There is every sign that the spell Mr. Johnson cast over the country is cracking, that people are waking up to the truth of him. The latest polls show the Conservative Party sliding to second place while Mr. Johnson’s approval ratings continue their descent. It feels a long time since the elections in December 2019, when the country gave him an enormous majority of 80 seats.
In retrospect, the election campaign was explicitly romantic. Mr. Johnson’s highest-profile campaign advert was a parody of a scene from the film “Love Actually,” in which a man stands outside a married woman’s home and tells her, using written signs, that he loves her. (Yes, it’s creepy.) The signs in the ad were Brexit-related — “With any luck, by next year we’ll have Brexit done” — but the meaning was clear. Mr. Johnson was a lover, and the country was seduced.
Infatuations die hard but fast. Now two-thirds of the country does not trust him, and half thinks he should resign. The mood in his Conservative Party is, according to one member, “sulfurous.” Even cabinet ministers believe he has imposed Plan B to distract from the “party crisis.” Many Conservative legislators, furious at the prime minister, are planning to oppose the new restrictions. A local election on Thursday, caused by the resignation of a corrupt legislator Mr. Johnson had disastrously tried to save, might suggest how alienated Conservative voters are.
Elsewhere, allegations of corruption continue to mount. There is a long-brewing scandal over the funding of the renovation of Mr. Johnson’s flat on Downing Street. (The redecoration was predictably garish.) Last week the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative Party 17,800 pounds, or about $23,500, for not accurately reporting the donations that paid for the refurbishment — and the government standards adviser is reportedly considering resigning after apparently being misled by Mr. Johnson.
If it all seems trivial, then so is Mr. Johnson. The country faces serious problems — not just the pandemic and the fallout from Brexit but also an energy crisis, economic stagnation and vertiginous inflation. There is no sign that the prime minister can see, much less solve, them. A brinkman seeing how far he can go, he is too preoccupied with his survival. His address to the nation on Sunday night was a tellingly tired, perfunctory affair. It could have been an email.
As we watch Mr. Johnson’s narrative play out, Britain feels like a country put on hold. We don’t know whether the prime minister can save himself, let alone Christmas.