OPINION: Tories knew Johnson's flaws but still imposed him on the country

Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, formally resigning

Boris Johnson gives his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson’s premiership has ended, as it was always going to, in disaster and chaos.

No one knew this was going to happen better than the Conservative MPs and party members who voted him in as Prime Minister and then went out to persuade the country to vote for him in the last General Election.

I remember in 2019, when the Conservative leadership contest was underway, one senior Suffolk Conservative cheerfully telling me that “Boris” was either going to be “completely brilliant or a complete disaster”. The problem was that “you never knew which Boris you were going to get” but he “hoped” we’d get the brilliant one.

The Conservatives went into this with their eyes wide open. They knew all his flaws but imposed him on the country regardless.

The episode that finally finished Boris Johnson off was shabby, sordid and typical of his government.

The Conservative Deputy Chief Whip resigned after he was accused of drunkenly molesting two men. It then emerged that he faced a history of sexual assault allegations, that Boris Johnson was fully aware of this but promoted him anyway.

To cover this up Boris Johnson did what comes as naturally to him as breathing: he lied. For day after day, he humiliated a succession of Government ministers by forcing them out into TV studios to repeat his lies.

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The most astonishing thing is that it took Conservative MPs so long to get rid of him. The blatant rule-breaking of Partygate, trying to fix the rules to save his sleazy mate Owen Paterson, the lie after lie after lie – any one of these should have been enough for them to turn against him.

But less than a month ago the majority of Conservative MPs – including the majority in Suffolk – voted for him to carry on in a motion of no confidence. 

Those that finally turned on him to save their own skins deserve no credit for belatedly owning up to what was obvious to the rest of the country a long time ago: that Boris Johnson is the most corrupt, dishonest and incompetent person ever to hold the post of British Prime Minister.

Even then they couldn’t get rid of him properly. Despite days of chaos and a period of at least 24 hours when, for the first time in its history, Britain was without a functioning government Boris Johnson is still clinging on as Prime Minister.

Only hours before, Conservative MPs berated Boris Johnson for being “without honour or integrity” but now they think it’s OK for him to stay on as our Prime Minister.

Who knows what further chaos he will wreak in the extra time they have allowed him? 

Even after he resigned there have been revelations that he met an ex-KGB agent and Putin ally without officials present while Foreign Secretary, the details of £200,000 spent refurbishing his Downing Street flat – there’s obviously no cost of living crisis for Boris Johnson – and he has had to cancel a big private party at taxpayer-funded Chequers.

But this isn’t about just one uniquely bad Prime Minister. It is about the Conservative Party that put him there, defended him and covered up for him time and time again.

The Conservatives like to claim that they are the “natural party of government” and that if anyone else was running the country it would be “chaos”, but no other political party has inflicted on Britain the grotesque chaos we saw last week.

The Conservatives have been running our country for 12 years now.

We are in the midst of a gigantic cost of living crisis and teetering on the brink of recession.

NHS waiting lists are at an all-time high. It can take weeks to get a GP appointment and it’s virtually impossible to sign on to an NHS dentist.

Cuts to police numbers have led to widespread crime and anti-social behaviour going unpunished. Only 2% of reported rapes end in a successful prosecution.

The dream of owning a home – or even renting a decent one – is out of reach for the majority of young people. Many of those who bought a high-rise flat have been left with an unsaleable liability or even forced into bankruptcy by the cladding scandal.

Far from “getting Brexit done” as promised, there are still mountains of unresolved issues such as the Northern Ireland Protocol and millions of pounds spent on Border Control Posts that aren’t being used.

The standing of our government in the eyes of the rest of the world has never been lower, our influence never weaker.

We will shortly be told that the new Conservative Prime Minister is the best we’ve ever had and will fix all this.

But we’ve been told that about the last three Conservative Prime Ministers. In reality, each one has been worse than the last and the country is in a worse state now than when they started.

It’s not just Boris Johnson who needs to go. It’s the whole rotten lot of them.

- David Ellesmere is the Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council