Express & Star

Toby Neal: Boris is gone - almost - but forgiven?

Toby Neal casts his eye on the world of politics.

Boris Johnson returns inside to No 10 following his resignation speech

So they got him in the end.

Not quite yet mission accomplished for Get Boris! as that will continue so long as he remains in Downing Street.

If there's a British Prime Minister whose term of office has been accompanied by as much institutional ill-will, I can't remember them.

By institutional I mean the Parliamentary Conservative Party, London, broadcast media, and the Westminster club, where Boris Johnson was never a good fit, being seen as an untrustworthy interloper – and that was the attitude towards him by many Tory MPs, never mind Labour.

While they breathed in to swallow their misgivings after the 2019 general election, they never fully inhaled, so to speak.

His support base was with the ordinary electorate. Then, as evidenced by recent by-election results, he became a vote loser. In such circumstances a Prime Minister needs good friends in Westminster. For Boris Johnson, that particular cupboard was bare.

I'll leave it to others to do the slagging off, and will instead take the more quirky approach of highlighting the plus points of his premiership.


Cast your minds back to the John Bercow reign of terror during which MPs were in a fix, being stuck with a historic mistake by British voters who had gone rogue. Despite all advice from their wisers and betters they had opted for the UK to leave the European Union.

The electorate in their ignorance risked economic collapse, hundreds of thousands of job losses, European war, the grounding of all flights over Britain, a nationwide shortage of medicines leading to thousands of deaths, and so on.

In such critical circumstances it was the public duty of MPs to do everything they could in the national interest to prevent such a disaster, using every Parliamentary trick in the book.

Then along came a charismatic and colourful figure who struck a chord with the ordinary public, who spoke their language, and who became a spear-carrier and rallying point for the green benches recusants. His name was Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Sorry, that was a typo. But if Boris had not existed, it might have all been down to Moggie. And I think we know how that would have gone.


Under Boris Johnson, Britain has supplied the Ukraine with so many anti-armour weapons that the British Army has hardly any left. That's a guess, but I think it might not be far off the truth. These British-supplied weapons may well have made the difference when Russian forces tried to storm Kyiv, and saved the Ukraine from falling under a Putin dictatorship.


The oft-repeated criticism is that Britain's lockdown was left too late, leading to many unnecessary deaths. There again, the lockdown itself brought with it many harms. What undoubtedly made a real difference was the vaccine development, procurement, and rollout. Here Boris played a blinder and Britain really was a world leader.


I haven't done any research on this. I may have overheard it in a pub. But I do know that because of Boris Johnson we will soon only be able to buy new cars that are electric.


No shoddy deals. Just a blank refusal to Nicola Queen of Scots. That has to count for something.


David Niven famously said of Errol Flynn that you always knew where you stood with him, because he would always let you down. Similarly, everybody knows where they stand with Boris. You can trust him as far as you can throw him. Of course, Britons should be able to have absolute trust in politicians, and there is a word for those who do. Gullible.

At a dinner party chez nous not so long ago, while the port was being passed and the orchestra in the ballroom was still warming up, the conversation somehow turned to politics.

I asked a dining companion why he hated Boris Johnson so much.

"I can't forgive him for Brexit," he replied.

With the likes of arch Brexiteer David Davis turning against him, the Prime Minister's downfall is clearly the result of a nexus of factors, but I couldn't help thinking that my dining companion had put his finger on an underlying reason for the institutional antipathy towards him.

Boris Johnson. The Unforgiven.