‘I really don’t like hypocrisy’: Even young Tories are fed up of Boris Johnson
‘Ideally Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak would resign, but it’s complicated’
After claiming back in December that he’d followed the government’s coronavirus guidelines “at all times”, Boris Johnson has just been fined over lockdown parties, along with his wife Carrie and fellow Tory Rishi Sunak.
All three of them have apologised, but now people are calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to resign – and even young Tories are fed up of them. Earlier this year, following the string of allegations of government lockdown gatherings, The Tab found that 91 per cent of young people think Boris Johnson should resign.
The Tab spoke to young Conservative voters about the “partygate” fines. They are incredibly angry, but although many agree that Johnson and Sunak ideally would resign, many of them think the war in Ukraine and cost of living crisis have already made the political climate too tumultuous for this to be a good idea. Here’s what student Tory supporters had to say:
‘Boris Johnson is not someone I’d want to see leading the party’
Reem, who is 19 years old and studying at LSE, says the gatherings are “quite frankly appalling”. She says: “Whether you think the government handled the pandemic correctly or not, they enacted laws which they did not follow themselves.
“It’s a matter of principle. They expected us to follow the rules, but felt as though they themselves were above the law. Conservatism is supposed to be about law and order, but this is just further proof that the current government are not conservative.”
She’s glad Johnson and Sunak received “the same penalties that everyone else would have received”, noting the irony of them being fined for breaking their own restrictions. “I want to say that the fines should have caused them to find some humility, but let’s be honest, the fines only hurt those who can’t afford them, and we know that Johnson and Sunak certainly can afford them.”
In “any other political climate”, without the war in Ukraine, she believes these fines would be enough for their resignation. “I’m afraid that by the time the war is over, everyone would have forgotten about party-gate and Johnson will remain in power unhurt politically.”
Reem says despite Boris Johnson being her local MP, “he is not someone I’d want to see leading the party”.
‘Ideally they would resign, but it’s complicated’
Manchester student Matt, who’s 20, says the lockdown gatherings are a “stain on the government.”
He told The Tab: “It damages the trust people should have in them. Whilst they were curbing everyone else’s liberties and telling them to sacrifice so much, they weren’t sticking to their own guidance. It’s appalling quite frankly.”
Matt says Johnson and Sunak “deserved’ the fines. “If university students were fined for having friends over in their flat, and trying to make new friends then why shouldn’t the government?”, he says.
“Ideally they would resign”, Matt says, but he thinks it’s more complicated than that. “The questions of who would succeed them makes that difficult. Would they do a better job than the current government? Would they have the authority and support to command the party and country? I’m not entirely convinced that a change in leadership would better the country and the things that people really care about.”
He says: “Maybe the best way to answer that would be a general election, but that seems very unlikely.” If there was a general election soon, he thinks it’s possible he’d completely abstain from voting altogether. “I do still support the party and obviously I support the party’s ideology too. But also, the government has consistently made decisions that I disagree with and seems a little lost at the moment.”
‘Perhaps Boris and his cabinet are not the right fit any more’
19-year-old Joshua, who’s studying Politics and International Relations at Birmingham, speaks of “hypocrisy”. “Obviously there’s no real defence for [the lockdown gatherings]”, he says, “it can’t be one rule for him and another for everyone else. Unfortunately I think it’s the type of hypocrisy that characterises government leadership nowadays, irrespective of parties.
“I was particularly surprised with Boris as he had been rather ill with Covid himself in a similar time period to some of the parties. But as I said, bottom line is it’s inexcusable and fines should be issued as if he were a member of the public.”
Joshua says that regardless of what Johnson and Sunak have done, there are big issues the country and world are facing right now. “Perhaps Boris and his cabinet are not the right fit any more and some could argue even if there were they don’t deserve it after partygate; I’m not disagreeing with that at all”.
But given the cost of living, fuel prices and inflation, he doesn’t think “the political upheaval caused by big name resignations within the government would be worth it. Especially as there is no clear successor within the Conservative Party to takeover from Boris.
“It would just be messy and unproductive in my opinion. But, that does not mean Boris shouldn’t be held accountable/scrutinised at all, it’s simply taking the bigger picture into consideration.”
‘Students have suffered because of those rules’
21-year-old Aymen studies History, Politics and Economics at UCL and is planning on going onto a Masters. “Personally, it is hurtful. I don’t think anyone thinks otherwise. I really don’t like hypocrisy, whoever commits it. I think you don’t have to be a Conservative or Labour supporter or anyone to notice hypocrisy, and I think it was bad.”
Aymen thinks it’s right Johnson and Sunak got fined, especially given “how much students have suffered during this period because of imposing those rules”.
But Aymen thinks it was the lockdown rules that were wrong in the first place. “The fact they broke it shows you how ridiculous those rules were”, he says. “I’m not saying it was right they broke those rules, but my anger towards them is that they put those rules in the first place, they stopped people seeing their parents before they died.”
He’s angry at the government, both for making the rules and breaking them, but thinks now wouldn’t be a “good time” for them to resign and “put the country through another bit of political turmoil”, with the cost of living crisis and war in Ukraine.
“If the British public choose to not have him, they can choose that at the next election. The only reason to get rid of Boris now would be a Conservative Party coup that would be in the interest of the Party, not the country.
“I think it’s his responsibility, almost his punishment, to see out his term and prove again to the people that he’s a responsible Prime Minister.”
‘Johnson is not doing the party any favours’
A 20-year-old UCL student, who is on the committee of the unis’ Conservative Society, agrees. “The gatherings during lockdown were wrong and shouldn’t have happened”, he says.
As Johnson and Sunak had been found to have broken the rules, he says it’s “fair” they received fines as many people across the country have also been fined.
He thinks it should be up to the Conservative Party to decide whether Boris Johnson should stay or leave. “Having said that, Johnson is not doing the party any favours given there is [a local] election coming up, so we’ll have to wait and see what the party decides.”
‘The fines are a just punishment’
Clemmie, who’s 19 and also studies at UCL, says: “Any breach of the law of any kind is unacceptable… The law should always be respected and so fines should have been issued as a just punishment for breaking the law.”
However, she doesn’t think this is the most important thing that should be focused on right now, and thinks there should be “no further action taken” on either Boris Johnson or Rishi Sunak. “Their achievements in the pandemic out shadow ‘partygate’”, she says.