rules.

Yet, the Conservatives are turning against refugees at the same time that more British citizens are opening their homes for refugees than ever. Over 50,000 people have sought temporary shelter since the beginning of the war against Ukraine. in the U.K. After 10,000 people offered their assistance, an official website that allowed British citizens to register to offer their homes to refugees crashed. offers an hour.

This instinct of generosity — the belief of ordinary voters that refugees should be welcomed — is the force which could yet topple Johnson.