Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for only five months
Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for only five months (Photo: UK Prime Minister, reproduced under Creative Commons license)

The Boris John­son error in British pol­i­tics is one step clos­er to being over.

John­son, a for­mer tabloid writer and Brex­it band­wag­oner who con­vinced the Tories (and many vot­ers) to entrust him with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of gov­ern­ing the Unit­ed King­dom after the col­lapse of David Cameron’s and There­sa May’s gov­ern­ments, was forced to sub­mit his res­ig­na­tion to Her Majesty the Queen today after most of his remain­ing enablers uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly aban­doned him.

Waves of res­ig­na­tions and a crum­bling Cab­i­net have pum­meled John­son’s polit­i­cal oper­a­tion for days, leav­ing him in an increas­ing­ly per­ilous position.

“It is now clear­ly the will of the par­lia­men­tary con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty that there should be a new leader of that par­ty and there­fore a new Prime Min­is­ter,” John­son said in a state­ment deliv­ered in front of Num­ber 10 Down­ing Street.

“I want you to know how sad I am to give up the best job in the world,” John­son added lat­er, “but them’s the breaks.”

Hard­ly! John­son is no vic­tim of mis­for­tune as his state­ment implies. His prob­lems are of his own mak­ing. He was not lead­er­ship mate­r­i­al when he became May­or of Lon­don many years ago, or when he was elect­ed to Par­lia­ment, or when There­sa May fool­ish­ly made him For­eign Min­is­ter, or when the Tories put him in as May’s suc­ces­sor. Yet, again and again, he has been cho­sen to wield power.

As the UK media dumps all over Boris John­son, worth not­ing he’d nev­er have become Prime Min­is­ter had the media not cov­ered for him, enabled him, & bathed him in praise. Easy now for every­one to for­get the fawn­ing cov­er­age he got but some of us have longer mem­o­ries & knew he’d be a dis­as­ter,” tweet­ed MSNBC’s Meh­di Hasan, not­ing John­son’s many (for­mer) admir­ers in the press.

John­son’s res­ig­na­tion was char­ac­ter­is­tic of his entire move­ment: the swag­ger­ing con­fi­dence of a vir­tu­ouso ding­bat,” said Russ Jones. “A bunch of irre­spon­si­ble, over-pro­mot­ed pre­fects, play­ing with our lives until they’ve made enough rich con­nec­tions to cash-in, leav­ing oth­ers to clear up the mess.”

Led by Don­keys, mean­while, post­ed a scathing video cap­tioned “A reminder of just who he is” point­ing out that John­son’s pro­cliv­i­ty for lying and fab­ri­cat­ing was well known before he became Prime Minister.

“Ordi­nar­i­ly, a rep­u­ta­tion for ser­i­al deceit would close off the route to the top, or at least prove an imped­i­ment. Yet for John­son it proved no obsta­cle at all. On the con­trary, his route to No 10 was smoothed with lies,” observed Jonathan Freed­land in a col­umn for The Guardian.

John­son final­ly told one lie too many, The Inde­pen­den­t’s Sean O’Grady sug­gest­ed, warn­ing that John­son’s suc­ces­sor might be even worse than he was.

Refer­ring to John­son’s Tory enablers, he wrote:

“They backed John­son through the Dominic Cum­mings scan­dal, through the res­ig­na­tions of two ethics advis­ers, through the scan­dal of a par­ty donor pay­ing for the dec­o­ra­tion of his flat, through the mis­han­dling of the pan­dem­ic and the mis­man­ag­ing of Brex­it with a rot­ten deal, Par­ty­gate and law break­ing, an unlaw­ful pro­ro­ga­tion of par­lia­ment and break­ing treaties and inter­na­tion­al law, alleged­ly try­ing to get Car­rie a £100,000 job and Wil­fred a £150,000 tree­house, depriv­ing kids of free school din­ners… and much, much more.”

“They are all guilty men and women because they vot­ed for him, cam­paigned for him, sus­tained him, lied for him and gen­er­al­ly dis­graced them­selves and the coun­try in the process,” O’Grady added in a sub­se­quent pas­sage. “They were all mem­bers of the cult of Boris, and they knew exact­ly what he was.”

Although John­son has bowed to the calls for his res­ig­na­tion, he is hop­ing to hang around for weeks and months longer. His announce­ment today was appar­ent­ly intend­ed to buy him more time. That’s unac­cept­able, the oppo­si­tion says.

“Boris John­son is unfit to gov­ern and he needs to go now,” said Labour’s Keir Starmer, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Oppo­si­tion.

“He can­not cling on for months. If the Con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty do not get rid of him, then Labour will act in the nation­al inter­est and bring a vote of no confidence.”

Starmer called it “good news for the coun­try” that John­son was on his way out, but said Britain would con­tin­ue to suf­fer under Tory rule.

“The Tory Par­ty have inflict­ed chaos upon the coun­try dur­ing the worst cost of liv­ing cri­sis in decades and they can­not now pre­tend they are the ones to sort it out. They have been in pow­er for twelve years. The dam­age they have done is pro­found. Twelve years of eco­nom­ic stag­na­tion. Twelve years of declin­ing pub­lic ser­vices, twelve years of emp­ty promis­es. Enough is enough… We need a prop­er change of gov­ern­ment. We need a fresh start for Britain.”

In the Euro­pean Union, there were plen­ty of peo­ple say­ing good rid­dance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out, at least among the diplo­mat­ic corps.

“I think every­body has … had the same sort of strange Schaden­freude feel­ing about it. It’s been very enter­tain­ing,” a Euro­pean Union diplo­mat said in com­ments to Politi­co. “We’re hap­py to see him gone … It is dif­fi­cult to see how things could be worse than they were under Boris Johnson.”

The White House had lit­tle to say about the day’s devel­op­ments oth­er than to acknowl­edge them. Pres­i­dent Joe Biden has found com­mon cause with John­son on defend­ing Ukraine, but on oth­er issues, like the so-called pro­to­col or Brex­it, John­son’s gov­ern­ment has tak­en stances not to the lik­ing of the administration.

Whether or not John­son’s bid to buy him­self more time in office will pay off or end in fur­ther embar­rass­ment remains to be seen, but there cer­tain­ly are plen­ty of peo­ple angry that he’s try­ing to hold onto pow­er even longer.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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