Just like his run up the British political ladder, there’s a can’t-look-away quality to his fall from power. But there’s also a lesson in his political riches-to-rags story — from landslide 2019 victory to 2022 vote of no confidence, as my colleague Adam Taylor put it, and ultimately to resignation.
From this side of the Atlantic, Johnson was as much the London Mayor stuck on a zip wire in 2012, awkwardly waving two Union Jacks, as he was the graduate of tony Eton and elite Oxford who nonetheless harnessed populist support for Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union.
And, oh, the scandals. Back to Adam again for the succinct version:
“There was Britain’s disastrous early pandemic response, which included the prime minister almost dying of covid-19 himself. Then there were accusations of cronyism and corruption, including dubious dealings with Russian oligarchs and a Downing Street redecoration at a wealthy donor’s expense.”
“‘Partygate,’ the catchy name given to a rolling scandal involving rule-breaking pandemic parties at Downing Street, earned him the ignoble honor of being the first British prime minister to be charged with a crime while in office. And though he became prime minister in 2019 after pledging to ‘get Brexit done,’ his government is still mired in the details, even threatening to pull out of its own deal regarding the Northern Irish border.”
His resignation statement drew nearly as much attention for its style as its substance, with Johnson saying of fellow conservatives exhausted with him “the herd is powerful, and when the herd movies, it moves,” praising Britain’s “Darwinian system” for picking leaders, and saying he was sad to go “but them’s the breaks.”
But what caught The Daily 202’s attention was a line in the resignation letter from Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who said this about the Conservative Party: “We may not have always been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding we are now neither.”
“The current circumstances.”
Over at the New York Times, Eshe Nelson describes the current circumstances: “Inflation in the country has reached an annual rate of 9.1 percent, the highest in four decades, driven by supply chain disruptions from pandemic lockdowns and the war in Ukraine. And price pressures keep building as companies begin to pass on the increase in costs to their customers and workers demand higher wages to cope with the rising cost of living.”
“Households are facing the worst squeeze on their living standards in generations because wage growth is not keeping up with inflation, which isn’t expected to peak until at least the fall when the price cap on household energy bills is reset higher. Disposable household income, once adjusted for inflation, is expected to fall by more than 2 percent this year.”
Or, as Adam put it: “As Johnson leaves, the country he leads is suffering through a crisis of its own. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently estimated that Britain would have the worst economic growth of any G-20 country outside Russia next year. Inflation is expected to hit 11 percent year-on-year this autumn, higher than any other G-7 nation.”
“And while there is no shortage of global factors, economists say that Johnson’s signature policy — Brexit — will come to be seen as a key culprit for these lost years of stagnation and decline. This era of audacity and rule-breaking in British politics could possibly be about to end. Its repercussions will outlast it by a long way.”
A lesson — nay, refresher — for other leaders
None of this is to say that scandals and personality don’t matter. But it’s hard to imagine the last 48 hours of tumult in British politics —hard to imagine Johnson’s fall — without the previous two years of pandemic struggles, roaring inflation now and a gloomy outlook ahead.
And that may offer something of a lesson to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and, yes, President Biden. Not a lesson, because they all know it, but a refresher, one that featured prominently in America’s 1992 election: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
All three are struggling domestically as voters grapple with high gas prices and inflation. Each faces a different set of domestic political factors, none of them has had scandals on the scale Johnson did, but they all face unforgiving economic forces.
As Johnson might say: Them’s the breaks.
Ballot drop boxes not allowed in Wisconsin, state supreme court rules
“A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court barred the use of most ballot drop boxes Friday and ruled voters could not give their completed absentee ballots to others to return on their behalf, a practice that some conservatives disparage as ‘ballot harvesting,’” Patrick Marley reports.
U.S. unemployment rate holds at 3.6 percent in June
“This morning, the Labor Department reported that 372,000 jobs were created in June, a healthy showing that beat forecasts, which generally expected between 200,000 and 300,000 new jobs. For economists and policymakers, the hope is that jobs growth — which has been hovering around 400,000 new positions per month — will slow to a sustainable pace that could help moderate inflation, without a significant rise in unemployment,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
California will make its own insulin to fight drug’s high prices, Newsom says
“Newsom said in a video posted to Twitter that $100 million from the state budget he recently signed for 2022-2023 would be allocated for California to ‘contract and make [its] own insulin at a cheaper price, close to at cost, and to make it available to all,’” Timothy Bella reports.
Shinzo Abe, former Japanese leader, is assassinated by gunman
“Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, a towering political figure at home and abroad, died after being shot at a campaign event Friday, doctors said, shocking a nation where firearms laws are among the world’s strictest and gun violence is rare,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma report.
Biden to outline new steps aimed at bolstering abortion rights
“He is also planning to sign an executive order that, according to a statement released late Thursday by the White House, will attempt to safeguard access to abortion medication and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy and bolster legal options for those seeking access to such services,” Matt Viser reports.
