But after a constant drip of revelations in recent months about the behavior of Johnson and his staff, while the rest of the country was subjected to a brutal lockdown, his team will be relieved if they can get through June with the prime minister still safely in his post.
The Devon by-election, triggered by the resignation of local MP Neil Parish, who says he watched online pornography in the House of Commons while trying to research tractors, has at least generated some dark humor.
Andrew Pryce, director of James Pryce Tractors in Tiverton, has become a minor media celebrity, offering expert advice on whether it is possible to confuse farm machinery with porn.
But Pryce does not see the funny side of what has been happening in Downing Street. “I’m appalled they have been able to get away with it, I really am,” he says. “I think Boris Johnson is really lucky to be in a job still.”
Although the boundaries have changed at times, the Tiverton constituency has been Tory since the 1920s. The Conservatives’ majority there in 2019 was a whopping 24,239.
It is a sign of Johnson’s problems that the bookmakers have installed the Liberal Democrats as odds-on favourites to win the seat — a cluster of small towns and villages with the textiles town of Tiverton at its core.
Conservatives believe they can cling on in Tiverton and it is still easy to find local voters who believe the prime minister is doing a good job in trying circumstances. Lib Dem strategists say a victory is “possible” but insist it is still a long shot.
But the Conservative campaign is not helped by the fact that almost 30 Tory MPs have called for Johnson to quit, with criticism mounting on a daily basis.
The prime minister, whose leadership was questioned last month by the senior civil servant Sue Gray in her report into “partygate”, thought he had found a temporary break this weekend as the country turned its attention to the royal jubilee celebrations. However he was booed when he arrived at St Paul’s cathedral on Friday for a thanksgiving service.
Some rebel Conservative MPs believe Johnson could face a no-confidence vote as early as the coming week: a total of 54 Tory MPs are required to write to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the backbench 1922 committee, to trigger such a vote.
Johnson’s allies say claim the rebels are approaching the magic number is misguided: “We’re not in the danger zone yet,” said one. They insist the situation is being whipped up by a handful of malcontents.
Still, it is clear that poison is running through the party’s bloodstream. “Boris Johnson erodes the institutions he’s part of,” says one normally mild-mannered Tory MP who has submitted a letter.
“Anyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt gets burnt. He will destroy us and he doesn’t care.” The rebels believe that even if the prime minister survives the week, a defeat on June 23 in Tiverton and Honiton — and another contest in the northern Tory seat of Wakefield on the same day — would make a no-confidence vote inevitable.
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The occupation of Pinchuk’s mansion neatly illustrates how the war is changing the fortunes of Ukraine’s business elite, who played a vital role in propping up the country against Russian aggression in 2014, cementing their political influence and their financial interests. Eight years later they have become more marginalized and their economic clout has waned.
“My impression is they are lost,” said Timofiy Mylovanov, a former economy minister. “They have no idea what to do.”
On February 23, the day before Russia launched its full-scale invasion, President Volodymyr Zelensky summoned Ukraine’s most powerful business figures to his office. Some like Pinchuk and Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, returned to the country expressly for the meeting.
Whereas President Vladimir Putin lectured Russia’s oligarchs from a distance at a similar meeting in the Kremlin the following day, Zelensky’s gathering was more hospitable, with the guests around one table. But the message was similar: get behind your leader in a time of war. Source: Financial Times