Boris Johnson resigns

Boris Johnson finally reconciled himself to stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday after facing an unprecedented wave of resignations in his government. He intends to remain prime minister pending the appointment of his successor, a situation that is far from consensus within the formation.

Posted at 7:08 p.m

Marc Thibodeau

Marc Thibodeau
The press

Why did he finally agree to go?

The shocked resignation of two influential ministers who question the integrity of Boris Johnson on Tuesday was followed on Wednesday by the announcement of the resignation of dozens of government officials, which seemed to pull the Prime Minister onto his back. However, he had insisted the evening before members of the cabinet to convince him that there was a need to continue his work. A few more resignations were added to the list early Thursday morning, before Mr Johnson announced in a speech outside 10 Downing Street that he would relinquish his party leadership and remain as Prime Minister until the Conservative Party nominated his successor. “He has finally accepted that he no longer has any solutions to get out of this,” Christopher Stafford, a British political scientist, said in an interview. Boris Johnson could have held out longer, but he was almost certain, the researcher notes, that he would quickly suffer a no-confidence vote that promised him it would end “very badly” after surviving a first such vote in June.

How did Boris Johnson explain his decision?

The prime minister has been repeatedly criticized for lying about scandals that have rocked his government, most notably ‘Partygate’, which involved holding several drunken nights out at his official residence amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He was caught out again last week about what he knew about the past of an ally who was named the party’s deputy chief whip in February despite significant misconduct. He made no apologies for his excesses in his speech on Thursday, but accused the elected Conservatives of being swept up in a “pack effect” that prevented them from acknowledging the importance of his government’s achievements. The absence of a mea culpa comes as no surprise to Steven Fielding, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. “He’s convinced he has nothing to blame and thinks the people who blame him are crazy,” says the researcher.

Despite the importance of opposition to him in the Conservative ranks, can he remain Prime Minister temporarily?

Several members of the party said on Thursday they did not agree with the possibility of Boris Johnson remaining prime minister until his successor is appointed, replacing him at the head of government, a process that could take several months. Former Tory Prime Minister John Major has said it was unthinkable for the politician to stay in power as he has lost the trust of government and elected officials, and is urging him to give way to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab. The prime minister has assured his side that he will not seek to introduce new policies or impose “major changes in direction” on the government while he awaits the appointment of his successor. According to Stafford, just a no-confidence vote lost in the House of Commons would likely force Boris Johnson to leave first, but it would topple the Conservative government and put the party in a dangerous position when it is currently out of an “all-certainty” majority ensuring its retention of power . It seems unlikely that many elected Conservatives will vote in this direction if the Labor opposition asks for a vote of this nature as they promise a vote of this nature, notes the researcher, who instead expects the Prime Minister’s Conservative opponents to try to shorten the process of appointing his successor accelerate his departure.

Should we expect a tight race for the successor?

Mr Fielding notes that Boris Johnson has long been considered the staunch leader of the Conservative Party because he was seen as the only politician charismatic enough to give the party victory in the general election. Now that his departure is confirmed, several elected officials could be scrambling to replace him. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt are among the favorites, according to a BBC analysis. Normally, candidates face each other in a series of knockout elections among the elected Conservatives. The two remaining at the end then run before a final vote by the full party membership. The process took two months after the announcement in 2019 of the departure of former Prime Minister Theresa May, who had also served as interim minister, but was shortened in this case, Stafford said. “Many elected officials want Johnson out for good before they can do any more damage to the party,” he notes.


Ben Wallace, Secretary of Defense

How to assess Boris Johnson’s mandate?

Boris Johnson, Steven Fielding notes, is exceptionally adept at campaigning and helped lead the Conservative Party to a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, but he has little to show for after three years in office. Brexit has been formalized but some issues remain and its economic impact looks very problematic. His handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a high death toll despite some vaccination successes, Fielding adds, noting that repeated scandals have plagued the world. Frédéric Mérand, a professor of political science at the University of Montreal, believes the politician deserves credit for formalizing Brexit, even if some issues remain unresolved. He was also constructive on foreign policy, particularly through his support for Ukraine towards Russia. “Internally, it’s a complete failure, since he practically does not deliver on what he promised,” notes the researcher, who also emphasizes the importance of the scandals that have unfolded under his leadership. “We remember the character more than his achievements,” notes Mr. Mérand.

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