【高端限免】After the fall: the legacy of Boris Johnson

Britain’s next Conservative prime minister will operate in a landscape defined by a uniquely polarising leader | 英国下一任保守党首相将在一个独特的两极分化领导人所定义的环境中工作。

There were moist eyes around the cabinet table on Thursday as Boris Johnson began his long goodbye from British politics. “There were a few of them wiping away tears,” says one member of Johnson’s hastily assembled team. “Pathetic really. I wasn’t crying.”
周四,当鲍里斯•约翰逊(Boris Johnson)开始告别英国政坛时,内阁会议桌周围的人都热泪盈眶。“有几个人在擦眼泪,”约翰逊匆忙组建的团队的一名成员说。“真的很可怜。我并没有哭。”
Indeed beyond the loyalists clinging to the wreckage of Johnson’s broken government, there were few tears being shed among Conservative MPs after they drove out of office the man who led Britain out of the EU and who — according to his critics — dragged British politics into the mud.
After a series of scandals in which Johnson repeated the same dismal cycle of concealing the truth, retreating, then being found out, his party could take it no longer. “Enough is enough,” Sajid Javid told parliament the day after quitting as health secretary on Tuesday, a decision that triggered an avalanche of resignations which swept the prime minister away.
在一系列丑闻中,约翰逊重复着掩盖真相、退缩、然后被发现的悲惨循环,他的政党再也无法忍受了。赛义德•贾维德(Sajid Javid)于周二辞去卫生部长一职,并在第二天向议会表示:“受够了。”贾维德的这一决定引发了雪崩式的辞职,首相也因此下台。
Johnson will remain in office, but not in power, until September, when the Conservative party elects a new leader to replace him. A lucrative career of speechmaking, journalism and book-writing lie ahead.
In some global capitals there was relief. Joe Biden, US president, could not bring himself to mention Johnson’s name in a statement on the “special relationship” after the UK prime minister announced his resignation as Tory leader.
Biden, who once called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump, was frustrated with the prime minister’s willingness to rip up his Brexit treaty with the EU — a decision, argue critics, that threatens to destabilise Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement.
拜登曾称约翰逊是唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)的“身体和情感克隆”,他对首相撕毁他与欧盟的脱欧条约感到失望——批评者认为,这一决定可能会破坏北爱尔兰的耶稣受难日和平协议。
“I won’t miss him,” said Bruno Le Maire, French finance minister, on Friday, echoing similar sentiments across the EU. “It proves that Brexit mixed up with populism does not make for a good cocktail for a nation.”
法国财政部长布鲁诺•勒梅尔(Bruno Le Maire)上周五表示:“我不会想念他。”欧盟各国也表达了类似的情绪。“这证明,英国脱欧和民粹主义混在一起,对一个国家来说不是一杯好鸡尾酒。”
James Cleverly, the new education secretary and a Johnson loyalist, says the comparison with Trump clinging on to power is ludicrous. “We are not America,” he says. Yet some Conservative MPs did make the comparison, fearing Johnson could take Britain to a dark place.
约翰逊的忠实支持者、新任教育大臣詹姆斯•克莱弗利(James Cleverly)表示,将其与特朗普紧握权力不放相提并论是荒谬的。“我们不是美国,”他说。然而,一些保守党议员确实做了比较,他们担心约翰逊会把英国带向黑暗。
The 58-year-old leader had jokingly compared his determination to cling to office to that of the Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda, who hid in the jungle for years and refused to accept Japan’s surrender after the second world war, but others did not see the funny side.
这位58岁的领导人曾开玩笑地将自己坚持执政的决心比作二战后躲在丛林中多年、拒绝接受日本投降的日本军人小野田宽郎(Hiroo Onoda),但其他人并不认为这有什么好笑的地方。
The UK prime minister had claimed he had a direct “mandate” from the British voters — MPs had to remind him that Britain is a parliamentary democracy, not a presidential system. Briefings by some of his allies that Tory MPs would have to “dip their hands in blood” to remove him evoked shudders.
In the end Johnson went quietly. There was no angry mob, just a small band of diehard loyalists applauding him in Downing Street as he announced his resignation. Johnson blamed everybody else for his misfortune — accepting no personal responsibility — then turned on his heels and disappeared behind the famous black door.
