Boris Johnson's Graceless Resignation Speech Compared To Past PMs'

Notably absent from his speech? An apology – and the word "resign".
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Johnson resigned on July 7
Johnson resigned on July 7
JUSTIN TALLIS via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has finally resigned, after one of the most tumultuous weeks in modern politics.

The prime minister was rather reluctant to quit though, and resisted the calls to step down up until more than 50 MPs had resigned from his government.

His change of heart reportedly came in the early hours of Thursday morning, when he spoke to Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 committee about his premiership.

His resignation also means the UK will soon have its fourth prime minister in six years. Johnson’s tenure has been the shortest out of all of them.

So just how does Johnson’s time at the famous prime ministerial lectern compare to his most recent predecessors in No.10?

1. Boris Johnson

Time in office: Two years, 348 days.

Notable moment: The absence of any apology for the last few weeks of chaos, or even the word “resign”.

The outgoing prime minister simply said that “the process of choosing a new leader should begin now” because that is the will of the Parliamentary Conservative party.

He said he intends to serve “until a new leader is in place”.

He again referenced the “mandate” voters gave to the Tories in the 2019 election (which was his main argument for staying on in No.10 yesterday).

Johnson also said that he tried to convince colleagues “it would be eccentric to change governments” and that the Tories are only “a handful of points behind in the polls”, but admitted these attempts were unsuccessful.

He then blamed “herd instinct” for the sudden wave of Tories who lost faith in him, and claimed that it was clear “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics.

He said: “I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”

Johnson tried to bring his speech to a close with some optimism, saying; “Even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.”

He then turned away from the cameras, waved to his gathered supporters in Downing Street, including his wife Carrie Johnson and culture secretary Nadine Dorries, before walking sombrely back into No.10.

BBC News

2. Theresa May

Time in office: Three years, 12 days.

Notable moment: Welling up while at the lectern.

Much like Johnson, May resigned despite winning a confidence vote shortly beforehand. What drove May to quit though, was a devastating loss in the European Parliament election.

Like Johnson, she admitted in her speech that she had been unable to convince MPs to back her – only in this instance, she was talking about her Brexit deal.

Unlike the current outgoing prime minister, she did use the word “resign” and admitted it was not right for her to stay on, as she could not deliver her version of Brexit.

She continued: “It is now clear to me that it is in the best interests of the country for a new prime minster to lead that effort.”

While Johnson blamed “herd instinct” for his departure and suggested everyone was replaceable, May talked about giving “people a choice” and discussed the importance of compromise.

Acknowledging her place in history as the UK’s second female prime minister, she did begin to tear up.

She and Johnson did end on a similar note, though.

She said: “Our politics may be under strain but there is so much that is good about this country. So much to be proud of. So much to be optimistic about.”

Leon Neal via Getty Images

3. David Cameron

Time in office: Six years, 64 days.

Notable moment: Whistling when his microphone was still on (although that was when he announced his departure date).

Cameron resigned when the EU referendum results were released back in 2016. Having campaigned for Remain, he said he felt it was not appropriate to continue.

Much like May – not Johnson – he said: “This is not a decision I’ve taken lightly but I do believe it’s in the national interest to have a period of stability and then the new leadership required.”

He also outlined his plan to have a replacement in his place by October’s party conference, and concluded: “Now the decision has been made to leave, we need to find the best way and I will do everything I can to help.

I love this country and I feel honoured to have served it and I will do everything I can in future to help this great country succeed.”

However, just a few days later when he confirmed when his final dates in Downing Street would be, he was caught on the microphone humming happily.

4. Gordon Brown

Time in office: Two years, 319 days.

Notable moment: Walking away with his family, smiling.

Brown resigned with his wife by his side back in May 2010, and acknowledged that, without a majority in the House of Commons, he could not lead the government. It came after the general election he called that April resulted in a hung parliament, as Labour lost a staggering 91 seats.

He appeared in high spirits in his speech, telling the press: “I wish the next prime minister well as he makes the important choices for the future. Only those that have held the office of prime minister can understand the full weight of its responsibilities and its great capacity for good.”

Brown also outlined how he did not “at all” love the prestige, titles or ceremony that came with the job, but he loved it for “its potential to make this country I love fairer”.

He had an emotional conclusion too: “I leave the second most important job I could ever hold, I cherish even more the first – as a husband and father.”

Brown’s legacy lay in trying to steady the UK following the 2008 financial crash and subsequent recession.

Chris Radburn - PA Images via Getty Images

5. Tony Blair

Time in office: 10 years, 56 days.

Notable moment: Apologising “for the times I have fallen short” – but not specifically over the Iraq War.

Blair took a different tact to the more recent prime ministers. H announced his resignation during a speech in his constituency, Sedgefield, at Trimdon Labour Club, which is also where he launched his leadership campaign back in 1994.

Acknowledging he had spent a decade in No.10, Blair said: “I think that is long enough for me and more especially for the country”.

He also claimed that expectations when he was elected in 1997 were “too high, probably”.

Seemingly excusing the controversy which marred the end of his premiership, he said: “Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong – that’s your call.”

Like his successors, he tried to end on a high note and said that the country should “be excited by the opportunities, not constantly fretful of the dangers”.

“This is the greatest nation on earth. So it has been an honour to serve it,” Blair said.

“I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times that I’ve succeeded and my apologies to you for the time I’ve fallen short. But good luck.”

However, he did not apologise specifically for the Iraq War, the political move which triggered his decline, although he did acknowledge it was a “bitterly controversial” act to move troops there.

via Associated Press

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