Boris Johnson says Tories ‘changed the rules’ as he complains about his removal in final speech as PM

PM grumbles about leaving ‘halfway through’ – but promises ‘fervent’ support for Liz Truss

Adam Forrest,Andrew Woodcock
Tuesday 06 September 2022 08:34 BST
'This is it, folks': Boris Johnson gives farewell speech outside Downing Street

Boris Johnson has complained that the Conservatives “changed the rules” as he complained about his removal from office during his final speech as prime minister.

The outgoing leader said he was “passing the torch” to Liz Truss, before making a bitter reference to the revolt which forced him out just three years after the 2019 general election victory.

“The baton will be handed over in what has unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race – they changed the rules halfway through, but never mind,” he said outside No 10.

Despite speculation that he is plotting a comeback, Mr Johnson signalled that he will step back from frontline politics after leaving Downing Street.

He declared that, like the boosters jettisoned as a space rocket streaks skywards, “I will now be re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote and obscure corner of the Pacific”.

The departing PM also promised the most “fervent” support to his successor Ms Truss from the Tory backbenches, and issued a plea for Conservatives to end infighting and rally behind her.

Referring to his pet dog and the Downing Street cat, he said: “If Dilyn and Larry can put behind them their occasional differences, then so too can the Conservative Party”.

However, Mr Johnson also raised eyebrows by compared himself to Roman military general Cincinnatus, saying he was “returning to my plough”. Cincinnatus later returned to power as a dictator.

In an attempt to shape his legacy as PM, Mr Johnson said he was “proud to have discharged the promises” he made in 2019, claiming to have delivered Brexit and social care reform.

He claimed that he had helped ensure Britain was “standing tall in the world” and boasted of “speaking with clarity and authority” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But much of his address amounted to a list of unfulfilled promises, in an apparent attempt to lock his successor in to delivering unfinished business, such as recruiting 20,000 more police and 50,000 nurses and building 40 new hospitals, three high-speed rail lines and a nuclear reactor every year.

He also made clear that he expects a major intervention on energy bills during the cost of living crisis, saying: “I know that Liz Truss and this compassionate Conservative government will do everything we can to get people through this crisis.”

Mr Johnson said he was confident the new Tory administration would “give people the cash they need to get through this energy crisis that has been caused by Putin’s vicious war”.

Mr Johnson also hailed the success of the Covid vaccines rollout. “The people who delivered the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe ... That is government for you. That’s this Conservative government.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said Mr Johnson was listing “imaginary achievements” in his resignation speech, describing him as “the worst PM of the modern era …. He was exposed as a liar and a charlatan. Good riddance.”

Ms Truss, who will travel to Balmoral to accept the role of prime minister from the Queen later on Tuesday, is thought to be drawing up plans for a freeze in bills which could cost around £100bn.

The plan could see the government subsidising the extra cost of wholesale gas being bought by energy companies, according to The Times. But energy industry chiefs have suggested that the huge loans would be repaid through levy on household bills once the crisis is over.

She is expected to begin a cabinet reshuffle as soon as Tuesday afternoon after she delivers her first address to the nation as prime minister from Downing Street around 4pm.

Home secretary Priti Patel and culture secretary Nadine Dorries both stepped down ahead of a reshuffle. Close Truss ally Therese Coffey – tipped to become health secretary and potentially deputy PM – said the new cabinet would be revealed today.

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