127 characters were enough for the professor of British politics at the University of Liverpool, Jonathan Tonge, to predict almost exactly the result of the confidence vote that allowed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to continue in office. But the “Mystic Meg of politics”, as the academic was nicknamed, is sure that the Conservative leader will not be in office for another six months.
Tonge’s nickname was inspired by “Mystic Meg”, a famous astrologer who writes in The Sun newspaper, since the academic’s accurate predictions have been a surprise. In a tweet posted 58 minutes before Parliament delivered the official results of the vote, the professor wrote: “I lean towards confidence in Johnson 59% (211 votes) against 41% mistrust (147) and I delete this tweet to 9:01 p.m. when it’s over.” He did not delete the publication, since the result was 211 votes against and 148 in favor, a difference explained by the addition of an extra parliamentarian to the political process.
In conversation with The Guardian newspaper, Tonge stated that he would be “surprised if he was still prime minister in the fall. I’d say six months, but if anyone can hang on, it’s Johnson.” The strong pressures within the Conservative Party itself, a group that the premier leads, were appeased with the announcement of the tax reduction that had been communicated weeks ago but, according to the academic, it would not be enough to keep him in office for another six months.
The scandal known as the “Partygate”, where Johnson was discovered in the middle of parties, just as the government decreed strict mobility restrictions due to Covid-19, are also part of the picture. The prognosis, Tonge asserted, was made based on “basic loyalty versus declared commitments against him. You have the skeptics of Covid who turned against it, the supporters of permanence (in the European Union) who never liked it. But the rest was quite difficult because there is no big ideological split, ”he assured The Guardian.
The academic had already been successful in numerous previous political processes, such as when a month ago he projected the results of the Northern Ireland Assembly. “I said Sinn Féin would get 26 seats and they got 27. I said the DUP would get 24 seats and they got 25″, he told the English outlet. He only regretted not having bet on the motion of censure that was lurking at the head of the government.
What is Johnson’s proposal to win back the support of his own party? In addition to annulling the proposal on taxes, reviving the pro-Brexit discourse and reshaping the government through “awards” to those who remained loyal to the prime minister, say European media.
“Instead of getting entangled again in a fiendish debate about the advantages or disadvantages of belonging to the EU internal market, and returning to discuss issues that we already settled two and a half years ago, we have the opportunity to move forward, united” Johnson told his co-religionists before the no-confidence motion was made on Monday. The reason, assured the newspaper El País, was to sow doubt about the reasons behind the vote and the idea that it was motivated by those who seek to keep the country in the European Union.
“Tonight it has become clear that the prime minister has lost the confidence of 40% of his parliamentary group. You must understand the disenchantment of affiliates and voters that this result reflects, which has to do with Partygate, yes, but even more with the high cost of the energy program and the tax increases,” MP David Frost, a member of the Parliament, said on Twitter. Conservative Party and one of the strongest supporters of Brexit.
Liz Truss, Minister for Foreign Affairs, is in charge of the law announced in May that seeks to annul crucial elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, an international document that goes hand in hand with the withdrawal agreement from the European Union. And it is Truss herself, a declared admirer of the work of the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, who is accused by the British media as one of the possible inheritors of Johnson’s work.
For its part, the Swissinfo media outlet proposes the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Health, Jeremy Hunt, who was defeated by the current prime minister in the 2019 internal elections, as candidates. Another letter, says the outlet, is that of the Minister of Finance , Rishi Sunak, the first Hindu to hold the post and who ran ahead of the succession, losing the lead after financial scandals involving his wife.
“There is no big ideological dispute at stake here. Johnson was never ideological; his only ideological vision was to get Brexit done, and even that was just because he sensed that was the way the wind was blowing,” Tonge told France24, reinforcing his point that it is possible that, within six months, the British Prime Minister will not remain in office.