Boris Johnson’s final speech as Prime Minister followed the same path as many of his previous public outings: he loudly extolled what he considers his achievements, made no mention of his failures or his scandals, and showed a flash of bitterness towards those who ended up bringing him down.
“That’s it, folks,” Johnson began, before embarking on a well-rehearsed list of domestic policies he’s keen to call successful.
But Johnson was also keen to define himself as a statesman and was quick to quote his response to the Ukraine crisis at the start of the speech, suggesting that the UK arms supply “may very well have contributed to turn the tide of Europe’s greatest war in 80 years.
Concluding his speech, he added among the triumphs of his government: “Speaking with clarity and authority, from Ukraine to the Aukus pact with America and Australia, because we are a whole United Kingdom and whole, whose diplomatic security services and armed forces are so globally admired.
That emphasis could hint at future career plans outside the UK – or it could just be a tacit acknowledgment that at home he is leaving office with his country mired in an economic crisis and millions of households struggling to make ends meet.
Johnson turned down the chance to apologize for Partygate, the scandal of a series of lockdown-era rallies in Downing Street that served as the first and biggest domino in his downfall. Nor did he acknowledge the declining public trust in his government, nor the constant accusations from politicians left and right that he has lowered public standards.
But he suggested that even after a summer of reflecting on the collapse of his leadership, he still retains some bitterness about how he was kicked out.
His joke about the leadership race becoming a “relay race” after his colleagues “changed the rules” came long before any mention of his successor, Liz Truss. And he reminded the public of his landslide election victory less than three years ago, which left many pundits predicting a new political dynasty with Johnson at the helm.
“I’m proud to have delivered on the promises I made to my party when you were kind enough to pick me, winning the biggest majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979,” Johnson said.
But British policy is notoriously brutal; his colleagues moved quickly to depose Johnson this summer after the glow of that electoral success was extinguished by months of scandal and declining poll numbers. And now, after being cheered on from Downing Street, Johnson is heading to Scotland to formally tender his resignation to the Queen and start life as a private citizen.