Boris Johnson opts against emulating Geoffrey Howe in his resignation speech
Watch: Johnson said MPs needed to 'believe in this country' to fix Brexit.
Boris Johnson bagged the same spot as Geoffrey Howe did to make his resignation speech in the Commons. But pals briefed that the former foreign secretary wasn’t planning to emulate the former Tory heavyweight credited with bringing about Margaret Thatcher’s downfall.
"It won't be a Geoffrey Howe-style attack, more about urging a change of direction and a move away from Chequers," said one.
In the event, the speech was undeniably not as spectacular and dramatic as the one given by Howe in 1990,
Johnson stopped short of urging colleagues to topple Theresa May, but attacked her Chequers agreement as a “miserable, permanent limbo”. For once, he also dropped the jokes.
His main message to the Tory party’s pro-Brexit wing was that it was not too late save his leadership ambitions. Or as Johnson put it: “It’s not too late to save Brexit. We have time in these negotiations, We have changed tack once and we can do it again.”
But there wasn’t much detail on exactly how this might happen. Instead, the chief Brexiteer pronounced:
“We need to take one decision before all others – and that is to believe in this country and what it can do.”
Few senior Tory figures turned out to watch Johnson deliver his speech, but hard Brexiteers were out in force. The former foreign secretary was flanked by Nadine Dorries with the likes of David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees Mogg watching on.
While nobody was comparing the Johnson speech to the one delivered by Howe 28 years ago, Rees Mogg did take to Twitter to call it "the speech of a statesman" and one commentator did compare it to the work of Churchill.
“This is a Churchillian speech by Boris,” said The Times’ parliamentary sketch writer. “Although by Churchill I mean the nodding dog from the insurance adverts.”