After three years as Prime Minister of one of the most powerful countries in the world, Boris Johnson today announced his resignation from the role pending the election of a new Conservative Party leader.
So what went wrong for Johnson? Rather than one particular event, it was more a cocktail of factors that led to his colleagues, and the public at large, losing faith in his leadership.
- Scandals – Johnson’s tenure was continually rocked by scandal. After repeatedly imposing disastrous lockdown policies where people were denied the chance to see their dying loved ones, it emerged that Johnson had hosted parties at Downing Street while the rest of the country was forced to make enormous sacrifices. Most recently, it was revealed that he failed to act on sexual misconduct allegations against his deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, once remarking that the “clue is in the name.”
- Electoral defeats – Despite securing an 80-seat majority in 2019, recent by-election results have been disastrous for the Conservative Party. Last month, the Liberal Democrat party overturned a 24,000 majority to win a by-election in Tiverton and Honiton, a swing of over 30 percent. The result was so bad it led to the resignation of the party’s chairman, Oliver Dowden.
- Lack of policy – Having styled himself as more of a right-wing populist, Johnson failed to deliver anything his voters believed he stood for, from cutting taxes to fighting the culture war. Instead, voters were fed a diet of ‘Build Back Better’ and ‘Online Safety’ bills aimed at regulating speech across the internet. Perhaps his only genuinely conservative policy, a plan to ship illegal immigrants to Rwanda where there are mass labor shortages, was blocked by the European Court of Human Rights.
- Lies and deceit – Time and time again, Johnson refused to answer questions properly and be straight with the public. The most prominent example was when he lied to the Houses of Parliament about the parties held during lockdown, although there are countless other examples from plans to renovate his house to giving lucrative contracts to his personal allies. Such dishonest behavior spilled into his private life, where he developed a reputation as a serial philanderer with at least three illegitimate children.
- His wife – The excessive role and influence of his 34-year-old wife, Carrie Symonds, was repeatedly brought into question by those around him and the country at large. Having never been elected to public office and without any mandate of her own, Symonds reportedly swayed government policy on a whole raft of issues, particularly on environmental policy.
- Arrogance – On top of his lies, Johnson was steadfast in his refusal to ever say sorry or admit his mistakes. A master of dodging questions, his approach was always to move the conversation in his desired direction. Like a tinpot dictator, he refused to leave office despite dozens of resignations across his government. Only when he was told explicitly that he would be removed imminently did he agree to step down.
- The joke became old – Johnson’s appeal to the British public was largely a result of his unconventional personality. The scruffiness, the witticisms, and his jocular attitude won him two terms as Mayor of London before landing the job of Foreign Secretary. Yet when he became Prime Minister, his appeal as the court jester quickly drained away as his decisions took their toll on British society.
As he prepares to leave frontline politics and make millions on the international speaking circuit, Johnson will be left pondering his legacy. After three years in office, he has very little to show for himself.
Apart from his disastrous lockdown policy, Johnson’s only real legacy will be his pivotal role in securing the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. In returning democratic powers from Brussels back to London, Johnson will always be owed a debt by those who believe in the sovereignty of the British people.
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Johnson imagined himself as an heir to the great wartime leader Winston Churchill. Sadly the similarities are few and far between. One man secured peace in Europe and united his country. The other was at best a pound shop imitation.