The Daily Telegraph
‘They changed the rules halfway through’
Boris Johnson offers new PM ‘fervent support’ in farewell speech but rails at how he was brought down
‘I know Liz Truss and this Conservative government will do everything we can to get people through this crisis. This country will endure it and we will win’
BORIS JOHNSON declared “this is it, folks” as he told the nation “the baton will be handed over” in his last speech in Downing Street.
He told supporters that the Tory leadership had “unexpectedly turned out to be a relay race”.
“They changed the rules halfway through but never mind that now,” he said, in a veiled swipe at MPS and ministers who brought him down.
The departing Prime Minister called for the party to unite behind his successor and said he would give “nothing but the most fervent support” to Ms Truss.
He said that he will be “returning to my plough” like the Roman general Cincinnatus, who relinquished dictatorial powers for life on his farm. Mr Johnson emerged from the black door of No10 for the last time at 7.30am to a crowd that had lined Downing Street to hear him speak.
As well as his wife Carrie and sister Rachel, Cabinet ministers, including Jacob Rees-mogg and Nadine Dorries, were present.
“In only a couple of hours, I will be in Balmoral to see Her Majesty the Queen and the torch will finally be passed to a new Conservative leader,” he told them.
Mr Johnson drew laughs from the audience when he spoke of his plans for a quiet life after leaving office.
“I am now like one of those booster rockets that has fulfilled its function and I will now be gently re-entering the atmosphere and splashing down invisibly in some remote, obscure quarter of the Pacific,” Mr Johnson said.
“Like Cincinnatus, I am returning to my plough and I will be offering this government nothing but the most fervent support.”
The Prime Minister, 58, joked that if his dog Dilyn and Larry the No10 cat “can put behind them their occasional difficulties, then so can the Conservative Party”.
Mr Johnson said that he was confident the new government would give struggling Britons more help with energy bills this winter.
And the outgoing Tory leader, who was steadfast in his support for Ukraine, said the country would “endure” and not succumb to Russian “blackmail”.
“I know Liz Truss and this compassionate Conservative government will do everything we can to get people through this crisis,” he said.
“This country will endure it and we will win.
“If Putin thinks that he can succeed by blackmailing or bullying the British people then he is utterly deluded.”
Mr Johnson said the UK was in a good position to battle the cost of living crisis because of the strength of the economy emerging out of Covid.
He paid tribute to ministers who brought the country out of lockdown, “in spite of all opposition, all the naysayers” in a swipe at Sir Keir Starmer.
“We have and will continue to have that economic strength to give people the cash they need to get through this energy crisis that has been caused by Putin’s vicious war,” he declared.
“The reason we will have those funds now and in the future is because we Conservatives understand the vital symmetry between government action and free market capitalist private sector enterprise.
“The private sector is investing more venture capital investment than China itself, more billion-pound tech companies sprouting here than in France, Germany and Israel combined.
“As a result, unemployment, as I leave office, down to lows not seen since I was about 10 years old and bouncing around on a space hopper.
Mr Johnson reeled off his achievements in office, including securing Brexit, rolling out the Covid vaccine and delivering big infrastructure projects. He hailed progress on rolling out superfast broadband, building more hospitals and green-lighting high-speed rail projects and “colossal road programmes”.
Mr Johnson left Downing Street for the final time to an ovation from supporters, many of whom looked visibly upset at the end of his premiership.
He and Carrie then clambered into a Range Rover, which drove them to RAF Northolt for the flight to Balmoral – his final trip as Prime Minister.