After a rush of resignations from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s beleaguered government over recent days, Johnson himself stepped down on Thursday.
Conservative lawmakers staged a mass revolt against his leadership, which was plagued by one scandal on the heels of another. Johnson acknowledged his dramatic loss of support among his ideological colleagues in Parliament, saying “when the herd moves, it moves.”
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts declared the death of the “age of the right-wing populist.” The pair opined that the movement will soon be carried on only by cable news hosts and a few “dimwitted” elected officials. Of course, consider the source.
Johnson’s move was not an immediate clean break, and some in the British Parliament are outraged.
Johnson announced that while he stepped down immediately as Conservative Party leader, he will remain as prime minister until a successor is named.
The perpetually rumpled politician’s resignation caps a spectacular fall for a man who won an overwhelming victory just three years ago. He promised the British public a new Brexit deal and a new path for Great Britain independent of the European Union.
Voters responded by giving him a powerful 80-seat majority in the House of Commons. Johnson was then able to push Brexit through the Parliament when the prime minister he replaced, Theresa May, could not.
But scandals proved too much to overcome. The mass exodus of government ministers and calls for Johnson to step down only intensified in recent days.
Johnson was accused of using donated funds to renovate his private residence and intervening for party members who broke rules. There was a sharp public outcry when government office parties ignored pandemic restrictions the U.K.’s leadership imposed on the people.
“Partygate” took on a life of its own, and Johnson along with 82 others were fined by police for the policy violation.
The final straw came over sexual misconduct allegations against party colleague Chris Pincher. It was revealed that Johnson knew about the charges before granting the accused a promotion to deputy chief whip earlier in 2022.
The prime minister’s changing narrative about his knowledge of the accusations proved too much even for his supporters. Many of Johnson’s closest political allies came forward to advise him specifically to stop down to maintain party and government integrity.
This hardly signals the close of conservative or “populist” leadership, but in this one case, it was time to go.