Johnson, however, is still far from off the hook when it comes to Partygate.
Next week, senior civil servant Sue Gray will release her report on the scandal, which is likely to be highly critical of Johnson.
Once this report is published, a parliamentary committee will then be able to open an inquiry into Johnson in which it will ultimately decide whether Johnson deliberately misled Parliament when he denied that a breach of the rules had taken place at No 10. minister who knowingly misleads Parliament should resign from office.
As difficult as it may seem, Johnson could overcome both events. Even harder to believe, it’s not even the biggest problem he will face in the coming months.
The current cost of living crisis in Britain and how the government is handling it is set to dominate the political agenda until the next general election, due in 2024.
Tory MPs are not convinced that Johnson has the solution to this crisis. A former cabinet minister who has been a longtime critic of Johnson points to Johnson’s dragging his feet on imposing a windfall tax on energy companies that have benefited from higher prices for consumers.
“It has already been too slow. Even if the government taxes energy companies, they will remember that it didn’t do it soon enough,” the former minister said. “I fear that, combined with the impression that he lied about parties, means the damage is already done for many of those who voted for him in 2019. And the next election is when the party will be punished for his mistakes,” they added.
It’s not just Johnson’s reviews that feel grim. A senior MP who backed Johnson’s 2019 leadership bid told CNN that even among the prime minister’s supporters there was a sense that the cost of living crisis was going to get worse and that the government “will not have a plan until it is too late” and will have to hold “an emergency budget, which will allow the work (of the opposition party) to dance on our grave”, for having left the situation to get worse.
Other pitfalls await Johnson. This week again, one of its deputies was arrested on suspicion of rape. It comes against the backdrop of many MPs being investigated for sexual misconduct, with members of Johnson’s cabinet believed by government insiders to be on the list.
The list of issues for which the Prime Minister is being criticized seems to be growing week by week: from accusations of lax immigration to undermining the structural integrity of the entire country, not to mention the possibility to start a trade war with its closest trading partner.
All the while, his approval ratings remain poor and his party trails in the polls on nearly every issue.
Despite this, most Tories believe he will fight in the next general election as prime minister and party leader. They point to the absence of an irrefutable weapon, a lack of courage among MPs to fire him and the almost religious belief of some Tories that he is truly the chosen one who can overcome all odds.
“To some of them, he’s really ‘Indiana Boris.’
Despite this devotion, Johnson and his party are suffering in the polls. Their latest woes are underscored by fear among Conservative Party insiders that, for the first time since taking office, a clear path to government exists for opposition Labor leader Keir Starmer.
Conservative sources privately admit they think it is possible that, as things stand, the next election will result in a formal or informal coalition between Labor and the centrist Liberal Democrat party. This is important because it would mean Labor would not need the Scottish National Party to form a government, which would almost certainly come at the cost of another Scottish independence referendum.
The Tories have campaigned hard before, using the idea of a ‘coalition of chaos’ as their main line of attack against Labour. However, Labor officials believe this attack will not work as 2024 approaches for two main reasons.
First, without the Scottish referendum, a significant part of the chaos is eliminated. Second, as one Labor official put it, “we have gone through some of the most turbulent years in recent history with the Tories in power. They are clearly the agents of chaos”.
Labor officials stressed to CNN there would be no formal pact with anyone ahead of the election, but conceded it would be prudent to focus campaign and resources on seats they are most likely to to take from the Conservatives.
They also stressed that they wanted Johnson to fight the next election. “He’s so toxic, and despite the damage he’s doing to his party, he’s still hanging on,” an opposition source said.
All of this leaves British policy, in the medium term, in a strange position. Johnson doesn’t want to go anywhere. Those in his party who want him gone have no hard evidence. The opposition wants him to stay firmly in place.
In the face of all the turmoil, all the anger directed at the government, the sense that something big is about to happen, Boris Johnson’s fate remains stuck in the same state of uncertainty it has been for much of this year.
And without anything inconceivably dramatic happening before the next election, it is entirely plausible that it will be so for the next two years. Which, arguably, is not a good thing for people in a country that is going through its worst cost of living crisis in decades.