THere’s a theatrical eye roll that’s often seen when the name of Boris Johnson is mentioned, and on Wednesday it was very evident in his constituency of Uxbridge, west London – particularly when residents were told he’d finally announced his resignation.
“It’s about time! Write that down as my quote,” a young woman called over her shoulder as she pushed her stroller through the pedestrianized commuter town. “Well, he definitely has charisma, but he didn’t win me over,” remarked an elderly woman who sat on a bench with her husband while they nibbled sandwiches.
“I read today that it can take a couple of douches for it to go away,” joked Lisa McKay, a social worker, “and I really believe that.” There’s so much arrogance – it’s really incredible that he was still there.”
It can sometimes be a challenge to persuade shoppers and passers-by to share their opinions with journalists, especially when it comes to politicians. Not Johnson, and not on the day it was confirmed that his term as pyrotechnic prime minister was ending. As shoppers strolled the streets surrounding Uxbridge’s distinctive art deco tube station in the bright afternoon sun, everyone had a glimpse of the departing Prime Minister.
But while many acknowledged the farce of the past few days, a topic that surprisingly many were able to discuss at length, opinions were divided on Johnson’s fate. Many cheered his departure, but others were outraged that a good prime minister had been done away with by those around him.
“It’s a shame,” said Ian, a retired banker who, although he declined to give his last name, was happy to share his thoughts at length on the Cabinet’s treacherous treatment of the Prime Minister. “I think he had a rough ride, and I think he was stabbed in the back.” The Pincher scandal, the most recent debacle and the one that hastened Johnson’s departure, “happened some time ago and it’s not an issue of resignation,” said Ian. “Why are they always picking on him?”
Wasn’t Johnson ultimately responsible as prime minister? “He cannot be held responsible for everything. How many hours does he have in the day?”
“Oh no!” gasped Sue Snell, a retired civil servant, upon learning of the termination. It was the media’s fault that Johnson had been brought down, she felt. Did she think the Prime Minister did a good job? “Well, everyone has their faults. But at the end of the day, whoever they use now, the circumstances in the country aren’t going to change, are they?”
With all the strong opinions on both sides – and Uxbridge is far from a safe seat for the Tories with Johnson’s majority of just 7,210 – perhaps the most commonly voiced view was an angry acceptance that he had to go now, even among those who did had done so supported the Prime Minister and hoped he would deliver.
“I voted for him, to be honest,” said a former florist, Caroline Tyrrell. “I thought he was a new life for the Tories. And I think he came to power at a really difficult time with Brexit, Covid and the economy. Everything has gone insane.
“He’s a bit of a clumsy idiot though.”
Tyrrell was one of many unsure of what would happen next and skeptical that whoever succeeded Johnson would be better. But there was also a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm for Labor as an alternative.
“I haven’t seen enough real evidence of Labor Party leadership to seriously consider it,” said Drew, who works in the film industry and describes himself as an “independent voter”. “But I don’t see much of it from the Conservatives either.”
He and his friend Mike had talked at length about the events over coffee at a sidewalk café and knew exactly what they were thinking. “I think he’s done some good things for the country, but he’s made some very serious mistakes and completely lost his credibility,” Mike said. “When I think about it, it’s a shame, but it would always happen.” Should Johnson step down now rather than wait until the fall? “It would be much better if he did.”
Michael Li, a computer engineer who is having lunch in the sun with a friend, thought it was “great news” that Johnson had resigned. “The word ‘clown’ always comes to mind and I don’t think that’s the kind of person who should be running the country,” he said.
For some people, however, the joke is no longer funny. Meriem Bouzaiene, a local primary school teacher, was delighted and relieved to see Johnson go, “but I’m not sure how that will change because the party is still the same”.
For them, the cost of living crisis was the overwhelming topic of who would call the shots next. “I see hungry children coming to school [having had] no breakfast because mum and dad don’t have money to eat at home. I’ve never seen that before. A child without shoes.
“So yes, hopefully we have a brighter future now.”