The autumn. Under continued pressure from members of his party and in the face of an unprecedented wave of resignations within his own government, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally gave in on Thursday by announcing his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party, less than 24 hours after assuring him that he would he had no intention of leaving.
Placed in the midst of a storm he himself created with major scandal blows and false declarations, BoJo – as the British call him – thus ends a three-year chaotic reign at the head of the United Kingdom marked by Brexit, a pandemic, the threat of a trade war with the European Union and security tensions in Europe that eventually overwhelmed him and his iconoclastic style.
Ironically, the man who, like Winston Churchill, dreamed of being a larger-than-life leader, claimed to the end to be the leader his country needed to overcome all of those fits.
“We cannot speak of an inevitable resignation, but we can say that it was foreseeable,” said George Ross, a specialist in the European Union and its crises, a professor of political science at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, over the phone. “The environment had become very difficult for him. He was no longer responsible for anything, except that he was no longer fun for the British. It was clear that reality would catch up with him. »
“It is clearly the will of the Conservative Party that there is a new leader and therefore a new Prime Minister,” Boris Johnson said in a six-minute speech outside 10 Downing Street. He said he was “sad”, “the best job the world” and described it as “eccentric” that his government wanted to get rid of him in this way.
Mr Johnson will remain in office at the helm of his political party until a new leader is elected. The schedule for the follow-up campaign and the upcoming election is expected to be presented next week.
Among the potential candidates we find the British chief of diplomacy Liz Truss, very popular in the Tory base, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, the favorite in the polls, but also Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) . The latter, along with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, was one of two key figures in the Johnson administration who tendered his resignation on Tuesday, setting off a fatal chain reaction for the prime minister.
A powerful voice in the Brexit campaign that sealed the complicated divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union, Boris Johnson is an atypical, populist “Teflon” politician who has managed to blunt a string of lies, hyperbole and outrageous declarations for years to survive. to the recent spate of scandals that just precipitated his departure.
Mr Johnson has faced mounting anger for months after it was revealed 10 Downing Street parties were being held in 2020 and 2021 when the UK went into lockdown and Her Majesty’s subjects had to compose them with strict rules. A total of 126 speeding tickets were distributed by the police as part of this campaign. party gate ‘, including one to the Prime Minister.
Last February, the appointment of Chris Pincher to the post of Deputy Whip of Parliament, responsible for discipline among Conservative elected officials, helped pour water on the gas despite serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
In early June, Mr Johnson survived a no-confidence motion by his party, but emerged weakened from this frontal attack by the Legislature against him, with 41% of the Conservatives-elected party disavowing him. As of Tuesday, around sixty members of his government have decided to abandon ship, including five senior ministers. On Wednesday he again claimed he had a “colossal mandate” to continue running the country. In a spectacular move, he sacked Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Relations and the first member of his cabinet to telephone him to resign.
“It is rare in British politics that so many ministers resign at the same time to oppose the Prime Minister,” said George Ross. This is a sign that he had lost control, that he was still convinced he could go ahead with Boris Johnson because he thought it would always work. But that very prospect was beginning to frighten me. And not only within the political class.
This week, almost 70% of Britons in a YouGov poll called for the hairy politician to leave 10 Downing Street. More than half of Conservatives also voiced this call for change, confirming the populist’s collapse within the political formation that brought him to power.
challenges in Britain
Boris Johnson resigns as Britain grapples with high inflation (9%) fueling growing social protest. The damaging effects of Brexit are still being felt, with a Northern Ireland protocol – meant to integrate Northern Ireland without borders with Ireland into the new British-European equation – which the Prime Minister wanted to unilaterally renegotiate, bringing the UK closer to a Trade crisis with the European Union.
This Brexit has also revived the separatist ambitions of Scotland, which has historic tensions with London and which never wanted to leave the common European market.
In the circumstances, ex-PM John Major felt it was “reckless and perhaps unacceptable” for Boris Johnson to stay at 10 Downing Street “longer than necessary”. “We don’t need a change at the top of the Tories. We need a real change of government,” said opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer.
“What’s coming for the UK is going to get complicated in the years to come,” says George Ross, but it’s clear that at a time like this, the presence of a mad leader was unacceptable. »
Boris Johnson’s political future is still uncertain, but this resignation could give him the time he needed to finish a book this ex-London mayor and scholar started a few years ago on Shakespeare. “But we can imagine that it won’t disappear from public space that easily,” says Professor Ross. Because resignation or not, Boris Johnson remains a phenomenon. »
With Agence France-Presse