Most of the political obituaries agreed that Johnson, and his style of government, were unique in British politics. Indeed none of the contenders to replace him have anything like the flair, charisma or devilry that made him such a compelling leader.
But his departure raises questions about Johnson’s political legacy and whether — whoever inherits his crown — the next Conservative prime minister will be operating in a landscape defined by the leader known by allies as “Big Dog”.

Tax cuts vs public spending


Few doubt that Johnson will go down in British history as a highly consequential prime minister: the leader who spearheaded the campaign to rip Britain out of the EU in 2016 and then — against significant opposition — delivered on his promise to “get Brexit done”.
His 2019 general election victory delivered a Conservative majority of 80 — the biggest since the 1980s heyday of Margaret Thatcher — extending the party’s reach into constituencies that had never previously voted Tory.
他在2019年的大选中获胜,使保守党获得了80票的多数席位,这是自玛格丽特·撒切尔(Margaret Thatcher)上世纪80年代全盛时期以来最大的一次,使该党的势力范围扩大到此前从未投票支持保守党的选区。
“He demonstrated that there is an electoral market for Conservatives in former industrial seats in the north, midlands and north Wales that the party had almost given up on,” says David Lidington, former de facto deputy prime minister to Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.
“他证明,保守党在北部、中部和北威尔士的前工业席位存在一个选举市场,该党几乎放弃了这些席位,”约翰逊前任特里萨•梅(Theresa May)事实上的副首相戴维•利丁顿(David Lidington)表示。
Although Johnson arguably had an easy task in defeating the unelectable leftwing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2019, his achievements will define the political landscape for his successor.
尽管约翰逊在2019年击败不可能当选的左翼工党领袖杰里米·科尔宾(Jeremy Corbyn)可以说是一件轻而易举的事情,但他的成就将决定他的继任者的政治前景。
Brexit was the issue that helped the Tories make headway in the so-called red wall constituencies in working class parts of the north of England — the Labour party’s traditional heartland — and it is now accepted by all mainstream UK parties that there is no way back for Britain, at least not for the foreseeable future, when it comes to EU membership.
Even Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, this week announced that if he wins the next election he will not try to take Britain back into the EU single market or customs union and there would be no return of freedom of movement.
就连工党领袖基尔•斯塔默爵士(Sir Keir Starmer)本周也宣布,如果他在下次选举中获胜,他将不会试图让英国重新回到欧盟单一市场或关税联盟,而且行动自由也将不复存在。
Starmer describes his approach as “making Brexit work” and that will be the task facing whichever Conservative politician succeeds Johnson as prime minister. Leaders in European capitals — and Biden in Washington — are hoping to see a more constructive approach.
Johnson has embedded Brexit — regarded as recently as 2015 by most mainstream politicians as a cranky obsession of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence party — as national policy, in spite of accumulating evidence of the economic damage it is causing.
尽管有越来越多的证据表明英国脱欧正在造成经济损失,但约翰逊还是将英国脱欧作为国家政策。直至2015年,英国脱欧还被大多数主流政治家视为奈杰尔·法拉奇(Nigel Farage)的英国独立党的一个古怪的执念。
Tory candidates for the leadership will have to talk tough on Europe, but some of the frontrunners — including former chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat — are likely to seek better relations with Brussels, with a view to softening the economic harm of Brexit and resolving the Northern Ireland stand-off.
保守党领导人候选人将不得不在欧洲问题上发表强硬言论,但一些领先者——包括前财政大臣里希•苏纳克(Rishi Sunak)和外交事务委员会主席汤姆·图根达特(Tom Tugendhat)——可能会寻求与布鲁塞尔改善关系,以缓解英国退欧对经济的伤害,并解决北爱尔兰僵局。
Paul Goodman, former Tory MP and editor of the ConservativeHome website, says that rightwing leadership contenders could promise to complete the Brexit project by using newfound regulatory freedoms to deliver a “Singapore Brexit” — of low taxes and light regulation — while striking tough poses on the NI protocol.
