Boris Johnson pays for his ‘lies’ in a lesson for other democracies
The British PM’s resignation after lying through his teeth about ‘everything’ has lessons for leaders and democracies. Read the full text of the resignation letters sent in by two of his ministers
Andrew Neil, former editor of Sunday Times on Wednesday tweeted, “I have always resisted comparisons between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. But not tonight.” Lionel Barber, one of the longest serving editors of Financial Times described Johnson as ‘utterly selfish and irresponsible’ and quipped “Hapless Johnson clinging to power reminds me of that old Wall Street saying: “if you can keep your head while everyone is losing theirs, then maybe you don’t understand what the hell is going on”. By Thursday morning, Boris Johnson knew the writing on the wall. After battling criticism for lying incessantly, and despite winning the trust vote barely two months ago, it was time to pack up.
The British Prime Minister had lied once too often. And when the National Audit Office of the UK announced it was reviewing the claim made in the Conservative manifesto of 2019 that 40 new hospitals would be built, it came as the last straw. The NAO was looking into complaints that many of the ‘new’ hospitals were actually old and were merely being upgraded. It was also investigating delays which had pushed up the cost.
Johnson lying about participating in parties at 10, Downing Street during Covid lockdown and feigning ignorance about sex escapades of his ministers was one thing but making false promises breached the ‘honesty standards’ that British public opinion hold dear.
There are possibly lessons to be learnt by other democracies including India; and the two resignation letters by two high profile ministers, Rishi Sunak of Indian origin and Sajid Javid of Pakistani origin, are reminders of values in public life. Rishi Sunak reminds the PM that people know that if something is too good to be true, then it is not true. He appears to accuse Johnson of hiding the truth from the public, which is ready to hear it, he writes. “We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions,” Sunak goes on to mention in his resignation letter.
Sajid Javid wrote, “The tone you set as leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party, and ultimately the country. Conservatives at their best are seen as hard-headed decision-makers, guided by strong values. We may not always have been popular, but we have been competent” but went on to add that the public now find them to be neither competent nor adhering to values.
The complete text of the two resignation letters are reproduced here:
Resignation Letter of Rishi Sunak
Dear Prime Minister,
It is with deep sadness that I am writing to you to resign from the Government.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve our country as Chancellor of the Exchequer and I will always be proud of how during the pandemic we protected people's jobs and businesses through actions such as furlough.
To leave ministerial office is a serious matter at any time. For me to step down as Chancellor while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.
However, the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.
I have been loyal to you. I backed you to become Leader of our Party and encouraged others to do so. I have served as your Chancellor with gratitude that you entrusted me with stewardship of the nation's economy and finances. Above all, I have respected the powerful mandate given to you by the British people in 2019 and how under your leadership we broke the Brexit deadlock.
That is why I have always tried to compromise in order to deliver the things you want to achieve. On those occasions where I disagreed with you privately, I have supported you publicly. That is the nature of the collective government upon which our system relies and it is particularly important that the Prime Minister and Chancellor remain united in hard times such as those we are experiencing today.
Our country is facing immense challenges. We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions.
I firmly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it's not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.
I am sad to be leaving Government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.
Sajid Javid's resignation letter
It was a privilege to have been asked to come back into Government to serve as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care at such a critical time for our country. I have given every ounce of energy to this task, and am incredibly proud of what we have achieved.
The UK has led the world in learning to live with Covid. Thanks to the amazing rollout of our booster programme, investment in treatments, and innovations in the way we deliver healthcare, the British people have enjoyed months more freedom than other comparable countries.
We have also made important strides in the recovery and reform of the NHS and adult social care. The longest waiters are down by 70% and, as you know, I have been working hard on wider modernisation of the NHS. I have also developed radical new approaches to dementia, cancer and mental health, and prepared the Health Disparities White Paper which will set out plans to level up health outcomes for communities that have been left behind for too long.
Given the unprecedented scale of the challenges in health and social care, it has been my instinct to continue focusing on this important work. So it is with enormous regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this Government, I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government.
The tone you set as leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party, and ultimately the country. Conservatives at their best are seen as hard-headed decision-makers, guided by strong values. We may not always have been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest.
Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are neither. The vote of confidence last month showed that a large number of our colleagues agree. It was a moment for humility, grip and new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership - and you have therefore lost my confidence too.
It is three years since you entered Downing Street. You will forever be credited with seeing off the threat of Corbynism, and breaking the deadlock on Brexit. You have shone a very welcome light on the regional disparities on our country, an agenda that will continue to define our politics. These are commendable legacies in unprecedented times.
But the country needs a strong and principled Conservative Party, and the Party is bigger than any one individual. I served you loyally and as a friend, but we all serve the country first. When made to choose between those loyalties there can only be one answer.
Finally, I would like to put on record my thanks to ministerial and departmental colleagues, my admiration for NHS and social care staff, and my love for my family who have been immensely patient in these challenging times.