It was dubbed the “long goodbye”.
Boris Johnson, the disheveled, arrogant prime minister who, in a career that defied naysayers, led the Conservatives to a historic victory, launched a new style of British politics and pulled his country out of the European Union. finally collapsed this week under the weight of insurmountable scandals and dozens of resignations of his ministers.
But Johnson, who resigned Thursday after refusing to step down for days, will remain in office while the ruling Conservative Party chooses a successor, a process that could take weeks or even months. It will be an excruciatingly slow exit for a man whose already shaky reputation has been further shaken this year by the revelations. drunk parties at his official residence during the COVID lockdown and, more recently, his failed responses after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced against an MP he promoted to a top-level public office.
Johnson promised to be a lame duck. His office said he “would not seek new policies or major changes in the course of business” in the UK while he waited for a replacement at 10 Downing Street.
This leaves his country treading water as it grapples with a cost-of-living crisis, a wave of strikes this summer, dire recession forecasts and an ongoing war in Ukraine.
But many Britons are equally weary of Johnson’s premiership, a continuous series of drama and chaos, since he is, in fact, ousted then Prime Minister Theresa May in 2019 in a similar party uprising with a promise to “implement Brexit”. While voters then yearned for Johnson’s undeniable communication skills, sparkling optimism and celebrity image – a combination not often found in British politicians – many now yearn for someone who demonstrates the seriousness, honesty and understanding of politics they expect from their leader. in such endeavors. once.
“Boris was an unconventional politician who came to power at an unusual moment in British politics,” said Matthew Flinders, professor of political science at the University of Sheffield. “A window opened and Boris was able to slip through it.
“But we live in a different time now,” Flinders added, citing “the desire for a smarter, calmer, more results-oriented” leader.
One of Johnson’s colleagues, a Conservative MP, has been outspoken about the need for change.
“We need an untainted leader—untainted, if you will… by mistakeespecially in the tone of the government and also in some of its actions,” Andrew Mitchell, who worked in the cabinet of former Prime Minister David Cameron, told the BBC. “It must be someone clearly with experience. …
“I think it has to be someone who is clearly moral and decent, who can win back a huge number of conservatives, who, as we know, left the party after the recent elections and the recent elections. [special] elections”.
The field of applicants is wide open. It includes Atti. Gene. Suella Braverman, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahavi, Chief Treasurer. Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and former health minister Sajid Javid, whose almost simultaneous resignations from the cabinet on Tuesday evening, the ball began to move, which led to the fall of Johnson – there are also their supporters.
Although he promised to only be interim prime minister, analysts say Johnson is likely using the time before his successor is chosen to try to repair the damage and salvage his reputation.
“I don’t think Boris is good at doing things quietly,” Flinders said. “I’m not sure this saga isn’t over yet. He is not someone who I think could exist outside of the limelight. He doesn’t want to be just a celebrity. He always craved attention, status and respect.”
Johnson had survived a vote of no confidence last month but was hit hard after only 211 of 369 Conservative MPs said they wanted to keep him as leader of their party. The vote gave him protection from a formal internal challenge to his leadership for at least a year, but it was not enough to keep his own ministers from rebelling against him in the last few days.
“After that vote, he never had much time,” said John Curtis, professor of political science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. “He was the most charismatic person to advocate for Brexit in 2016 and his legacy is that he was the one who made it happen. Beyond that, he leaves a personal failure.”
Anand Menon, a professor of politics at King’s College London, warned that “it is too early to start writing a history of Johnson’s legacy”.
“He’s not perfect. But you can’t write the legacy of Donald Trump based on the events that ended Jan. 1. 6,” Menon said, referring to a common comparison between two personality-oriented world leaders known for their bombast and fuzzy relationship with truth but also their campaign skills and celebrity status.
“There is still time during which a lot of things can happen that can resurrect him, for example, if, God forbid, there is a terrorist attack, or something more terrible happens in Ukraine, or some other events,” Menon said. .
Unlike Trump, who refuses to admit defeat in the election and teases that he may run for another term, Johnson appears to have acknowledged that his time at the top will soon be over.
“I want to tell you how sorry I am that I’m turning down the best job in the world,” the prime minister said from 10 Downing Street as he announced his departure to the noise and jeers of protesters outside the gate. “These are breaks.”
Kalim is a staff writer and Boyle is a special correspondent.