TOP STORIES Boris Johnson's messy exit reflects tumultuous career

Boris Johnson’s messy exit reflects tumultuous career


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LONDON. The end, when it finally arrived, was as messy and exciting as any other chapter in Boris Johnson’s political career.

Taking refuge in Downing Street on Wednesday evening, the prime minister faced a revolt in his cabinet, a catastrophic loss of support in his Conservative Party and a mass exodus of ministers that threatened to leave much of the British government without a functioning leadership.

However, Mr. Johnson’s aides did not give up at all, but announced that he would continue the fight. It looked like the last roll of the dice by one of the greatest players in British politics. His brazen refusal to face reality has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump’s defiance in the chaotic days following the 2020 presidential election.

By Thursday morning, however, political seriousness finally reasserted itself. On one of the few occasions in his career, Mr. Johnson was unable to change the narrative in his favor through the sheer strength of his personality; at noon in front of his Downing Street headquarters, he announced that he was relinquishing leadership of a party that no longer supported him and resigning from the job he had done for most of his adult life.

“I want to tell you how sorry I am that I’m turning down the best job in the world,” said Mr. Johnson, “but these are breaks.”

While Mr. Johnson’s political autopsy is being written, the turbulent events of the past week may reflect on his career, which has been defined by a joyful disregard for rules, a shrewd sense of public opinion, a flexible approach to ethics, and a Falstaffian appetite for harshness in politics.

“Most prime ministers would have figured it out sooner,” said Andrew Gimson, one of Mr. Johnson’s biographers. “The element of exaggeration, turning up the volume is very characteristic of his style.”

Mr. Gimson once compared Mr. Johnson to Admiral Nelson, the 18th century naval hero who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar.

“Nelson said the boldest measures are the safest,” he said. “Boris also believes that the boldest measures are the safest.”

In the end, however, Mr. Johnson’s risk-taking was not enough to make up for his many shortcomings. His behavior, critics say, showed that he was entitled and believed that the rules did not apply to him. Critics accused him of being disorganized ideologically and administratively.

Having pulled the UK out of the European Union in 2020, the prime minister didn’t have much of a plan for what to do next. He quickly became a hostage to events, moving from crisis to crisis as the coronavirus pandemic swept the UK and leading a scandal-ridden administration.

Mr. Johnson prospered for a long time, sticking his nose into political conventions. His messy blond haircut seemed a metaphor for the messy personal and professional life that some British voters relished while others simply tolerated.

But Mr. Johnson’s lack of truthfulness finally overtook him. His ever-changing accounts of his behavior – whether attending illegal Downing Street parties during the lockdown, trying to use a Tory donor to fund an expensive apartment renovation, or promoting a Conservative MP with a history of sexual harassment allegations against him – have definitively run out of support. his party and many voters.

Mr Johnson’s role in campaigning for the exit from the European Union, and later in Brexit and the pandemic in Britain, guarantees him a place in the ranks of influential British prime ministers. But he is best remembered for his mixed combination of strengths and weaknesses.

For much of the past decade, Mr Johnson’s dynamic, explosive personality has captured British attention and dominated the country’s politics. On Thursday, however, it burned down just as spectacularly as the first time.

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