Today, Boris Johnson formally stood down as UK Prime Minister and has been replaced by Liz Truss who accepted an invitation from the Queen to form a new government.
Thus culminates a fraught summer in which Truss and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak battled it out in a leadership contest that started in July with eight candidates vying for the top job after Johnson resigned as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party.
And so we have a new Party leader and Prime Minister, the third in six years (or the fourth in seven years) as critics like to point out. Time will tell how capable or not Ms Truss turns out to be in grappling with a daunting to-do list and how long she will endure as PM (the bookies currently don’t give her good odds on a long run, says Bloomberg).
What now for Boris Johnson?
By any measure, Boris Johnson departs Number 10 Downing Street with a mission unfulfilled. Yesterday, he summarized his term in office with a tweet itemising his accomplishments that he described in a farewell speech earlier this morning.
Hmm, ‘delusional’ was my reaction. I could say “You should get your facts checked first, Boris,” but that’s not Boris’ style. Smoke and mirrors more like it.
Alastair Campbell tweeted a good summary of Boris’ leadership.
I’m reminded that Boris Johnson has been a fixture of the landscape these past six years as viewed through the lens of The Small Data Forum podcast. This monthly business and politics podcast was founded in June 2016 by Sam Knowles, Thomas Stoeckle and I with the broad goal of “taking a sideways look at the uses and abuses of data big and small in politics, business, and public life with opinion and insights that challenge accepted wisdoms.”
Over the years we’ve taken a very sideways look at Johnson and his government, sometimes provoking lively debate among us three podders with our different perspectives on the topics we talk about.
Our August episode is a good case in point, where we engaged in some trenchant discussion prompted by the wave of cries of “enough is enough!” reverberating up and down the land as increasing calls to address the cost of living crisis, spiralling energy costs and fuel poverty (highlighted from a very long list) finally got mainstream attention. Not from the government, though, which had checked out due to the Conservative Party leadership contest distraction and Johnson’s lack of, well, leadership.
This Thursday, September 8, we three will convene to record our September episode. For the first time, we’re doing this in an actual recording studio in central London rather than our usual virtual gathering via Zoom. I wonder what we’ll be talking about?
And so, some concluding words on Boris Johnson. I’m not here to deliver a deep analysis or write his obituary (political, that is) – you can google and find a plethora of such content. No, I just want to illustrate what I think of him.
Or rather, what I think he thinks of everyone else: his political colleagues and foes, the great British public, others beyond these shores.
The illustration at the top portrays this, his fuck-you attitude.
It’s an illustration by the wood engraver and artist Hilary Paynter that I saw on display in the Bankside Gallery on the South Bank of the River Thames in London in December 2016. I originally shared my photo of it on Instagram.
This particular work I photographed is from a limited edition: see the numbers at bottom in the image left – 7/100. Actually that could also be a marker of Johnson’s performance as PM: 7 out of 100.
Sounds about right to me.
I hope Johnson just goes. Hence, “Adiós” rather than “Hasta la vista baby” in the headline of this article. Heaven forbid if I need to write another article anytime soon featuring another of Arnie’s greatest lines: “I’ll be back.”
Say it won’t be so, Liz!