Analysis: Boris Johnson's Farewell Speech Shows He's Learned Nothing From His Humiliating Downfall

The former prime minister whined that Tory MPs had "changed the rules" to boot him out.
Boris Johnson makes his farewell speech outside 10 Downing Street.
Boris Johnson makes his farewell speech outside 10 Downing Street.
Justin Tallis via PA Wire/PA Images

We are told that one of the things Boris Johnson wants to do now he’s out of Number 10 is finish his biography of Shakespeare.

So I hope he doesn’t mind me slightly misquoting the Bard to say nothing in his time as prime minister became him like the leaving of it.

Because, just as he has done for much of the last three years, Johnson exited Downing Street refusing to take any responsibility, or show any contrition, for the mistakes which led to his downfall.

As his remaining acolytes looked on, Johnson emerged from the famous front door at 7.30am and declared: “In only a couple of hours from now I will be in Balmoral to see Her Majesty the Queen and the torch will finally be passed to a new Conservative leader.

“The baton will be handed over in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race - they changed the rules half-way through but never mind that now.”

His message was pretty clear - those cowardly Tory MPs had decided to oust him mid-parliament, despite the overwhelming personal mandate he believes he has from the public.

But this rather ignores the fact that, by the time he announced his resignation two months ago, there really was no way back for him. And he had no one to blame but himself.

Dozens of his own ministers had resigned in disgust over the Chris Pincher affair - when he denied knowing anything about previous complaints about the MP’s behaviour before sending colleagues out to lie on his behalf.

That scandal came hard on the heels of the partygate affair, which saw him fined by the police for breaking his own Covid rules and then narrowly survive a vote of confidence by Tory MPs.

These events did not happen in isolation - his position had been precarious for months precisely because of the things he had done.

As one Tory MP told HuffPost UK: “He’s brought down three prime ministers - Cameron, May and himself.”

And if his failure to show contrition wasn’t enough, Johnson went on to list the reasons why - in his head - he should be continuing as PM.

“I am proud to have discharged the promises I made my party when you were kind enough to choose me,” he said.

“Winning the biggest majority since 1987 and the biggest share of the vote since 1979.

“Delivering Brexit. Delivering our manifesto commitments – including social care. Helping people up and down the country. Ensuring that Britain is once again standing tall in the world.”

Inevitably, there was also a hint that he plans a comeback in the future.

He said: “I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function and I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the pacific

“And like Cincinnatus I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”

But as the historian Mary Beard explained, Cincinnatus - a 5th century Roman politician - led his people, retired to his farm and then came back to power again to suppress a “popular uprising by the underprivileged”.

Liz Truss faces many challenges as she takes over from Johnson, not least the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine.

But a willingness to admit her own failings would mark a welcome departure from the legacy of the man she is replacing in Number 10.


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