Boris Johnson is no Arnold Schwarzenegger. But he managed to use the latter’s catchphrase with the same elan as he made his final address to parliament as the country’s prime minister. Like the Terminator’s iconic dialogue, Johnson’s “hasta la vista, baby” was a bit cheeky — less a final farewell than the hint of a sequel.
Johnson was at his cutting best. He defended his government’s performance in handling the pandemic, boasted about getting Brexit done and moralised about helping the people of Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion. Even though he received a standing ovation from the Conservative benches — many of the MPs were ministers who resigned and others who openly rebelled against Johnson — the prime minister did little to assuage rumours that Downing Street was running an “anyone but Rishi (Sunak)” campaign. When asked about the race for his successor, he replied, a bit sarcastically, “I’m not following this thing particularly closely”.
Johnson did not address the Partygate scandal or the furore over him allegedly ignoring reports of sexual harassment about former deputy whip Chris Pincher: And for all the controversy he courted and far-reaching consequences of his campaign for, and then stewardship of Brexit, Johnson was the most popular British PM in over 30 years. In the 2019 election, he led the Conservatives to a voteshare that no party in the UK had seen since 1979. In some ways, it is a testament to the Westminster system that his popularity was not enough of a shield against his repeated acts of impropriety. Johnson first became PM not through a general election but because of the crisis of leadership in his party. Now, through a crisis of his own making, he has been ousted by it. But, given that the only opinion poll that matters — an election — had endorsed him, there’s always the chance that he tries his luck at leadership again, “hasta la vista” notwithstanding.
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