前保守党议员、保守党之家(ConservativeHome)网站编辑保罗•古德曼(Paul Goodman)表示,右翼领导人竞选人可以承诺,通过利用新获得的监管自由,实现“新加坡式的脱欧”(即低税收、宽松监管),同时对北爱协议摆出强硬姿态,从而完成脱欧计划。
At the same time, Johnson’s success at using Brexit to open up the north of England to the Tories has created new economic facts on the ground for whoever becomes the next Conservative prime minister. First time Tory voters in 2019 are expecting to see some return on their political investment and many are still waiting.
The next Tory prime minister will need to hold on to working class northern towns — the seat of Wakefield was retaken by Labour at a by-election in June that spooked Conservative MPs — if they are to retain power after the next election, expected in 2024. That means maintaining high levels of public spending to achieve Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda.
This new political map poses a problem for wannabe leaders. To win the leadership, they have to woo a Tory electorate of around 100,000 party members who are often old, southern-based and well-off. But to hold on to national power they will have to appeal to those northern towns that Johnson promised so much to. Above all, Tory members and the Conservative-supporting parts of the media want tax cuts.
As chancellor, Sunak recognised the simple mathematical problem of delivering high public spending and lower taxes, especially at a time of high inflation and as the country counts the economic and personal cost of the coronavirus pandemic. He argued that lower taxes should be paid for by higher growth and spending cuts. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Johnson loyalist in parliament, claimed this week that Sunak’s willingness to put up taxes to balance the books made him a “much lamented socialist chancellor”.
作为财政大臣,苏纳克认识到高公共支出和低税收这一简单的数学问题,尤其是在高通胀时期,在该国计算新冠疫情的经济和个人成本之际。他认为,低税收应该由更高的增长和削减开支来支付。约翰逊在议会中的忠实支持者雅各布•里斯-莫格(Jacob Rees-Mogg)本周声称,苏纳克愿意通过增加税收来平衡收支,这使他成为“令人遗憾的社会主义财政大臣”。
Johnson was about to over-rule his chancellor by offering aggressive tax cuts, probably funded by borrowing, insisting this is the way to boost growth. But Sunak quit in protest, just minutes after Javid, fearing Johnson’s short-term survival strategy risked throwing petrol on the inflationary fire.
Goodman believes the economic debate in the Tory leadership will be between those, like Sunak, who favour tax cuts funded by spending cuts, and those who want tax cuts funded by borrowing.
A third Johnson legacy is likely to be an ongoing commitment to relatively high levels of defence spending. The prime minister’s decisive response to the Ukraine crisis, including immediately arming Kyiv, has earned him rare credit abroad. Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday called him “a hero”.
约翰逊留下的第三个遗产可能是对相对较高水平的国防开支的持续承诺。首相对乌克兰危机的果断反应,包括立即向基辅提供武器,为他在国外赢得了罕见的声誉。周四,弗拉基米尔·泽连斯基(Volodymyr Zelensky)称他为“英雄”。
Just days before his resignation Johnson urged Nato countries to honour their commitment to spend a minimum of 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence; Britain has long exceeded that target. Johnson has demonstrated that in a post-Brexit world, the UK can leverage its relative military heft to gain foreign policy advantage.

‘It’s never his fault’


In his resignation speech, Johnson said he was “proud” of his achievements, including delivering Brexit, rolling out an effective Covid-19 vaccine programme and standing up for Ukraine. But his domestic policy agenda — including economic policy — often seemed incoherent. His day-to-day management was shambolic.
“He will go down as a significant prime minister, but not seen as good for the country,” says Lidington. “He was never any good at actually governing.” Goodman compares Johnson to a “Turkish sultan or a Tudor monarch”, ruling by whim, constantly changing his mind, with no clear strategic direction.
“他将作为一位重要的首相而被载入史册,但不被视为对国家有益,”利丁顿说。“他从来都不擅长真正的治理。” 古德曼把约翰逊比作一个“土耳其苏丹或都铎王朝的君主”,靠一时兴起来统治,不断改变主意,没有明确的战略方向。
The departure of his controversial adviser Dominic Cummings in 2020 stripped Johnson of one of the few people in his inner circle to provide any strategic policy grip; crisis management was often the principal preoccupation of those in Downing Street in recent times.
