View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. UK Politics
15 February 2022

A weak leader is the last thing Britain needs in a crisis

Boris Johnson's allies claim he shouldn't be removed while Ukraine and Russia are on the brink of war. But why would Putin take him seriously?

By Ailbhe Rea

Boris Johnson and President Biden have said that there remains a “crucial window” to avoid a Russian invasion of Ukraine, amid hints from the Russian side that a diplomatic solution to the crisis remains possible.

While the world looks on in the hope of a Russian climbdown in the coming hours or days, Johnson’s allies hope that this crisis is proof of their argument that it would have been the wrong decision to remove the Prime Minister in recent weeks — not because Johnson is especially adept at handling diplomatic crises (ask Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe), but because the brink of war is simply the wrong time to change leaders.

Concerned figures within the party worry, however, that precisely the opposite is true: that not only has a string of scandals weakened Johnson domestically and made policymaking sluggish at home, but that it has fatally weakened his standing abroad. Why, ask concerned critics in the Conservative Party, should Putin or European leaders listen to a Prime Minister they see as being on his way out, or take lectures from a leader under investigation for potentially illegal activity at home? Many of Johnson’s Conservative critics believe the UK’s standing in the world has already been diminished by Brexit, but the storm around him has hurt what little clout the UK had left. They worry it affects the entire Johnson government — for example the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, an emissary for a Prime Minister potentially on his last legs.

On today’s New Statesman podcast I interview Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, about the dangers that await Johnson in the coming months, whether Rishi Sunak is pursuing the right strategy to replace him, and whether the Conservative Party of Cameron and May is gone forever.

Today’s crisis in Ukraine — as Johnson reiterates his calls for European countries to reduce their reliance on Russian gas — is just one example of how the psychodrama of our domestic politics has real-world consequences abroad. The UK is far from a main protagonist in the unfolding international crisis surrounding Ukraine but a weakened British leader is the last thing the UK, Nato or the world needs at a point when Russia needs to be met with strength and credibility.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola
The hard truth about soft skills

Topics in this article : ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU