Reign BoJo: Shaft of sadness and inextinguishable hope
By Orkhan Amashov
History has a fascinatingly uncanny propensity to distinguish the substantial from the trivial. The massive campaign mounted against the now-outgoing British Prime Minister will go down as constituting the latter; Boris Johnson’s reign, on the other hand, will be remembered for its sheer import and lasting impact that will never cease to haunt his detractors.
His tenure at Downing Street should have lasted a decade at least, and posterity should have remembered the 20s of our century as the glittering golden age of BoJo. Yet here we are. The carefully and relentlessly engineered internal Tory rebellion, which in its final phase included the upper crust of the cabinet, compelled the Blond Exocet to officially resign as Conservative leader, which means that, in less than two months, he will depart Number 10, much to the chagrin of his steadfast supporters.
“In politics, no-one is remotely indispensable”, said Boris in his resignation announcement. Yet, one cannot help but be certain of his own indispensability in terms of the course the UK has charted before and during his time at the top of British politics.
Despite being a Tory, Johnson managed to become Mayor of Labour-inclined London. No other fellow Conservative would have achieved the same. His role in the Brexit campaign was supremely critical. His powers of persuasion, rhetorical brilliance, and the instinct he had for the correct course of action culminated in the historic 23 June referendum verdict in 2016, putting the British withdrawal from the EU in motion.
In 2019, when Theresa May was unable to pull the strings, Johnson emerged as the only person able to unite the party and consequently the nation. In December of the self-same year, the Conservatives, under his helm, achieved a landslide victory – the biggest since the time of Margaret Thatcher - sending a death blow to Jeremy Corbyn’s Old Labour and ensuring the irreversibility of Brexit.
His government faced a once-in-a-generation health crisis and tackled it. The initiation of the swift and efficient rollout of the best Covid vaccines, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, saved an estimated 10,000 lives. His anti-lockdown instinct effectively impacted Britain's balanced recalibration between restriction and relaxation-oriented measures.
His leadership during the course of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis has been unmatched. As Tony Abbot, former Australian PM, has wisely reminded us recently and all of the current Tory leadership contenders, filling his shoes on the world stage will be a task of gargantuan proportions.
His Churchillian self-assurance mobilised the West, echoing the old adage that it is at the time of great trial that a great leader is primed to show how great he or she is. It came as no surprise that his resignation prompted mourning in Ukraine and felicitation in Moscow.
As with any other great figure of elevated standing, Johnson will go down in history as someone who achieved victories, which very few of his contemporaries could have imagined coveting; and, simultaneously, one can’t help but ruefully reflect on so many other pinnacles that could have claimed and will never be.
The putchists, who toppled Boris, were not driven by their half-feigned dismay at the Partygate scandal or other mishaps of minor import in the grand scheme of things, but by that which history will prove to be a grave miscalculation – the sense that Johnson had become a liability and incapable of securing a victory in another election.
Be in no doubt that, once a new Tory leader assumes the role of Prime Minister, Labour will push for a new general election on the basis that the public has not voted for them. Expect #NotMyPM hashtags or something along the line contaminating the social media networks from September onwards. Indeed, Neil Watson, a British journalist, closely intertwined with the Labour party, assures me that such a campaign is primed for the onslaught.
Under the present British system and in light of the practicalities, as they could be ascertained today, BoJo’s chances of return are less than miniscule. But, it appears to be more than a likely possibility that some elements of a nascent ‘Return Boris’ project will surface in the upcoming days.
Conservative Post has reported that the Tory party is under huge pressure – from members and high-profile donors – asking if there is any way Johnson may stay at the helm. A significant portion of the membership argues that there has been no explicit mandate from people to topple the outgoing PM. However, those who have invested money are deeply worried that the party without BoJo is gravely risking its present electability.
Petronella Wyatt, a journalist and former Deputy Editor at the Spectator - at one time helmed by BoJo - claimed that a source at Number 10 had told her that Boris would stand down as PM in order to run for the Tory leadership. Downing Street swiftly issued a denial.
BoJo's legacy is secure. So, great and monumental have been his achievements that however unthinkable and preposterously wild the idea of his "comeback" may appear to be, even that possibility will loom large over the party and the nation for some time to come.
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