Europe

‘Hasta la vista, baby’: Boris Johnson bows out after final PMQs

The UK’s scandal-ridden leader Boris Johnson concluded his final Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday with a famous catchphrase from the Terminator.

Johnson, who announced his resignation on 7 July after a string of scandals, rounded off his final appearance at the dispatch box by praising his self-perceived accomplishments in delivering Brexit, leading the UK through the COVID pandemic, and supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

“Mission largely accomplished, for now,” Johnson told MPs. “I want to thank all the wonderful staff at the House of Commons, I want to thank all my friends and colleagues.”

“I want to thank everybody here, and hasta la vista, baby,” he added as Conservative MPs gave him a standing ovation.

His speech comes as the Conservative Party enters the final stages of selecting his successor Wednesday.

It was a downbeat departure for Johnson, with supportive Conservative backbenchers lobbing praise and opposition politicians offering variations on “good riddance.”

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said: “I will miss the delusion.”

Parliament breaks for summer recess on Thursday and the Conservatives will spend the next six weeks electing a new party leader and, by extension, a new prime minister.

Conservative MPs will hold a final elimination vote on Wednesday afternoon to cut the field of three remaining candidates down to two, with the results of which expected at 16:00 today.

Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Liz Truss and trade minister Penny Mordaunt are battling for the run-off spots. The two finalists will then go to a vote by all 160,000 members of the Conservative Party following a month of hustings and campaigning, with a winner scheduled to be announced by 5 September.

Sunak has led every round of voting so far and is highly likely to make the final two. Truss, who is favoured by the parts of the party’s right-wing, and Mordaunt, who has scored highly in polls of party members, are wooing MPs in an attempt to clinch the other spot.

Even though Truss has come third in every vote so far, bookmakers say she is the favourite to win the contest with Mordaunt because she is gaining momentum.

Their bitter campaign has exposed deep divisions in the Conservative Party at the end of Johnson’s scandal-tarnished three-year reign. 

Opponents have branded Sunak a “socialist” for raising taxes in response to the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and the Ukraine war, with the former chancellor of the exchequer hitting back that his rivals are peddling economic “fairy tales.”

The contenders are all trying to distance themselves from Johnson, whose term in office began boldly in 2019 with a vow to “get Brexit done” and a resounding election victory, but is now ending in disgrace for some.

Johnson remained in office through months of controversy surrounding his finances and his judgment, refusing to resign when he was fined by police over drunken parties during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

He finally quit after another scandal — appointing a politician accused of sexual misconduct — which drove his ministers to resign en masse.

Despite remaining prime minister, Johnson has largely stepped back from the public eye, even as the UK faces a summer cost-of-living crisis and labour discontent as inflation hits 9.4%.

Johnson did not attend any government emergency meetings about the heat wave that brought temperatures of 40C to the UK this week. 

Last week he took a ride in a Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet, with “Top Gun”-style footage released by his office, then threw a weekend party at Chequers, the country house that comes with the prime minister’s job.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who represents the opposition Labour Party, accused Johnson of wanting to “become Tom Cruise” and urged him to resign immediately.

“We need a full-time prime minister looking after our country rather than somebody who’s checked out,” Khan said.

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