The UK Prime Minister has ruled out any “psychological transformation”, following two bruising electoral defeats last week.
“If you tell me you want me to go through some sort of psychological transformation, I believe our listeners know that’s not going to happen,” said Boris Johnson Saturday in a BBC interview.
On June 18, Johnson’s Conservatives lost two by-elections in the north and south-west of England, which led to the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, who said they “cannot carry on with business as usual” and called for the PM to go.
Johnson dismissed the defeats as predictable mid-term blues, saying he “humbly and sincerely” accepts criticism.
But he said he had to distinguish between “criticism that really matters and criticism that doesn’t.”
Johnson has been weakened by a series of scandals, such as the drunken parties in Downing Street during Coronvirus lockdowns, alongside claims he tried to get his then-lover Carrie Johnson a top job at the Foreign Office.
The prime minister has repeatedly declined to comment on this last allegation.
Speaking from Rwanda, where he is at a Commonwealth Summit, Johnson told the BBC he believed policy was more important than allegations about his conduct.
“Voters are heartily sick of hearing about me and the things I’m alleged to have done wrong. What they want to hear is what we’re doing for them,” he said.
“What I want to do is to get on with changing and reforming and improving our systems and our economy.”
Growing concerns about Johnson’s leadership have been amplified by the Conservative Party’s defeats in last week’s by-elections.
The party lost the rural southwest England seat of Tiverton and Honiton to the centrist Liberal Democrats, and was defeated by the left-of-centre Labour Party in the post-industrial northern town of Wakefield.
Johnson recently survived a motion of no confidence from his party, which he survived by a narrower-than-expected margin.
Under existing rules, a new vote cannot be organised for another year. But according to the British press, rebellious Conservative MPs are trying to change the 1922 Committee, which is responsible for organising the party, to allow for a new vote.
When questioned by the BBC over breaking the law for the Covid fine and losing the support of 41% of his MPs in the confidence vote, Johnson was optimistic.
“Let’s look at this in a more cheery way, if that’s possible,” he said. “Actually, what’s happened is that I’ve got a renewed mandate from my colleagues, and I’m going to continue to deliver.”