At 9:15am on the day Britain decided to leave the EU, David Cameron made a speech that not only ended his own time as our Prime Minister, but also culled any good chance Boris Johnson had of succeeding him.
Boris Johnson, the winner of what has been described as the biggest referendum in Britain’s history, has been constantly described as looking ‘downbeat’ since the UK decided to leave the EU last Thursday. This seems incredulous. He’s got what he wanted, and to the unassuming eye, that makes him one of the most likely candidates to become a future Prime Minister of the UK. But in a five minute speech, Cameron made Boris’ chances a whole lot slimmer. And now, a week on, he’s made the announcement he won’t be running. A shock, considering he was a favourite; but I was far from surprised.
Brexit has always been a case of ‘Civil War’ within government. In the past, David and Boris have always been buddies; they’re both Conservatives, and when Johnson left his role as Mayor of London to become MP of Uxbridge and South Ruslip (“Where?”), this was clearly part of a cleverly devised plan to put Johnson in the running to be Prime Minister. Only MPs can become PMs, after all. Yet, these two political heavyweights entered the ring against each other when it came to the EU Referendum. Both appeared in TV debates to argue their side, but interestingly never faced each other in the media eye – while the Question Time debates saw Cameron vs. Michael Gove, the ‘Great Debate’ pitched Johnson against his Mayor of London successor Sadiq Khan.
As the morning of Friday 24th June dawned with a country divided but ultimately out of the EU, David Cameron was very much expected to remain at that country’s head. Most telling of all, this was Boris Johnson’s desire; he joined many other Brexiters the day before to sign a collective letter to Cameron, asking him to stay on as PM if they left the EU. With the PM promised to make an appearance around 8-9AM, the minutes ticked past his ETA in a very un-Cameron fashion, with the door to Number 10 firmly shut. When he emerged at 9:15, and started his speech by referring to his prime minister-ship in the past tense, Boris Johnson’s well set out plan was completely exploded.
Several key things can be taken from David Cameron’s decision to resign. Cameron, for once, has stuck to his guns. I take my cap off to him. For once, he’s not being the typical slimy politician, changing his opinions and stance on an argument the moment the wind blows in the opposite direction. Leading a country that completely ignored his desperate pleas to stay in the EU (and defied pretty much the entire government, even when Conservative and Labour swallowed their past to become allies) would have ultimately been a despicable moral U-turn. People, myself included, respect this. Take two of the biggest opposites in the Great Politics Game right now – Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage. They couldn’t be anymore different, but both have fiercely distinctive personalities and opinions. Sometimes, they get slammed for that, like Corbyn is currently. But politicians are more than often like weak squash, tasteless without any real colour to them. In one five minute speech in which he stuck to his guns, my respect for Cameron rose, and my critique of a new PM in response was raised – not that I had much time for Boris anyway.
So Boris was already groaning. Then, David Cameron announced he would be working out a notice of three months before retiring from his role. “How nice of him to give us so much notice!” – Boris didn’t say. Three months is a long time. A long time for which the wool to fall from people’s eyes about the disadvantages with leaving. There’s little we can do about it now, but people are going to start to realise they have been fed some big porkies in Vote Leave’s campaign. Less than 24 hours after voting ended, Farage was on Good Morning Britain admitting that the stat ‘£350m from the EU for the NHS’ was ‘misleading’, despite it being plastered on hundreds of buses nationwide. Whoops! More
lies ‘honest mistakes’ to be exposed in the coming months, I’m sure. By the time Boris Johnson would have been in the run for PM, the anger will almost certainly be starting to rise from the 51%, his own camp.
There’s also three months until proceedings to actually #Brexit are triggered. Here lies the fatal stab wound for Boris Johnson’s PM career. If he were to become Prime Minister now, he would have to deal with the trainwreck which is coming. The next few years, in an apocalyptic worst case scenario, could see Scotland and maybe even Northern Ireland branch away from the UK, trade agreements broken, and more than likely, a recession. Come four years time, when there is another general election, the Tory party is going to have left a very bad taste in voters’ mouths. Their leadership is a poison chalice.
Johnson is ‘downbeat’ as his plan has backfired on him. Here’s what he wanted. If David Cameron had stayed on, he would have been left to deal with the all the chaos that leaving the EU is going to throw at this government (I don’t care if you’re Leave or Remain; just think of all that paperwork). He then would have left naturally, at the end of his third term. Then Boris could have strode forward, as the man who won the Brexit campaign, and was initially blocked from taking his rightful throne by Cameron, the power-hungry turncloak. God, if he was lucky, the former PM – who has previously vetoed Johnson as a future candidate for his role – might have even endorsed him.
But nope – Cameron dropped the mic, with the resounding message: “Deal with your own shitstorm”. And Boris has been pushed forward before he is really ready to run, an ‘all or nothing’ situation for him; and now he’s chickened out. If he were to lose this time round, he would have been marked as a failed candidate. And, to be honest, things didn’t look too good for him, despite what the papers were saying. There are far more electable figures in the running, like Theresa May or Stephen Crabb. God forbid we get Michael Gove. When Boris says: “There’s no need to immediately trigger negotiations to leave the EU”, what he’s really saying is “Crap! Hang on, hang on, let’s all just wait!” in the face of an avalanche. All this is what you get for stabbing your own party in the back, Mr Johnson.