Lloyd Evans

Boris is right, this is a putsch

The people made him. Politicians hacked him down

Boris is right, this is a putsch
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There was no bitterness. And the blame was issued in coded terms. Boris’s resignation speech began with a reference to his most notable achievement: the ‘incredible mandate’ he secured in 2019 and which gave the Tories their largest majority since 1987 and their biggest share of the vote since 1979. He spelled that out explicitly. And he left it hanging in the air. He outlined his main successes in office: completing Brexit, beating the pandemic, overseeing the vaccine rollout, and ‘leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression.’

He accepted full responsibility for the chaos of the last few days. He explained that he ‘fought so hard’ because he wanted to persuade his colleagues that it would be ‘eccentric’, (i.e. utterly bonkers), to throw away his thumping majority by changing leader. Yet he failed to win them over. Even in mid-term, he stressed, the Tories are just a handful of points behind Labour. It was a strong hint that a bit more loyalty might have generated a second victory.

‘But as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when it moves, it moves,’ he said, clearly but unmistakeably describing his colleagues as a bunch of moo-cows. And, rather late in the day, he revealed the philosophy behind his ‘levelling up’ agenda. ‘If I have one insight into human beings it is that genius, talent, enthusiasm, ingenuity and imagination are evenly disturbed throughout the population. But opportunity is not.’

He claimed that ‘our brilliant Darwinian system’ will produce a new leader equally committed to taking the country forwards. ‘Our future together is golden,’ he said, with typically groundless optimism. Johnson finished with a tribute to key government departments: the NHS, the police and the armed services. ‘And our indefatigable Conservative party members and supporters whose selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.’

Yet this is precisely the constituency that took no part in Boris’s stabbing. Those who voted Tory in 2019 never had a chance to stay the assassins’ hands. That should worry everyone. The people raised this man up as their leader but his party hacked him down and threw him in a shallow pit. The bond of trust between the voters and the system that should serve them has been gravely damaged by this insane putsch. And so the process of choosing his soon-to-be-ousted successor begins.

Written byLloyd Evans

Lloyd Evans is The Spectator's sketch-writer and theatre critic

Topics in this articlePolitics