Boris Johnson used his departing speech as prime minister to thank the “fantastic group of public servants” who supported him in Downing Street, but wasted no time in criticising MPs for forcing him from office.
Johnson sent a strong message that he feels unfairly treated at the hands of his own MPs, who effectively defenestrated him over failings in his leadership style – best illustrated by his handling of the Chris Pincher and Owen Paterson affairs, and the Partygate scandal.
Before departing Downing Street to head to Balmoral for an audience with the Queen ahead of new Conservative Party leader Liz Truss’s appointment as prime minister, Johnson said MPs had “changed the rules half way through” his term in office.
Johnson ran through a list of achievements he would like to be remembered for – many very much still works in progress, such as new hospitals, social-care reform, high-speed railway lines, and nuclear power stations – but also praised government staff for more measurable achievements.
“Through that lacquered black door a new prime minister will shortly go to meet a fantastic group of public servants,” he said, gesturing towards No.10 behind him.
“The people who got Brexit done; the people who delivered the fastest vaccine roll out in Europe; the people who organised those prompt early supplies of weapons to the heroic Ukrainian armed forces, an action that may very well have helped change the course of the biggest European war for 80 years.”
Johnson also praised officials’ work to aid economic recovery since summer 2021, when the government’s “roadmap out of lockdown” reached its final stage.
“Because of the speed and urgency of what you did – everybody involved in this government – to get this economy moving again from July last year in spite of all opposition, all the naysayers, we have and will continue to have that economic strength to give people the cash they need to get through this energy crisis that has been caused by Putin’s vicious war,” he said.
Johnson also praised No.10 staff for looking after him and his family – the two youngest of his children were yet to be born when he became PM in 2019.
“Thank you to everyone behind me in this building for looking after me and my family over the last three years so well, including Dilyn the dog,” he said.
“And I just say to my party, if Dilyn and Larry can put behind them their occasional difficulties, then so can the Conservative Party.”
No.10 cat Larry has now seen three prime ministers depart Downing Street, with a residency more than double the length of Johnson’s three years and 45 days in office as PM.
At the weekend, before the results of the Conservative Party leadership race between Truss and former chancellor Rishi Sunak were revealed, spoof campaign adverts for a party leadership bid by Larry appeared in London, under the Larry4Leader banner.
Johnson’s final address in Downing Street also made reference to the Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a farmer who was twice called on to lead Rome in a time of crisis.
“Like Cincinnatus I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support,” he said.
He concluded: “I will be supporting Liz Truss and our new government every step of the way.”