Johnson Resignation Speech (That Wasn’t Really A Resignation Speech) – Analysis & Opinion

A picture of Boris Johnson outside No. 10 Downing Street giving his resignation speech
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Yesterday Boris Johnson resigned as Leader of the Conservative party and will step down as Prime Minister once a new leader has been put in place.

His speech is quite interesting (you can read it in full here) as not once does it mention the word “resign” (or variations of), “step down”, “leave” or “quit”.

In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge that is a resignation speech at all – quite the move!

This is my own personal opinion – while I do try to report the news in as much of an unbiased way as possible, I do occasionally have thoughts on issues and will be writing on them as an opinion piece. As such, feel free to make your own judgements and do your own research on the topic below so you are fully aware of all aspects of what has happened.

So, with that little disclaimer out of the way Let’s break down some sections of the speech that I found either quite telling, or at the very least a bit strange in their wording.

First up, the non-resignation resignation:

I agree with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of our backbench of MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.
I today appointed a Cabinet to serve as I will until a new leader is in place.

In the above paragraph, he acknowledges that there needs to be a process of selecting a new leader however he doesn’t acknowledge that he is actually stepping down at all and is, technically, still staying on.

It’s interesting to note that both David Cameron’s resignation speech [1]CNN: David Cameron’s resignation speech in full and Theresa May’s resignation speech[2]Insider: ‘A matter of deep regret’: Read Theresa May’s resignation speech in full (video below) both leaders offered some form of time table of events after their departure – Cameron said there should be a new leader by the October Conservative Party Conference (he resigned in June 2016) and Theresa May (who resigned on the 24th May 2019) said she would formally leave office on the 7th June. Johnson gave no such dates or time tables and laid the matter firmly at the feet of the 1922 committee (who are going through their own voting process at the moment).

In theory, he may be hoping he can hold on through the summer break and make his official exit just before the Conservative Party conference that’s usually held in October – that’s a long time for him to stay on, especially as he’s lost the support of a large part of the Tory party and base.

As a result, many are calling for Johnson to go immediately and for an interim leader to be put in place, but it’s clear from this portion of the speech he’s going to hang on for as long as possible and not even acknowledge his own resignation.

“… thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.”

As a reminder, almost 14 million people voted for a Conservative MP in the 2019 election. The way that Johnson was talking he made it sound like the electorate voted for him personally which isn’t the case. This isn’t a presidential system and each person votes for the MP they think will best serve their constituency.

Additionally, thanks to the UKs “First Past The Post” voting system, over 16 million did not vote for the Conservatives.

From getting Brexit done, to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in Parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown.

Johnson seems to be ignoring the fact that the UK is careering towards a legal battle with the EU over the introduction of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which the EU claim (rightly) breaks International law, so I’d hardly say he’d “settled our relations with the Continent”. Neither is “Brexit done” as we’re still trying to work out the kinks over Northern Ireland, customs delays and more.

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While we may have had the fastest vaccine role out, we also had one of the worst death rates due to COVID of any G7 nation[3]BBC News: US overtakes UK as hardest hit by Covid deaths in G7 and thousands (if not tens of thousands) of unnecessary deaths due to releasing hospital patients back into care homes without adequate PPE or testing.

Notably, Johnson did not say the word “regret”, “sorry” or “apologise” when referring to the pandemic (only regretting he couldn’t persuade people to let him stay on), and he failed to even acknowledge those who passed away under his premiership.

“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.”

He did thank the NHS though and brought up the fact that:

“at a critical moment, helped to extend my [Johnson’s] own period in office”

Although the fact that he was seriously ill from COVID is now being called to questions (See this Twitter thread from Marcus J Ball – I’ve yet to verify the facts in these tweets though so please make up your own mind).

Johnson also seemingly throws quite a lot of shade at those who resigned, voted against him in the confidence vote and whoever will replace him:

“But, as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.
“And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable. And our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.”

So I guess he’s extremely unhappy as what he sees as a “herd” of MPs all resigning at once, which forced his own resignation and has nothing to do with the fact he broke the law, lost the support of the Government and, more importantly, electorate. Again, he still can’t take any accountability.

His “Darwinian system” comment is equally shady (despite it being lumped next to the word “brilliant” which I feel in this case is used sarcastically).

Darwinism refers to natural selection and survival of the fittest. A brief explanation is that in order to survive, a species will take on the best characteristics of previous generations, improve on them and pass them on to the next generation.

As Johnson himself came through this “Darwinian system” I am at a loss to understand what characteristics he took on from his predecessors that made him the “most successful” but here we are so….🤷

Johnson then goes on to further big-up his successes by saying:

“Not just helping families to get through it, but changing and improving the way we do things. Cutting burdens on businesses and families and, yes, cutting taxes.”