2020年,他备受争议的顾问多米尼克·卡明斯(Dominic Cummings)的离职,让约翰逊失去了核心圈子中为数不多的能够掌控战略政策的人之一;最近一段时间,危机管理往往是唐宁街官员的主要关注点。
Johnson performed numerous “resets” of his Downing Street operation, but none of them corrected the fundamental flaw: the prime minister himself. Johnson, once sacked as a Times journalist for making up a quote, at times seemed to have only a passing acquaintance with the truth.
In the wake of the partygate affair, which saw Johnson attempting to cover up the existence of parties in Number 10 during Covid lockdowns, the prime minister insisted in May that “the entire senior management has changed”. Opposition Labour MPs laughed. At the time Johnson — who was fined for breaking the law over these parties — admitted that he would never undergo a “psychological transformation” and it was this crucial fact that ultimately led to his downfall this week. Tory MPs realised that he would never change.
The final scandal to topple Johnson centred on an incident last week in which a senior Conservative party politician — the deputy chief whip, Chris Pincher — drunkenly groped two men at a private members’ club. Pincher resigned but Johnson faced questions about why he had appointed him in the first place.
推翻约翰逊的最后一桩丑闻集中在上周发生的事件上:一名保守党高级政客——保守党副党鞭克里斯•平彻(Chris Pincher)——在一家私人会员俱乐部醉酒后猥亵两名男子。平彻辞职了,但是约翰逊面临着为什么他一开始会任命他的问题。
As with partygate, Johnson’s first instinct was to conceal the truth, telling his official spokesman and cabinet ministers to trot out the line that he was unaware of previous “specific allegations” that Pincher was involved in sexual misconduct.
It was not true and Johnson’s lies — predictably — were soon exposed. In a decisive intervention on Wednesday, the former top civil servant at the Foreign Office, Lord Simon McDonald, revealed that Pincher had been investigated after a similar incident in 2019 while he was a minister in the department. The complaint had been upheld and prime minister Johnson had been briefed, in person.
这不是真的,约翰逊的谎言——可以预见——很快就被揭穿了。在周三的一次决定性干预中,前外交部高级公务员西蒙•麦克唐纳勋爵(Lord Simon McDonald)透露,平彻在2019年担任外交部大臣时曾发生过类似事件,之后他受到了调查。该申诉得到了支持,约翰逊首相本人也得到了通报。
The revelation prompted an outpouring of Tory frustration and anger with the leader, and more than 50 government resignations. Javid said that ministers were fed up with being asked to lie on Johnson’s behalf, adding in a letter to the prime minister that “the values you represent reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately your country”.
Johnson retreated to his bunker, scorning efforts by once-loyal cabinet ministers on Wednesday night to persuade him to resign with some dignity. Instead the prime minister’s final hours with full executive authority were spent exacting revenge.
Michael Gove, who jointly led the Brexit campaign with Johnson in 2016, was sacked at 9pm for his alleged treachery after he privately advised the prime minister to quit. Gove, the levelling-up secretary, who had betrayed Johnson when he made his first bid for the Conservative party leadership in 2016, was branded “a snake” by the prime minister’s allies.
2016年与约翰逊共同领导英国退欧运动的迈克尔•戈夫(Michael Gove),在私下建议首相辞职后,因涉嫌背叛,于晚上9点被解雇。正在逐步晋升的大臣戈夫在2016年首次竞选保守党领袖时背叛了约翰逊,被首相的盟友称为“一条蛇”。
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” says one friend of Johnson. “That was done out of pure pleasure — final revenge for what he did in 2016.”
By that stage Johnson was struggling to find people to fill the ever-increasing number of ministerial vacancies. He slept on the issue and at 6am on Thursday he began drafting his resignation speech.
He used it to blame Conservative MPs for making the “eccentric” decision to get rid of him, claiming he had been trampled underfoot by a “herd” of panicking colleagues. “He’s clearly very angry because it’s never his fault,” says one former cabinet minister.
Johnson’s resignation was greeted with huge relief among his colleagues. “Thank God,” said one cabinet minister, as the prime minister signalled the end of his turbulent three-year reign.
McDonald, ousted by Johnson from the Foreign Office for his supposedly anti-Brexit views in 2020, on Thursday evening tweeted a picture of a glorious summer sunset over the gothic towers of Westminster with the simple words: “It was a good day.”