British Prime Minister Boris Johnson went on a visit to Kiev on February 1. It was originally planned that he would be accompanied by Elizabeth Truss, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. However, on the eve of her departure from London, she was infected with the coronavirus, so the prime minister was in the spotlight. And such a configuration, apparently, plays into Johnson’s hands: he has too many problems at home, and the standard move with the replacement of domestic political priorities with foreign ones may well work. Especially if it is presented from the right angle.
Judging by the feedback from Ukraine about Johnson’s arrival, even there, not everyone expected a visit of this level. Moreover, threatening statements against Russia in connection with the tension on the Ukrainian border were voiced mainly by the head of the Foreign Office, Liz Truss. In particular, it was she who, shortly before the visit on February 1, promised that in London by the middle of next week they would agree on a package of new sanctions against the Russian Federation.
However, right on the eve of the visit, it suddenly became clear that Truss had contracted the coronavirus. The minister herself announced this on her Twitter page, emphasizing that she had received three vaccinations (it is not clear, however, before or after receiving the test results). This coincidence did not escape the attention of some conspiracy-minded observers, who believed that the head of the Foreign Office was deliberately “removed” from the delegation to Ukraine at the last moment under a plausible and quite plausible pretext.
Even leaving aside rumors and speculation, it cannot be denied that such a scenario is quite profitable for Johnson. He himself arranged preparations for the flight to Kiev on a grand scale and not without subtleties that raise questions. For example, it was known that the prime minister had a telephone conversation scheduled for January 31 with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But on the same day, the results of an investigation conducted by senior government official Sue Gray were also scheduled to be presented to Parliament: she was involved in clarifying the circumstances of at least 17 parties that took place in public institutions during the quarantine period.
At a couple of such entertainment events, which has already been proven, Johnson himself was present, thus violating the restrictions imposed by him and his cabinet. As expected, Sue Gray’s report did not contain direct accusations against the prime minister, but the prime minister had to speak before representatives of the House of Commons (the lower house of the British Parliament. – “MK”). Because of this, he did not have time to have a conversation with the Russian president: now it is not known when the conversation will take place.
In his speech to the parliamentarians, the prime minister vaguely assessed the results of Gray’s investigation – however, without abdicating responsibility and calling for “learning lessons”, but in the end he focused … on the same “Russian threat”.
According to Johnson, members of parliament should think more about Moscow’s possible actions in the Ukrainian direction, and not destabilize the situation inside their country. On this note, the prime minister departed for Kiev, where the echo of “patigate” is unlikely to overtake him in the near future, and he himself, in the absence of Liz Truss, found himself in the lead role.
At the same time, the moment was chosen very appropriate: at the same time as Johnson, the heads of the governments of the Netherlands and Poland (Mark Rutte and Mateusz Morawiecki, respectively) gathered in Ukraine. Therefore, it is not possible for his opponents to openly reproach the British prime minister for, following the tradition of many politicians, replacing internal problems with external ones: he is not the only one in Europe who is concerned about the “Russian threat” to Kiev and is trying to resolve the situation.
Under other conditions, Boris Johnson’s opponents in parliament would even benefit from his foreign policy activity, giving them time to regroup and consolidate. However, despite the constant calls for resignation from the Laborites, reproaches from the “shadow cabinet” and sagging public approval ratings, the prime minister does not seem to be going to give way to anyone, and no significant alternatives have appeared for him.
Now, after the completion of the Gray investigation, on which many Johnson’s opponents had unfounded hopes, the position of the prime minister could theoretically be weakened by the report of the chief of the London police, Cressida Dick: its publication will take place after the end of the investigative activities of Scotland Yard related to “covid parties”. As British experts admit, the police report, in contrast to the government report, may well contain indications of the prime minister’s personal responsibility for holding inappropriate events.