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Rolling Rebellions May Become a Lasting Scar for Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson suffered a revolt by 55 of his own Conservative Party colleagues Tuesday — his biggest rebellion in a parliamentary vote since he won a historic majority at last December’s election. The scale of the Tory uprising over England’s new pandemic restrictions is a clear warning that the prime minister’s authority has been badly damaged. It may also be a sign that four years of Brexit turmoil have left British politics permanently scarred.

Rebellions are nothing new at Westminster, but it’s clear Johnson cannot rely on his parliamentary party to back him up in the way that former premiers with big majorities could. “I think this is something that’s been brewing for the last decade or so,” Alice Lilly, senior researcher with the Institute for Government think tank, said in an interview. Governments with wafer-thin majorities or even minorities, such as under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, mean rank-and-file members of Parliament “have tended to hold the balance of power a lot of the time, and the influence they’ve had has often been greater than it has in the past.”

Part of this is the legacy of Brexit. Like the 2016 vote to leave the European Union, opinions on pandemic strategy cut across party divisions. The Brexit vote split the U.K. neatly in half, and May’s three years in power were defined by a succession of rebellions and historic defeats — often stoked by Johnson — over her plans for leaving the EU.

In the year since the Tories swept to victory with the party’s biggest majority since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1987, the pandemic has battered Johnson, personally and politically. Coronavirus hit the U.K. with the highest death toll in Europe, government borrowing is now at almost 400 billion pounds ($537 billion), and the economy is suffering its deepest recession since the Great Frost of 1709.

Rolling Rebellions May Become a Lasting Scar for Boris Johnson, Bloomberg, Dec 2

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