Can Boris Johnson survive?

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain, January 12, 2022.

No world leader has had a more bruising month than British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Among other recent indiscretions, he’s been accused of flouting lockdown rules, as well as breaking ministerial protocols by using Conservative Party funds to refurbish his personal pad at 11 Downing Street – which analysts say contributed to the Tories losing a safe parliamentary seat for the first time in 200 years.

What are the current crises Johnson is facing, and how might they affect his political survival?

Rules for thee, and not for me. News emerged this week that Johnson’s office organized an outdoor BYOB party for staff in May 2020. At the time, Britons were told to stay home and not to socialize in groups. (The PM offered a poorly-received apology Wednesday, saying that he thought it was a standard “work event.”) Meanwhile, his staff also flouted the rules at Christmas time in 2020, the details of which were revealed in an awkward leaked video.

There’s more. Johnson has been embroiled in a Marie Antoinette-type scandal, having used funds given to the Conservative Party to refurbish his residence (the WhatsApp exchange between the PM and the donor is cringeworthy). Coupled with the fact that one-third of Brits fear their energy bills will be “more expensive than they can afford” this year, this makes for very bad optics — and politics.

Cost of living crisis. But more than the PM’s personal scandals, economic grievances are the driving force of political change. This is extremely relevant amid the ongoing pandemic where many Britons are struggling to meet basic economic needs. Fuel prices are soaring while inflation rates recently reached a 10-year high. Indeed, the rising cost of living is likely to get even worse when a new national insurance tax of 1.25 percent comes into effect in the spring.

While some of these issues — including the energy crunch — are global in scope, food price hikes and supply chain issues have been exacerbated by post-Brexit complications. And things aren’t expected to improve anytime soon. Ominously, one British think tank has dubbed 2022 the “year of the squeeze,” predicting households could lose 1,200 pounds ($1,645) in annual income.

Party infighting. One of the biggest threats to the embattled PM’s political survival is coming from the inside as rival Tory factions are pulling him in opposite directions.

Pro-Brexit MPs and free-traders are furious at Johnson for not lowering taxes, while Tories representing “red-wall” seats — working-class neighborhoods that have traditionally been Labour strongholds but recently become more competitive — want the government to expand the social safety net to help poorer constituents weather the cost-of-living crisis.

What’s more, after a Conservative Party revolt last month revealed the depths of dissatisfaction with the PM, Eurasia Group analyst Mujtaba Rahman now says that Johnson could be ousted after local elections in May so that Tories can pin the deteriorating economic situation and (anticipated) legislative losses directly on the PM.

The very powerful woman in Britain you may have never heard of. Sue Gray, a high-level civil servant, has been tasked with leading the investigation into the ill-fated Downing Street gatherings. Her findings, which should be released in 10 days, will likely reveal more damning details, giving Tories the fodder they need to cast the PM as a liability.

What now? On top of the impending Gray report, the Johnson government will have a number of thorny issues on its agenda in the coming weeks and months, including an ongoing omicron wave as well as negotiations with Brussels over the future of the Irish border.

Johnson, the forever Comeback Kid, would have to manage these challenges impeccably to prevent at least 55 Conservative MPs from triggering a leadership vote. Or is it already too late?

People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

President Vladimir Putin

No one knows whether Russian President Vladimir Putin plans on invading Ukraine. But the president of the United States sure seems to think this is a real possibility, saying Wednesday that Putin will likely "move in" in the near term. Biden, prone to political gaffes, was then forced to awkwardly walk back comments that Russia would face milder consequences from the West in the event of a "minor incursion."

The timing of this blunder is... not great. It comes just as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to meet his Russian counterpart on Friday in hopes of lowering the temperature after recent diplomatic efforts in Geneva were deemed a failure by Moscow.

Indeed, with the Kremlin having amassed at least 100,000 troops surrounding Ukraine on three sides, the growing threat is impossible to ignore. So what would a Russian military offensive into Ukraine actually look like, and how might the West respond?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, discusses the Democrats voting bill.

What is the status on the Democrats voting bill?

The Democrats are pushing a bill that would largely nationalize voting rules, which today are largely determined at the state level. The bill would make Election Day a national holiday. It would attempt to end partisan gerrymandering. It would create a uniform number of early voting days and make other reforms that are designed to standardize voting rules and increase access to voting across the country. This matters to Democrats because they think they face an existential risk to their party's political prospects. They're very likely to lose at least the House and probably the Senate this year. And they see voting changes that are being pushed by Republicans at the state level that they say are designed to make it harder to vote, particularly for minorities, a key Democratic constituency.

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Omicron has arrived. It's more contagious, but less severe. Some parts of the world are even looking forward to the pandemic becoming endemic.

Not China. Xi Jinping's zero-COVID strategy has worked wonders until now, but it's unlikely to survive omicron, explains Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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Chilling at the beach, retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel is so over politics. Or is she?


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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
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What We’re Watching: Xinjiang at the Beijing Olympics, Boris in deep(er) trouble, Indonesia’s new capital

Selling Xinjiang. Xi Jinping — a man well known for both his grand vision of China’s future, and for his willingness to get large numbers of people to do things they might not otherwise do — said in 2018 that he wanted 300 million Chinese people to participate in winter sports. The Chinese government announced this week that this goal has been met in honor of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which open in China’s capital on February 4. Multinational companies are consistently impressed by the commercial opportunities created when 300 million people decide to try new things. But it’s an inconvenient truth that most of China’s most abundant snow and best ski slopes are found in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, a place where Western governments and human rights organizations have accused Beijing of imprisoning more than one million minority Uyghurs in re-education camps. In these prisons, critics say inmates have experienced “torture, and inhumane and degrading treatment.” As China’s government opens new profit opportunities in Xinjiang, multinational corporations will face pressure from multiple directions not to invest there.

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Hard Numbers: Tongan emergency fundraising, EU docks Poland pay, new Colombian presidential hopeful, Turkey gets UAE lifeline

345,000: As of Wednesday afternoon ET, Tonga's Olympic flag-bearer has raised more than $345,000 online to help the victims of Saturday's volcanic eruption and tsunami. Pita Taufatofua, a taekwondo fighter and cross-country skier, has not yet heard from his father, governor of the main Tongan island of Haapai.

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China vs COVID in 2022

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COVID at the Beijing Winter Olympics

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