Last month, the Prime Minister was asked if her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was unsackable as a cabinet member. This came after Mr. Johnson had done an interview in which he laid out his ideas for what he believed should happen in regard to Brexit. This took place on the eve of the Tory party conference, in what was believed by many believed to be a bid to undermine Theresa May and lay out his own plans for leadership. At the time, the Prime Minister simply ignored the question and insisted that all of her ministers were behind her Brexit plans.
That was a month ago.
Since then, Mr. Johnson has once again attempted to influence the Prime Minister over the issue of Brexit, this time in the form of a leaked letter addressed directly to Mrs. May. In it Mr. Johnson and fellow cabinet member Michael Gove set out their demands for a hard Brexit, and urged her not to be swayed by more soft-Brexit leaning politicians.
Not only was the letter rather demanding in tone, it also served as a thinly-veiled attack on her Chancellor Philip Hammond, a figure well-known for his more pro-EU stance. It is an especially poignant letter when it is remembered that both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Gove made failed Tory leadership bids after David Cameron’s resignation last year.
Through his attempts at influencing policy, Mr. Johnson has made his desire for the premiership plain to all. These attempts are clear efforts to try to undermine and take advantage of Mrs. May’s admittedly weakened leadership position. Under a different Prime Minister these issues alone would have likely been enough to have him removed from his position in cabinet and sent to the backbenches. Except, these aren’t the only issues.
Mr. Johnson has made a series of stumbles and gaffes throughout his time as Foreign Secretary. From reciting a colonial-era poem in Myanmar, to discussing the benefits of the alcohol trade in a Sikh temple, Johnson has shown a disregard for foreign culture and subtle diplomacy. These matters pale in comparison to his most recent mishap. While commenting on the case of a British woman currently serving five years in Iran after being accused of spying, Johnson commented that she was just there training journalists – something that goes against their official story. The Iranian government took his quote as evidence against her, and as a result added five more years on to her sentence.
This incident goes beyond mild offence and blundering mishaps. His error has caused damage to a woman’s life, potentially keeping her from her family for ten years. His level of incompetence is actually dangerous, and it displays very questionable judgment from someone who is supposed to be our country’s representative on the world stage. Despite this, Johnson remains in the cabinet, almost comfortably so, and is seemingly immovable.
There are suggestions that Theresa May is keeping Boris as Foreign Secretary, so he is less likely to rebel on the backbenches and upend her leadership. Other, less complimentary suggestions say that May simply doesn’t have the power to remove him without causing upset in a party in which she already struggles to find support.
Regardless, it all begs the question, what, if anything, would it take for Boris Johnson to get the sack? If he truly is unsackable, that poses the frightening future of an already incompetent Foreign Secretary being able to do as he pleases with seemingly no consequences.