Boris Johnson’s resignation speech told a story of how one of the UK’s most controversial leaders would like his time in Downing Street to be remembered. It is not how everyone in the country will recall his nearly three years as Prime Minister.
He spoke of his achievements, starting with getting Brexit done and “settling our relations with the continent for over half a century.” The UK is currently engaged in an almighty spat with the European Union over the very Brexit deal that Johnson signed in 2019, which is threatening to tear Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.
He celebrated the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which to date has killed over 180,000 Brits. He spoke of his flagship "levelling-up" agenda, a series of policies which have been widely derided as vague and non-existent.
And he spent a large part of the speech defending his own actions over the past few days, where in the face of derision from across the political divide Johnson clung to power, even though it was becoming clearer by the minute that not resigning was creating instability and chaos.
Johnson said that he did everything to stay in office because “it would be eccentric to change governments, when we're delivering so much when we have such a vast mandate and when we're actually only a handful of points behind in the polls.”
In reality, Johnson’s leadership has been in crisis since the start of the year and his protests that he should stay in power despite the numerous scandals and crises looked to many like craven attempts to hang on, no matter what was happening around him.
Attention now turns to a new leader, who will have to inherit a mess, both in terms of the Conservative party and the country. For all Johnson’s desire to remembered as a great Prime Minister, for many, that mess will be his legacy.
However, by the end, Johnson, unlike Donald Trump, did appreciate that his time was up. He wanted to hang on, but he admitted, “Them’s the breaks… no one is indispensable.”
For all the fears of a constitutional crisis, in the end, he did admit he'd run out of road.