Boris Johnson aimed to end months of political turmoil when he apologized to the House of Commons this week for breaking the U.K. lockdown rules that he brought into force.

Instead, the beleaguered prime minister appeared to be in trouble again with his ruling Conservative Party, whose Members of Parliament are increasingly jaded by the drip-drip of scandal.

Far from drawing a line under “partygate,” Johnson now faces a third inquiry into the matter — this time on whether he lied to Parliament — prolonging the turbulence surrounding his leadership.

The government’s chaotic handling of an opposition Labour Party motion demanding the probe was greeted with dismay by fed-up Tories. And while Johnson’s latest woes don’t necessarily mean his leadership is doomed — he’s shown in the past he can survive blows that would sink other politicians — some prominent lawmakers this week publicly called for him to resign. Others expressed exasperation at repeatedly having to defend his conduct.

Just as Johnson attempts to brush lockdown parties aside and focus attention on the war in Ukraine and his domestic agenda, the morale and unity of his party are crumbling. On a trip to India on Thursday and Friday, Johnson wanted to focus on trade. Instead, he faced endless questions from British reporters about why his government had tried and then abandoned its attempt to block the latest inquiry.

On paper, the prime minister should be buoyed by his 75-strong working majority. In practice, his MPs are failing to do as they’re told. While Tory MPs are not yet calling en masse for the premier’s resignation, behind closed doors some speculate about his future and who else might lead them into the next general election due in 2024.

Many are hedging their bets and not rushing to support him either. The question is whether his detractors have the numbers or the will to force a leadership contest. Even if they do — it requires 15% of Tory MPs, or 54 in total to trigger a vote — for now there appears no danger of them amassing the 180 MPs needed to oust him in such a ballot.

Holding them back is Johnson’s electoral magic — he’s repeatedly won over voters the Tories don’t normally attract, as shown by the unexpectedly emphatic victory in the 2019 general election when swathes of former Labour heartlands voted Conservative.

Also in his favor is the lack of an obvious successor, especially after the dramatic decline in the political fortunes of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. The one-time favorite to replace Johnson has been hurt by revelations about his family’s financial affairs and perceptions he’s not helping struggling Britons enough with the rising cost of living.

The reputational damage could mount further for the Tories under Johnson. His fine for attending a gathering on his birthday in June 2020 makes him the first serving prime minister found to have broken the law. And he could face more penalties as London’s Metropolitan Police continue to probe a dozen gatherings in government buildings during lockdown — several of them attended by the prime minister.

That might happen within days: Police said Thursday they wouldn’t provide more updates until after local elections on May 5, but Johnson’s office indicated it would say if he’s been fined.

And if the Tories fare badly, those elections could also spark a backlash from MPs as they will be seen as a verdict on Johnson’s leadership.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference in New Delhi on Friday. | POOL / VIA REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference in New Delhi on Friday. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

Once the police wrap up their inquiry, senior civil servant Sue Gray is set to publish her full report into Partygate, posing another risk to Johnson. In February she slammed “failures of leadership and judgment” at the top of government. More photographs of parties could also emerge.

And then there’s the latest probe into whether Johnson misled the House of Commons over the nature of the gatherings. After Gray has reported, Johnson will be investigated by a panel of MPs called the privileges committee.

Ministers found to have lied are expected to resign, though Johnson has never been a politician to be bound by convention.

Given his Conservative party has a majority on the panel and the high bar to prove Parliament was “knowingly” misled, it’s far from a given the panel will find evidence of wrongdoing.

Yet the investigation poses another threat to Johnson’s authority — and the parliamentary maneuvering that led to it sparked more Tory turmoil this week.

The government initially planned to vote against the Labour Party motion seeking to refer Johnson to the committee, then attempted to delay it. But following a backlash, ministers allowed disgruntled Tories to back the move.

“I don’t think that says anything particularly good about the state of relations between the prime minister and his MPs,” said Alice Lilly, senior researcher at the Institute for Government.

According to people familiar with the matter, several MPs told Tory party managers the plan to intervene in the vote had uncomfortable echoes of a botched attempt last year to help Conservative MP Owen Paterson evade an ethics probe.

Ultimately, there’s still a deep resentment toward Johnson’s team from backbenchers who believe he takes them for granted — forcing them to defend unpalatable policies and plans before backtracking after they’ve burned political capital.

“The parliamentary party bears the scars of misjudgments of leadership,” Tory MP William Wragg, a Johnson critic, said in the Commons on Thursday “It is utterly depressing to be asked to defend the indefensible. Each time, part of us withers.”

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