Well, the Conservatives may have cut taxes for higher earners and corporation tax but the average UK earner is paying the highest tax burden for over 60 years[4]Accountancy Daily: UK taxes highest since 1950s[5]Statista: UK tax burden to hit highest level since the 60s and he only cut National Insurance payments[6]MSN: Boris Johnson tax cut: When does the national insurance threshold increase and who will it be benefit? after the cost of living crisis took hold – after increasing the National Insurance rate in the first place.

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He then goes on to say:

“And to you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed.”

This is almost Trump-like in its narcissism and lack of self-awareness. Will there be people who are disappointed? Probably a few, but as recently the 5th of July 69% of Conservative voters – his own political base – wanted him to resign[7]YouGov: Snap poll: most Conservative voters now want Boris Johnson to resign, up from 63% In January 2022[8]YouGov:Snap poll: 63% of Britons still want Boris Johnson to resign following Sue Gray report.

We then have a somewhat dismissive and cavalier statement to his forced resignation:

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

His body language at this point did not indicate any sadness at all – think back to Theresa May’s tearful ending to her resignation speech in 2019 below

There was none of that emotion in Johnson’s speech at all, it was almost as if he were quite bored and would rather be somewhere else (which is probably the case).

The flippant use of the phrase “them’s the breaks” seems to show what low regard Johnson really holds for the role of Prime Minister.

Was it a Freudian slip or a man finally showing his disdain for politics and allowing it to be shown? You can make up your own mind on that one,

We then get perhaps the most telling sentence of his speech (ignoring the refusal to use the word “resign”):

“I want to thank the wonderful staff here at Chequers, here at Number 10, and our fantastic prop force detectives – the one group, by the way, who never leak.”

“Who never leak”

So that implies that there were goings on that warranted leaking, and you would only leak information if it was damaging to the subject and showed some impropriety or illegality.

This also implies that he’s aware of most of the scandals that have rocked his time in power as coming from leaks rather than journalists digging up the dirt themselves.

Was he hinting, perhaps, that he felt the leaks were done to harm him personally rather than for the “good of the people”?

He was definitely not happy about this aspect of his Premiership, that’s for certain.

He then ends his speech by thanking the British public:

“Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me. And I want you to know that from now on until the new prime minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.”

Johnson was still trying to garner support from the public, even though his favourability sunk to an impressively low -53 (yes, that’s MINUS 53)[9]YouGov: As he resigns, Boris Johnson’s favourability drops to lowest ever score of -53

According to the YouGov article: “These latest figures mean Boris Johnson is less popular than Theresa May was at her lowest ebb a week before announcing she’d resign (-49 in May 2019), and is almost level with Jeremy Corbyn’s lowest score of -55.”

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For him to think that he has any sizeable support for staying on as Prime Minister in a caretaker role is not surprising given Johnson’s obviously self-aggrandising view of himself and the lack of awareness he has shown in his “don’t mention the resignation” resignation statement.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major wrote to the chairman of the 1922 committee (who are responsible for organising the leadership election) stating:

“The proposal for the Prime Minister to remain in office – for up to three months – having lost the support of his Cabinet and his Parliamentary party is unwise, and may be unsustainable….
“For the overall wellbeing of the country, Mr Johnson should not remain in Downing Street — when he is unable to command the confidence of the House of Commons — for any longer than necessary to effect the smooth transition of Government.

You can view the full letter on the John Major Archives (PDF)

Several important political figures have also come out in support of a swift exit for Johnson (or BorisExit as Twitter is calling is) including former Blair “Spin guru” Alastair Campbell, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas, Simon Hoare MP for North Dorset, and Dominic Cummings went on a mini Twitter rant citing the dangers of leaving him in office.

Johnson then finished the speech off in a rather odd way saying:

“I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.”

Read that again….

“our future together is golden”

Which implies that he sees a continuing relationship with the British public in some way.

What future form that takes, who knows.

For the time being that form is as still clinging on as Prime Minister, but what next? Will he go back to being a Mayoral candidate after this? Bit of a slide down in the pecking order from being PM. Perhaps he’ll go back to journalism although having been sacked for lying by The Times[10]The Mirror: Every job bumbling Boris Johnson’s been sacked from as PM faces no confidence vote, he’s got a bit of a blot on his CV – not that that stopped him working for The Telegraph and then The Spectator (both extremely Pro-Johnson publications during his tenure as PM).

Until the 1922 committee decides how they want to proceed with the voting process, Johnson is still PM and is here to stay (for a little while at least).

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