Boris Johnson Has Had Another Stinker Of A Week As Prime Minister

Clashes with Joe Biden, breaking international law, Covid-19 outbreaks and, of course, Brexit mean it has not been a vintage week.

“Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.”

Nope, not a leak of Matt Hancock’s attempts to defend the government’s testing service but the words of one Winston Churchill.

Britain’s wartime leader is, of course, Boris Johnson’s greatest hero.

But after the chaotic stinker of a week his government has just presided over, you have to wonder whether if Churchill’s bulldog spirit offers Number 10′s current occupant - or indeed the British public - much comfort.

More lockdowns, a jump in the all-important Covid-19 “R” rate, more U-turn drama, Brexit talks exploding and Jacob Rees Mogg telling people to cease “carping” on about tests are just some of the things in Johnson’s in-tray.

Here’s a breakdown of yet another bad week for Boris Johnson.

Testing is a mess

<strong>People queue at a test centre following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Southend-on-sea</strong>
People queue at a test centre following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Southend-on-sea
Hannah Mckay / reuters

On Friday, the latest official figures showed that the Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to grow, with the “R” rate jumping to between 1.1 and 1.4.

This was reflected in a surge in hospital admissions and daily case numbers growing to reach 4,000 for the first time since May.

So it would help if NHS Test and Trace - which Johnson promised would be “world beating” - was doing its job.

Instead, up to three quarters of a million Covid test requests are going unanswered every day and thousands of people are being turned away from test sites, due to the “unexpected” rise in demand.

Dido Harding, the head of the testing service, admitted that online and phone applications for tests was “three to four times the number of tests we currently have available”.

The fiasco will not give people much faith that Johnson’s much-vaunted “Operation Moonshot” - which would see quick-result on-demand tests available for everyone by spring - is remotely realistic.

Meanwhile, the north-east, huge swathes of the north-west and Midlands have seen curfews and new social distancing rules imposed, with London and other parts of the country expected to soon follow suit.

Far from Johnson being on course to “save Christmas” by flattening “the next hump of the camel” (really, prime minister?) it feels like a very bleak winter beckons.

Breaking the law - and everything else with it

<strong>Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden</strong>
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden

It’s not like Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that the internal market bill breaks international law “in a specific and limited way”.

A backbench Tory rebellion over the legislation, which Johnson survived on Monday, was already under way.

The bill, which will be brought back before parliament with some key changes next week, is controversial because it gives UK ministers the power to unpick key parts of Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement (WA) that govern trade in Northern Ireland.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland has not ruled out resigning over the plan, amid concern it damages the UK’s international reputation for upholding the law.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has resigned as a UK special envoy, saying she was “dismayed” with Johnson.

Lord Keen of Elie QC, one of the PM’s most senior law officers, also quit over the legislation Wednesday, saying in a letter to Johnson that he had found it “increasingly difficult to reconcile what I consider to be my obligations as a Law Officer with your policy intentions”.

But that’s not all.

Joe Biden, the frontrunner to be the next US president, hinted the plan could imperil the US-UK trade talks, tweeting earlier this week: “We can’t allow the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland to become a casualty of Brexit.”

Jacob Rees Mogg being Jacob Rees Mogg

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg

The leader of the Commons has made life difficult for the prime minister on more than one occasion.

Be it telling MPs concerned in the early stages of the Covid pandemic that they could “open the windows” in parliament.

Or having to apologise for suggesting that victims of the Grenfell Tower fire did not use “common sense” and leave the burning building.

Then, there was of course THAT image of Rees Mogg reclining on the frontbenches in the Commons.

This week, the “honourable member for the 18th Century” suggested that the opposition should stop “carping” about testing.

Slightly missing the tone, he told MPs this week the government’s testing system a “success”.

He said: “And the prime minister is expecting that to go up to half a million people a day by the end of October.

“And instead of this endless carping saying it’s difficult to get them, we should be celebrating this phenomenal success of the British nation in getting up to a quarter of a million tests for a disease that nobody knew about until earlier in the year.”

Oh ... and another Tory rebellion looms, this one over cheap US food imports

Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade,
Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade,

And you thought Theresa May had a difficulty life at the helm!

Boris Johnson is facing a fresh rebellion intended to stop the UK importing cheap quality food as part of post-Brexit free trade deals with Donald Trump’s America, HuffPost UK learnt this week.

Tory MPs are uniting around plans to strengthen the Agriculture Commission set up by Trade Secretary Liz Truss earlier this year amid an outcry over the prospect of chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef being sold in the UK.

Peers are on Tuesday set to pass an amendment which would give the commission legal powers to make recommendations to parliament on how the UK maintains food standards in trade deals.

Tory MPs have been lobbying Truss to adopt the plans, but a Whitehall source made clear that she does not back the rebels.

It sets the stage for another parliamentary showdown when the Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons.

So, all in all, not a vintage week for Johnson and the government.