However, Johnson is far from over the hill when it comes to Partygate.
Next week senior official Sue Gray will release her account of the scandal, which is expected to be highly critical of Johnson.
Once that report is released, a parliamentary committee may launch an inquiry into Johnson, in which it will ultimately decide whether Johnson intentionally misled Parliament when he denied that a rule-breaking took place in No. 10. Any minister who knowingly misleads Parliament is likely to resign from office.
As hard as it is to believe, Johnson could survive both of those events. Even harder to believe, it’s not even the biggest problem he faces in the coming months.
The cost of living crisis Britons are currently experiencing and how the government is dealing with it is likely to dominate the political agenda until the next general election, scheduled for 2024.
Conservative MPs are not confident Johnson has the solution to this crisis. A former cabinet minister, a longtime critic of Johnson, points to the fact that Johnson has been reluctant to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies that have benefited from consumer price hikes.
“He was already too slow. Even if the government taxes the energy companies, they will soon enough remember that he didn’t do it,” says the former minister. “I fear this, coupled with the impression he lied about parties, means the damage has already been done to many who voted for him in 2019. And in the next election, the party will be punished for its mistakes,” they add.
Not only Johnson critics are gloomy. A senior MP who backed Johnson’s leadership bid in 2019 told CNN that even among the prime minister’s supporters, there is a sense that the cost-of-living crisis is getting worse and the government “won’t have a plan until it’s too late.” . “Have to hold an emergency budget that will allow (opposition party) Labor to dance on our grave” for getting so bad.
There are other pitfalls that await Johnson. Just this week, one of his MPs was arrested on suspicion of rape. This comes as many MPs are under investigation for sexual misconduct, with members of Johnson’s cabinet being on the list, according to government insiders.
The list of issues the prime minister is under fire for seems to grow by the week: from accusations of being soft on immigration to undermining the whole country’s structural integrity, not to mention the possibility of a trade war to start with his next trading partner.
Meanwhile, his approval ratings remain poor and his party lags behind in the polls on almost every issue.
Despite this, most Conservatives believe he will stand as prime minister and party leader in the next general election. They point to a lack of gun smoking, a lack of backbone among MPs to dismiss him and the almost religious belief of some Conservatives that he really is the chosen one who can overcome all odds.
“To some of them, he really is ‘Indiana Boris.’ He can be over the lava pit one minute and ruffle his hair the next,” says a senior Conservative.
Despite that dedication, Johnson and his party are suffering in the polls. Their latest concerns are underscored by fears among Conservative party insiders that opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer has a clear path to government for the first time since he took office.
Conservative sources privately admit that they think it’s possible that the next election could result in a formal or informal coalition between Labor and the centrist Liberal Democrat Party as things stand. This is significant as it would mean that Labor would not need the Scottish National Party to form a government, almost certainly at the expense of another referendum on Scottish independence.
The Conservatives have previously fought hard, using the idea of a ‘Coalition of Chaos’ as the primary line of attack against the Labor Party. However, Labor officials believe this attack will not work as 2024 approaches, for two main reasons.
First, without the Scottish referendum, a significant chunk of the mess will be cleared up. Second, as one Labor official put it: ‘We have seen some of the most turbulent years in recent history with the Conservatives in power. They are clearly the agents of chaos.”
Labor officials told CNN there would be no formal pact with anyone before the election, but acknowledged it would be wise to focus campaigning and resources on the seats they were more likely to take from the Conservatives .
They also stressed that they wanted Johnson to run in the next election. “He’s just so toxic, and despite the damage he’s doing to his party, he’s hanging on,” says an opposition source.
All of this leaves British politics in a strange place for the medium term. Johnson doesn’t want to go anywhere. Those in his party who want him gone have no smoking gun. The opposition want him to stay firmly in place.
With all the turmoil, all the anger at the government, the sense that something big is about to happen, Boris Johnson’s fate remains in the same limbo as it has for much of this year.
And barring anything unimaginably dramatic happening before the next election, it’s entirely plausible that this will continue for the next two years. Which arguably isn’t a great thing for the people of a country experiencing its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.