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26 Jun, 2022 19:30

British PM defuses anger over third term talk

Boris Johnson has attempted to paint his mention of serving a third term as mere enthusiasm for the job
British PM defuses anger over third term talk

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson isn’t seriously considering staying in office until “the mid-2030s” – instead, he's merely focused on the government's “massive agenda,” he told alarmed colleagues on Sunday. 

Johnson had made the controversial comments about serving a third term and leading his country into the 2030s from Rwanda on Saturday, just days after his party was pummeled in by-elections at home, leaving senior conservative politicians to believe he was joking. 

When I heard he plans to stay until 2030, I thought he was talking about the 24-hour clock,” quipped MP Andrew Bridgen, a Tory calling for another no-confidence vote against the polarizing PM. “I’m more than happy for him to stay until 20:30. He can even stay until nine o’clock if he wants – so long as he’s gone before Parliament breaks up for summer.

Asked on Saturday if he intended to serve a full (second) term if he won a general election, Johnson said he was “thinking actively about the third term, and you know, what could happen then,” promising to “review that when I get to it.” At the time, he doubled down on the comment, confirming it would mean staying in office until the “mid-2030s.

By Sunday, his administration seemed to have slightly pulled him back from that precipice. “What I’m saying is this is a government that is getting on with delivering for the people of this country and we’ve got a huge amount to do,” he told reporters at the G7 conference in Bavaria, citing “a massive agenda of reform and improvement, a plan for a stronger economy, whereby we have to reform our energy market, our housing market, the way our transport networks run, our public sector – we’ve got to cut the cost of government.” 

However, he wasn’t completely done singing his own praises, denying the by-election defeats should be considered a source of shame and arguing that public sentiment against him had more to do with his personal life than his work as PM. “I think if you actually look at what the government is doing, it’s pretty remarkable, it is quite exceptional,” he told an ITV interviewer.

The recent electoral defeats have Johnson’s party seriously considering offloading him within weeks or months, with MPs reportedly planning to tweak committee rules to permit yet another vote of no confidence before next June. One former supporter and ex-cabinet minister told the Guardian the PM’s comments were “completely delusional.” 

Johnson’s policies during the Covid-19 pandemic led the UK into its worst economic slide since World War II in 2020, with the economy shrinking by a record amount, though the subsequent years have seen some recovery. However, that was before Johnson’s government imposed sanctions against Moscow over its military operation in Ukraine, resulting in cost-of-living and energy crises in the UK.