Brexit chaos, the Covid pandemic, numerous scandals: for a long time the British Tory MPs remained loyal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and he narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in June. But after a barrage of ministerial and cabinet staff resignations, Johnson has announced his resignation as leader of the Tory party, although he wants to remain prime minister until the autumn. This has triggered a lively debate in Europe’s press.

Today, Europe’s press debates the resignation of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and its implications for the United Kingdom, but also for Ukraine and the rest of Europe. Here are some opinions from a selection of European publications presented by eurotopics.

Time to step down as prime minister too

Boris Johnson’s desire to remain interim head of government is unacceptable to The Daily Telegraph:


“The Government has many important issues to face and decisions to make, such as pay settlements in the public sector at a time of rampant inflation. There is also the threat of a summer of strikes to contend with. Is it seriously being suggested that Mr. Johnson is in any position of authority to deal with these matters? … He was right to say there are pressing issues for the Government to address. That is why his successor needs to be in place within days, not weeks – and certainly not months.”

They knew exactly what they were doing

Aftonbladet editorialist Susanna Kierkegaard is furious about the way the resignation happened:

“The Conservative Party knew that Boris Johnson was a liar who would do anything to get into power. … But they chose him as their leader anyway – they wanted the benefits of Boris Johnson. Now they refuse to live with the consequences. I don’t want to belittle what Boris Johnson has done. … I’m tired of politicians who think they don’t have to abide by their own laws. … But I’m also fed up with parties that opportunistically elect despotic leaders and then regret it as soon as they run into a little headwind.”


Final blunder yet to come

ABC still expects an undignified endgame:

“The last of his blunders will be to force his own party colleagues to kick him out of Downing Street, because even in the present circumstances he prefers to ignore all the rules of political prudence and decency and simply cling to his office. … Johnson was never known for surrounding himself with personalities more talented than himself, precisely because he didn’t want anyone to outshine him. But even in this circle of power, one can now detect more political dignity than in the prime minister’s unrepentant attitude.”

A desire for more sobriety now hopes for an end to populism in Britain:

“[T]he desire to be governed in a more sober, less disruptive way again can even be scientifically proven. The British are fed up with a prime minister with messy hair who slides along a tightrope waving a flag. Let’s not kid ourselves: the successor will probably stick to the basic Conservative course: a restrictive asylum policy, Brexit. But there is the chance of a better economic policy and a partner with whom the negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol might be easier. Boring politicians are sometimes not so bad.”

The Ukrainians will miss him

Johnson’s Ukraine policy was one of the few areas where he shone, writes the Financial Times:


“The one foreign capital where Johnson will be truly missed is Kyiv. Among western governments, the UK, led by its prime minister, has been one of the most supportive of Ukraine, both in diplomatic and military terms. In recent weeks Johnson has often appeared happier in Ukraine than in the UK. But Britain’s strong support for Ukraine reflects a firm cross-party consensus that is almost certain to persist, whoever becomes the next prime minister.”

Europe needs Johnson more than ever

Hardly any politician is as resolute in their stance against Putin as the British PM, writes the tabloid Blick:

“Johnson has taken a lot of liberties. … But these domestic scandals should not distract from the fact that Europe needs Johnson more than ever. No politician in the world – except Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelensky – has given Putin a clearer telling-off. … Johnson is more of a clown than a prime minister, his opponents complain. Perhaps. But what they overlook is that those people who are taking serious steps to stand up to the Kremlin are the clowns like Johnson or ex-comedian Zelensky. The world needs them urgently. Only they seem truly willing to disrupt the show of the brutal lion tamer in Moscow.”


Patience running out

The British are getting fed up with their prime minister, Ilta-Sanomat believes:

“In recent months, Johnson has been praised for his unbending resolve on the Ukraine issue. Johnson’s problem is that Ukrainians don’t vote in British elections. At home, Johnson’s opponents claim he’s just polishing his image with the war. So far, Johnson had weathered his scandals with ruthless rudeness. The British have always been sympathetic to their prime minister, who stumbled smilingly from one scandal to the next. Now their patience is running out.”


Boris Johnson was refusing to resign against all odds, Jutarnji list notes:

“Johnson is currently facing his worst leadership crisis since he took office. … Seven out of ten Brits say Johnson should resign, according to a YouGov flash survey of 3000 respondents. Despite this, according to several media outlets, Johnson had told MPs that he intended to remain PM [before bowing to the pressure this Thursday morning]. … What the Conservatives fear most is that if they do replace Johnson [now] this will have even more devastating consequences for the party and public trust.”

Game over

The prime minister has lost the trust of the party and the population, The Times concludes:

“There is no conceivable chance that Mr Johnson … can recover his authority to provide the effective leadership that the country needs at a time of acute national crisis. Every day that he remains deepens the sense of chaos. For the good of the country, he should go. What has brought Mr Johnson to this position is the same character flaws that have dogged his entire career: his persistent lying and flagrant disregard for the codes and conventions that necessarily underpin public life.”


Why did it take this long?

The fact that it took the two ministers so long to turn their backs on Johnson spurs doubts about their motives, says The Guardian:

“Their pious words turn to ash when considering how many times every member of the cabinet, every slavish minister and every aspiring Conservative backbencher has defended the monstrously indefensible behaviour of Boris Johnson. … The two ministers making ‘principled’ resignations (and it seems likely that more will follow) have tolerated so much that it suggests political calculation, not moral principle, has prompted their resignations.”

Enough of monarchistic governing

Johnson’s own party is fed up with his leadership style, De Volkskrant suspects:

“It’s typical of the prime minister’s leadership that he defended his colleague [Chris] Pincher for so long. Johnson demands loyalty from his entourage, and he returns that loyalty when they get into trouble. His leadership style has already been compared to that of an autocratic king, complete with courtiers. An ex-journalist, Johnson also tends not to give in to media pressure. He only gives in when he has no other option. After the resignation of two ministers, the pressure on him is growing.”

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