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LONDON — Defeated Boris Johnson planned to leave Downing Street last year with jokes about the Dignitas suicide clinic and the children’s nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty as part of an offensive targeting Conservative MPs.
The first version of the resignation speech Johnson delivered when he resigned as British prime minister in July 2022 was toned down after discussions with friends and advisers, removing some of the more direct remarks.
First revealed in journalist Ben Riley-Smith’s new book The Right to Rule – and shared with POLITICO ahead of the book’s publication next week – the project clearly shows the depth of betrayal Johnson felt towards his ministers, who forced him out of office by resigning in mass to protest his handling of a sex scandal.
Johnson’s first attempt included this sentence: “Over the past 48 hours, I have been struck by the number of colleagues who have asked me to resign with dignity, as if they represent some kind of euthanasia clinic.” » Riley-Smith confirms that this was a reference to the controversial Swiss assisted dying center Dignitas.
The draft continues: “I can’t ask good friends and colleagues to glue Humpty back together, when they are frankly hesitant or unsupportive. »
It was sent to Johnson’s friends and advisors at 7:23 a.m. on July 7, 2022, less than two hours before his official resignation was announced.
He also alluded to what he saw as his trial by the social media platform Twitter (now renamed Members of Parliament, On the beach we could have sorted this out and gone on to beat Labor at the next election.
The three lines were removed from the speech before he delivered it shortly before noon that day.
In their place was a striking new phrase which, Riley-Smith reveals, was coined by Nadhim Zahawi, whom Johnson had appointed chancellor two days earlier. “As we saw at Westminster, the herd is powerful. And when the herd moves, it moves.
Johnson was forced out of office after three years as prime minister following a series of scandals, including multiple breaches of lockdown rules at No 10 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final straw for his ministers was his misleading response to accusations that he had appointed an ally, Christopher Pincher, as government whip responsible for the pastoral care and discipline of MPs, knowing that complaints had been made regarding his conduct.