Not for the first time, the exploding clown car that is the tenure of British prime minister Boris Johnson has made politics on this side of the Irish Sea look tame in comparison.
Hit by fresh controversy that has led to the resignation of two of his most senior cabinet colleagues, chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid, the question is again being asked: how will Boris get out of this one?
In an extraordinary contribution, one of his internal Conservative Party critics, MP and former chief whip Andrew Mitchell, told BBC Newsnight that he won’t.
He said it’s “over” for Johnson “and the question now is how much longer this is going to go on and how much damage will be done to the country and indeed to the Conservative Party brand”.
But, in a nod to Johnson’s remarkable survival abilities so far, he added: “It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin.
“He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body has been dumped in the freezing river and still he lives.”
He went on to say some nice words about an “abnormal prime minister” — “brilliantly charismatic” and “funny” — but said: “I’m afraid he has neither the character nor the temperament to be our prime minister.”
Some high-profile cabinet secretaries — Liz Truss, Michael Gove and others appear to disagree and are staying on in their jobs for the time being at least, but one count last night put the number of resignations — at varying levels of seniority in government positions — at 10.
In our lead today, London Editor Denis Staunton reports that Johnson’s future as prime minister hangs in the balance after Sunak and Javid’s resignations.
Sunak said in a letter to Johnson that he did not take the decision lightly but “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.
In his resignation letter, Javid said Johnson had failed to show humility after 40 per cent of his MPs voted no confidence in his leadership last month.
The resignations came after Johnson apologised for appointing Chris Pincher deputy chief whip and admitted that he was made aware of complaints about his behaviour.
Pincher lost the Conservative whip last week following allegations that he groped two men in a private members’ club.
Downing Street initially claimed that Johnson had not heard about any specific allegations about Pincher before making him deputy chief whip earlier this year.
Johnson replaced the Cabinet pair last night — Nadhim Zahawi moves into Number 11 as chancellor — as he attempts to cling on.
In an analysis piece, Staunton predicts that the resignations spell the end for Johnson, writing: “throughout Westminster and Whitehall the stench of decay is everywhere and unmistakable.”
Taoiseach visits Kyiv
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is the latest world leader to visit the capital of war-torn Ukraine, arriving in Kyiv this morning where he is expected to meet president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Speaking before the visit — which was kept top secret for security reasons — Martin said Ireland will stand with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s “immoral and unprovoked war of terror”. There will be more coverage of Martin’s trip on irishtimes.com during the day.
Government’s resistance to pre-budget cost-of-living package weakens
For weeks Ministers have been resisting calls to bring in further measures to help households with the cost-of-living crisis, insisting they want to introduce a comprehensive package on budget day ahead of a tough winter.
However, children are going back to school before the earlier budget date of September 27th, and the Government has moved to ramp up support for low-income families before the new school term.
Sinn Féin, which had a Dáil motion on the issue, is naturally claiming the move as evidence that the pressure worked.
Regardless, under €67 million worth of measures, the back-to-school allowance will now be increased by €100, there will also be a major expansion of the school meals programme and school transport fees will be waived for primary and secondary students.
Jennifer Bray has a front-page story on recommendations by an Oireachtas committee that international surrogacy should be recognised in Ireland for the first time.
Also on the front, Eoin Burke-Kennedy has details of an ESRI study showing that Ireland’s falling home-ownership rates will leave future retirees financially exposed.
Political Editor Pat Leahy reveals that deportations of those denied asylum are to resume this year after they were suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dáil starts at 9.12am with Topical Issues followed by a debate on a Social Democrats motion on the cost of disability at 10am.
Leaders’ Questions are in the Dáil at noon.
Government business from 2.05pm will be dominated by efforts to get various pieces of legislation in areas such as health and justice over the line before the summer recess.
Weekly divisions are from 9pm before more Topical Issues at 9.30pm.
The Seanad will debate the Institutional Burials Bill 2022 from 7.15pm.
The Committee on International Surrogacy will launch its report — as referenced above — at 9am.
The Health committee will be examining the issue of long Covid from 9.30am.
The Committee on European Union Affairs will be briefed on the EU’s humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, also at 9.30am.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan appears before the Committee on Transport and Communications to discuss his department’s spending at 1.30pm.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) will be quizzed on its Economic Quarterly Report for summer 2022 by the Budgetary Oversight Committee at 5.30pm.