House Democrats launch probe into the handling of reproductive health data
House lawmakers on Friday sent letters to five data brokers and five popular health apps, demanding information about how they collect personal reproductive data. The letters are a response to mounting concerns that such data could be used to surveil women seeking abortions in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade.
In the letters, the lawmakers warn that this data could “pose serious threats” to both women seeking care, as well as health-care providers. They warn of the potential for broad government surveillance, as well as ways it could be used to intimidate or harass people seeking abortion.
“Geographic data collected by mobile phones may be used to locate people seeking care at clinics, and search and chat history referring to clinics or medication create digital bread crumbs revealing interest in an abortion,” wrote Reps. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.).
The letters demand apps like the period tracker Flo or the location provider SafeGraph provide details about their communications with local governments, as well as their policies about selling data.
-Tech policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Across southern Arizona, a full range of border woes for Biden
“Arizona spans more than 370 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and perhaps no other state better encapsulates the array of challenges facing U.S officials trying to manage the illegal entries. Border crossers are arriving from more countries and in greater numbers than ever, at the same time that Mexican migration has surged to levels not matched since the mid-2000s,” Nick Miroff reports.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection is on pace to make more than 2 million arrests along the Mexico border during the 2022 fiscal year that ends in September, surpassing last year’s record of 1.73 million. About 400,000 have occurred in Arizona.”
The most pathetic men in America
Mark Leibovich “never loved the Trump story,” he writes for the Atlantic.
“Better objects of our scrutiny — and far more compelling to me — are the slavishly devoted Republicans whom Trump drew to his side. It’s been said before, but can never be emphasized enough: Without the complicity of the Republican Party, Donald Trump would be just a glorified geriatric Fox-watching golfer. I’ve interviewed scores of these collaborators, trying to understand why they did what they did and how they could live with it. These were the McCarthys and the Grahams and all the other busy parasitic suck-ups who made the Trump era work for them, who humored and indulged him all the way down to the last, exhausted strains of American democracy.”
What the BA.5 subvariant could mean for the U.S.
“The most transmissible variant yet of the coronavirus is threatening a fresh wave of infections in the United States, even among those who have recovered from the virus fairly recently,” the New York Times‘s Lauren Leatherby reports.
Biden is nowhere close to hitting his refugee goals
“Biden officials expect to fall short by about 100,000 refugees on their goal to resettle 125,000 in the U.S. this fiscal year, according to two sources with direct knowledge of internal estimates,” Axios‘s Stef W. Kight and Jonathan Swan report.
Calls for TikTok probe widen, adding to pressure on Biden to weigh in
“The Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the panel’s top Republican sent a joint letter to the Federal Trade Commission this week urging an investigation of TikTok’s data-handling and other practices. TikTok’s parent, ByteDance Ltd., has its headquarters in Beijing,” the Wall Street Journal‘s John D. McKinnon reports.
Gun deaths by race, visualized
“The spate of shooting attacks in communities such as Highland Park, Ill.; Uvalde, Tex.; and Buffalo has riveted attention on America’s staggering number of public mass killings. But the rising number of gun deaths in the United States extends beyond such high-profile episodes, emerging nearly every day inside homes, outside bars and on the streets of many cities, according to federal data,” Mark Berman, Lenny Bernstein, Dan Keating, Andrew Ba Tran and Artur Galocha report.
Planned Parenthood staffers are unionizing to prepare for life after Roe
“Employees at Planned Parenthood’s state affiliate in Massachusetts voted almost unanimously for a union Wednesday, as abortion care workers deal with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned the national right to have an abortion in America. And some workers say the win will give them a desperately needed voice in the workplace as they prepare to serve a flood of out-of-state patients as more and more states restrict or ban abortion,” Vice News‘s Paul Blest reports.
Texas governor orders state police to return migrants to border
“Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered the Texas National Guard and the state police to begin apprehending migrants who illegally cross the border from Mexico and taking them back to ports of entry, a move that could put the state into direct conflict with the federal government over immigration,” the NYT‘s J. David Goodman reports.
“Mr. Abbott, in a statement, said the goal was to return ‘illegal immigrants to the border to stop this criminal enterprise endangering our communities.’”
Biden will leave the White House for the CIA headquarters at 1:55 p.m. He will speak there at 3:40 p.m. and return to the White House at 4:30 p.m.
At 7:45 p.m., Biden will leave the White House for Rehoboth Beach, Del. He’s scheduled to arrive at 8:40 p.m.
Weekend read: She died and became the ‘Christmas Tree Lady.’ Now we know her name.
“For a quarter-century, the unidentified woman in Pleasant Valley Memorial Park was known as ‘the Christmas Tree Lady,’ because she had placed a small Christmas tree on a blanket next to her, sometime early on Dec. 18, 1996. Neatly coifed, smartly dressed, her pockets contained no identification but two envelopes with a $50 bill and the same typed note in each: ‘Deceased by own hand…Prefer no autopsy. Please order cremation, with funds provided. Thank you, Jane Doe,’” Tom Jackman reports.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.