UK’s Boris Johnson faces rocky autumn as Parliament returns | World

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Johnson’s Conservatives have a hefty majority of 80 in the 650-seat House of Commons, but his government has been weakened by its unsteady handling of the pandemic.

Britain’s official virus-related death toll stands at more than 41,500, the highest in Europe, and the government has performed U-turns on issues including wearing masks in public and quarantining people arriving from abroad. Both ideas were initially resisted, then implemented.

In another about-face, last month the Conservative government scrapped a controversial algorithm-based system to award grades for canceled high school exams that had resulted in thousands of students missing out on university places.

Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, defended the government’s record, saying it had been “dealing with an unprecedented situation.”

“We have been guided by the scientific advice and as more has been learned about the virus, we have ensured we are taking the right steps to keep the public safe,” he said.

But many Conservative lawmakers worry that the government often looks like it is not in control.

“We may have a big majority but that still doesn’t mean to say that we shouldn’t be as competent as possible as a government,” said Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers.

Hannah White, deputy director of political think-tank the Institute for Government, said the government — elected on a promise to “level up” the country by reviving long-neglected regions — didn’t want to be “defined by coronavirus.”

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