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Exit Mr Johnson

For the past few days, Mr Johnson had been wobbly at the knees and had been verily battling for political survival as never perhaps during his tenure as head of government.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

As Britain stumbles from crisis to crisis, Thursday’s resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson arguably signifies the start of a new phase in the constitutional imbroglio. The stepping out has happened after a welter of ministerial resignations, pre-eminently those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid. In the net, the nation will be bereft of effective governance, at any rate till Monday when the next Prime Minister is scheduled to be named. For the past few days, Mr Johnson had been wobbly at the knees and had been verily battling for political survival as never perhaps during his tenure as head of government.

Indeed, the crisis had overshadowed Britain’s exit from the European Union, a watershed development. Ergo, it may not be quite uncharitable to aver that nemesis has caught up with him. Nor for that matter would it be an exaggeration to suggest that he had to countenance a rebellion in his Cabinet, an almost catastrophic loss of support in his Conservative party, an exodus of ministers and electoral setbacks. These developments threatened to leave significant segments of the British government without a functioning leadership. Mr Johnson’s refusal to acknowledge reality evoked comparisons with Donald Trump’s defiance in the chaotic days after the 2020 presidential election. For all his apparent political acumen, on Thursday he was unable to influence the narrative to his advantage through the sheer force of his personality.

This was palpable at midday in front of his Downing Street headquarters, where he announced he was relinquishing the leadership of a party that had ceased to support him. By resigning as Prime Minister, he has given up what he calls the “best job in the world”. Mr Johnson doubtless had the ability to take risks, but this was not enough to compensate for his shortcomings. His behaviour revealed a sense of entitlement. Still more damagingly, it exposed a belief that the rules did not apply to him. Small wonder that it has been remarked that his messy crop of blonde hair seemed a metaphor for a messy personal and professional life. Above all, his lack of truthfulness finally caught up with him.

He constantly shifted accounts of his conduct ~ whether in attending parties as 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic, attempting to use a Tory Party donor to finance the expensive renovation of his apartment, or promoting a Conservative lawmaker with a history of allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Even before the resignation, the Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, had remarked that “Boris’s government is now collapsing”. Mr Johnson’s amazing capacity to brazen things out failed him in the end, although even then he tried to suggest that it was the ambition of others and not his own shortcomings that had led to this denouement. History will record Mr Johnson’s government collapsed under the weight of a relentless series of scandals.