Bye, bye, Boris!

When I went to bed last night, British prime minister Boris Johnson was defiantly claiming that he would stay on even as there was a steady stream of resignations by members of his government and of Conservative party officials, coupled with reports that those cabinet members still remaining had urged him privately to resign because he had lost too much support. Johnson had even been defiant at the weekly session known as PMQs where the prime minister is supposed to answer questions. Needless to say, the House of Commons was overflowing and raucous, with members even sitting on the aisle steps. Johnson kept insisting that he could continue as prime minister and that the country needed him to carry out the mandate that the electorate had given him two years ago.

Here is a brief except.

You can also watch the full session.

I was surprised, though, when he fired Michael Gove, a senior cabinet member and one-time rival for party leader who had been one of those who had not resigned but had privately urged him to step down and assured him that he would not stand for the leadership. Gove and Johnson have a history, with Gove being accused of stabbing Johnson in the back in the previous leadership battle, initially supporting him but then running against him. So there is no love lost between them, But I thought that Johnson would follow the advice ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ and keep Gove on. Johnson has shown that while he has good demagogic skills, he has really poor judgment,coupled with a Trumpian propensity for lying, and this was another misstep, since it would have alarmed those who had similarly expressed their views to him privately that perhaps they would be axed next and make them decide to quit before being fired. His days were clearly numbered.

So I was not surprised to hear this morning that Johnson has resigned as party leader. However, he has said that he will stay on as prime minister until a new party leader is selected, a process that could take months. This has alarmed party members who worry that Johnson could be a wrecking ball in that period, taking actions that would damage the party even further.

Johnson’s resignation speech was notable for its refusal to accept that his downfall was his own doing, instead blaming it on the ‘herd instinct’, a euphemism suggesting the existence of some kind of conspiracy to bring him down.

Johnson dearly wanted to be prime minister and his wealthy upbringing and sense of entitlement seemed to make him think that it was his due to occupy that position. He now seems to want to cling on to that position until the very last moment, dragging it out as long as possible. Given the strength of the sentiment against. him even within his own party, it is likely that the party will speed up the process and kick him out ignominiously sooner rather that later.

His final exit will be embarrassing. But that will not be anything new for someone who was able to play the buffoon to his advantage in the past to distract people from his failings. But it is one thing to play the fool when you are on your way up. It is quite another for it to be the final image of you on your way out.


  1. says

    This morning’s WaPo headline said BoJo was promising to stay on no matter what. Then less than an hour later, I saw on another FTB that BoJo had resigned, or at least was announcing his resignation at some future date.

    On the one hand, good fucking riddance. OTOH, I really can’t trust the party that brought him in — after spinelessly allowing the Brexit referendum to take things out of their control in the first place — to find anyone much more credible to replace him. Seriously, who are they gonna get? John Major? Teresa May? David Cameron?

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Members of Johnson’s own party insisted that he go.

    Meanwhile in America, the Republican Party refuses to bail on Trump. The few individual members who stand up against him have been mostly been resigning as they realize their stance hurts their chances at reelection. The exceptions on the national scene are very few.

  3. John Morales says


    Meanwhile in America, the Republican Party refuses to bail on Trump.

    Different milieus.
    In the UK Boris isn’t seen as God’s functionary on earth by 1/8th of the electorate, and the culture wars there haven’t taken off in anything like the way the have in the USA.

    His one use to his party was winning votes; now he’s on the nose, so he’s useless.
    A liability, even.

    In short, different constituencies.

  4. birgerjohansson says

    Neither Bojo nor Trump are completely useless.
    To quote Al Bundy from Married With Children: “Good buzzard fodder”.

  5. KG says

    I’m pretty sure he hasn’t given up hope of being able to turn the tables on his “enemies” and stay on. While he’s there, he’s a danger not just to the UK, but to the world: I wouldn’t by any means put it past him to engineer a crisis such as a direct clash between UK and Russian forces in an attempt to abort the process of electing his replacement.

  6. KG says

    One amusing possibility is that Johnson could try to enter the contest to choose his successor. Tory Party rules say that if the leader has lost a confidence vote among Tory MPs, they can’t enter that contest -- but Johnson hasn’t. He won such a contest (admittedly by a margin that would have led most politicians to throw in the towel) just weeks ago. So unless the “1922 Committee” of Tory backbenchers (MPs without official positions in the government) adds a rule to exclude him, he might enter when the contest officially begins. I doubt he will, as he almost certainly wouldn’t win, but it would be hilarious.

  7. says

    KG: Actually, he could very plausibly win such a contest, for the same reason he simply drifted into the job in the first place: the Tories have no one more credible to replace him, and they’re too chaotic and spineless to offer any plausible alternative vision or mindset to unite behind.

    As for engineering a war with Russia, that’s something we may no longer be able to avoid. And the worst case scenario would be that someone like BoJo starts it on the wrongest, most tragically incompetent footing possible. I really hope the UK generals have the guts to stop him from doing such a thing.

  8. says

    Hey, maybe the Tories will have a referendum to let the people decide for them who should be their leader. ‘Cuz that last referendum worked so well for them, remember?

  9. xohjoh2n says


    “Boris spent 350m a week redecorating his flat -- why not spend it on the NHS instead?”

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