The rejection of this premier was different.
Unlike Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair or Theresa May, who were also removed from office by their parties, not the electorate, Boris Johnson could not walk away with his head held high.
He was not forced to leave because of political differences or because he was not expected.
Johnson leaves in disgrace because of the flaws in his personality and behavior, as dozens of ministers have complained in their resignation letters.
In the words of Brandon Lewis, the first nail in his latter-day political coffin: “Decent and responsible government is based on honesty, integrity and mutual respect. It is a matter of deep personal regret for me that I have to leave the government as I no longer believe that these values are preserved.”
It wasn’t a clean break either.
The Johnson era is not over yet. He fought calls to step outside the decency respected by his predecessors.
Finally foiled by the mass of his ministers and deputies, who turned their backs on him, he still did not leave the stage. He messes around like an overseer.
To many, such procrastination seems inappropriate. He leaves with disgrace, not a gold watch, pats on the back and a quiver of “Sorry you’re leaving the cards.”
No sign of him going quietly
He can still be forced to go earlier and hand over to the real stopgap, most likely Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who refused to run for the top job.
If he doesn’t go quietly in the next few days – and there is no sign he will – Tory MPs are already speeding up the election process so that he is delayed as little as possible.
He has told his new cabinet that he will not make any major decisions during the interregnum, but his party is well aware of how little his word is worth.
Thatcher and Blair immediately left when their time was up.
That’s what the Tories did at the time. Deputies individually chose the leader without a democratizing membership vote.
Labor organized a one-horse race for Gordon Brown.
Both bowed before the mood against them, still in their splendor it seemed. Thatcher went despite winning the first round of her leadership challenge, the 1989 version of the confidence vote.
Blair resigned after a handful of junior Brown ministers resigned, few compared to the 60 resignations in protest that Johnson tried to defy.
Six months after she won a vote of confidence, May gave up when it became clear she could no longer push the law through parliament.
I witnessed these departures as they happened. Although I firmly adhere to the impartiality of my broadcaster, I admit that I was moved and felt a certain sympathy for each of the characters.
They climbed high and tried so hard to serve their country, and now they have been abandoned. The atmosphere was charged, perhaps because the spectacle was so final.
May gave up the “honour of her life” as she fought back sobs from the Downing Street podium.
Thatcher’s farewell at No. 10 consisted of a short 143 words of nothing but throaty thanks. Her teary eyes as her Daimler drove away for the last time is one of the iconic photos of her premiership.
Blair bid farewell to Downing Street with his wife saying cheekily: “Goodbye, I don’t think we’ll miss you” to the assembled media.
For his messenger he chose reflections and humor in the Trimden Labor Club and in Parliament. As he decided to deliver his final speech as Prime Minister to MPs, he earned a round of applause and a standing ovation after admitting he had never been a “House of Commons man”.
No offer of forgiveness
Johnson’s departure was devoid of emotion – both for him and for the audience. A small group of admirers and addicts hastily rose to applaud him, holding back cheers and tears. After that, journalists had to report that there was some crying outside the door.
Johnson’s speech was unreflective and unapologetic for his behavior. There was no mention of the ‘three Ps’ – Owen Patterson, Partygate and Chris Pincher – that led to his downfall in the last 12 months.
Like the president, he continued to talk about the “mandate” he believed he had personally won in 2019 in the UK’s constituency system.
He described his colleagues’ decision to “change government” as “eccentric” and blamed a powerful “herd instinct” in Westminster. He thanked staff at his holiday home in Checkers in front of those who work for him in Downing Street.
Johnson balanced the phrase “how sad I am to give up the best job in the world” with the obscene colloquial expression “it’s a break”.
Back at Number 10, he posed for one of the official taxpayer-funded photographers with his wife and two young children for a cute photo that duly appeared on the front page of many newspapers the next day.
There was no hint in his strange fortitude that he had been punished by being cast out.
Although it was a resignation speech, he never used the word “resignation.” He hasn’t resigned yet. In the final hours before his public concession speech, he appointed a new cabinet to guide him through a transition period, deliberately excluding those with experience in public administration who resigned to force him out.
Plans to remain a deputy
For now, Boris Johnson has outwitted the parliamentary party that wants to get rid of him. It is likely to last no more than a few weeks until September 5, when parliament returns from its summer break and the Conservative Party must announce a new leader.
After his shift as prime minister, his aides said he planned to stay on as an MP, like May.
He may just be trapped until the next general election. Current opinion polls suggest Uxbridge would be another Conservative by-election defeat compared to Shropshire, Tiverton and Wakefield if contested now.
Unlike Thatcher or Blair, he did not give the impression that he knew that this was indeed “the end”, as Blair said of his active political career.
Johnson has had so many great successes in the past because of disasters that he still won’t admit outright that it’s over this time.
Survival was always more important to him than honesty, integrity and mutual respect. This is his biggest difference from recent predecessors of prime ministers, who were also dispensed with by their parties.
Adam Boulton writes a column for Sky News every Friday.