It’s the general election in Britain tomorrow and, with polls dramatically narrowing at the eleventh hour, the campaign is finally heating up. Perhaps that’s why Boris Johnson felt it was necessary to hide inside a fridge to avoid a Wednesday morning grilling from Piers Morgan.
The British prime minister was ambushed during a campaign visit to a Yorkshire milk factory by a producer from Morgan’s Good Morning Britain TV show—but was clearly in no mood to talk. When the producer, Jonathan Swain, initially approached Johnson, one of his staffers, who has obviously had a long month, was broadcast live mouthing: “Oh for fuck’s sake.”
When Swain repeated his request for Johnson speak to Morgan, who was waiting to talk from the studio, the prime minister replied, “I’ll be with you in a second.” However, Johnson then hastily left the scene by making a beeline into the nearest secure location—a fridge full of milk.
Conservative sources later bravely tried to insist to The Guardian that Johnson was “categorically not hiding” in the fridge, despite Johnson emerging from the chilly container with an armful of milk bottles. Johnson’s staff insisted it was a planned break in the schedule to help the prime minister prepare for a different, pre-agreed interview.
Johnson is still odds-on to win enough seats to be able to form a majority government after voters go to the polls Thursday—but he’s had a bad week. A video clip showing him trying to ignore a photograph of a sick child lying on the floor of a National Health Service hospital, even going so far as to snatch away a reporter’s phone displaying the image, went mega-viral.
What will worry him more, however, is a poll published Tuesday night. The major poll, based on more than 100,000 interviews, showed that his expected majority has been slashed in half. While he’s still clearly ahead of his Labour party rival Jeremy Corbyn, the margin of error in the poll means Johnson’s Conservatives can no longer be certain voters will award them a House of Commons majority in the election.
Anything short of a majority would be a total and utter humiliation for Johnson, would severely damage his ability to see Brexit through, and might even be the end of his time as prime minister. Depending on how the results fall, they could open up the door for Corbyn to form a minority government if he can strike deals and alliances with the other parties.
The poll’s range of possible outcomes ranges from 367 Conservative seats to only 311. For an outright majority in the British Parliament, a party needs to win 326 seats out of a total of 650. “Based on the model, we cannot rule out a hung parliament,” said Anthony Wells of polling company YouGov.
While the poll could very easily prove to be wrong by the time voters brave the cold tomorrow, it was noticed by international currency markets. The value of the pound sterling had been rising of late due to the apparent certainty of a Johnson government—but took a dip Wednesday when the poll raised the prospect of the uncertainty of a so-called hung parliament, when no party can command a majority.
This election was supposed to be Johnson’s victory parade and give him a strong public endorsement for him to go ahead and see through his Brexit project at the start of the new year. While the past few days won’t have sent his team into a total panic yet, it’s clearly getting harder for them to keep cool.