Theme: Government & Parliament | Content Type: Journal article

One Man's Damage: The Consequences of Boris Johnson's Assault on the British Political System

David Sanders


UK Prime Minister's Office

| 1 min read

The disgraced British prime minister, Boris Johnson, was forced to resign by his own backbench MPs on 7 July 2022 (effective from 6 September) in complete denial that he had done anything wrong. Optimists might argue that this shows the strength of the British political system; that a way was found to throw out a proven rascal, thus providing the opportunity for a restoration of ‘normal politics’. In my view, this optimism is misplaced. Boris Johnson's behaviour, mirroring that of his populist role model, Donald Trump, has raised a number of serious questions about the continued successful functioning of the UK's unwritten constitution.

The article reviews the character of Johnson's constitutional violations during his period as prime minister. Using data from a recent survey of UK voters, it then explores the damaging effect that his period in office has had on UK public opinion. Despite his removal from office, Johnson retains a hard core of support across the wider electorate and, in particular, among grassroots Conservative supporters and party members. These supporters remain largely unaware of Johnson's constitutional crimes, and where they do know about them, they forgive them. This creates the real danger either that Johnson may at some future date return to office to repeat his offences, or that a similarly populist successor might deploy the same anti-democratic devices that Johnson himself used in his desperate attempts to cling to power.

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  • David Sanders.

    David Sanders

    David Sanders is Co-Editor of the Political Quarterly blog. He is also Emeritus Professor at the Department of Government, University of Essex.

    Articles by David Sanders