Boris Johnson bids farewell to Downing Street as he 'hands baton' to Liz Truss

He compares himself to a booster rocket that has fulfilled its function in typically colourful speech

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Boris Johnson declared "this is it, folks" on Tuesday morning, as he gave a valedictory speech outside 10 Downing Street in London pledging loyalty to his successor as Britain’s prime minister.

Mr Johnson's address, tinged with some bitterness at his departure, came hours before his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at her residence in Balmoral, Scotland, where he formally resigned.

During his speech, Mr Johnson highlighted his government’s record on delivering Brexit, supporting Ukraine and the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out. He was watched by a group of loyal Conservative MPs, members of staff and his wife Carrie.

He said the "the baton will finally be turned over in what has expectedly turned out to be a relay race".

Mr Johnson offered his resignation to the queen shortly after noon and updated his Twitter bio to describe himself as a "former prime minister". He was succeeded by Liz Truss who was sworn in by the queen, 96, at her retreat in Aberdeenshire this afternoon, having beaten Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership contest on Monday.

While Mr Johnson urged Conservative Party members to reunite behind the new leader, he could not resist making a dig at those who ousted him, saying "they changed the rules half way through, never mind that now".

Mr Johnson's speech came two months after he announced his resignation after several Cabinet ministers resigned and he was rocked by months of scandals.

The queen, who has appeared frail in recent months and has missed several public engagements, opted to remain in Scotland instead of travelling to London for the occasion. It is believed to be the first time in the monarch’s 70-year reign that she has conducted the ceremony away from Buckingham Palace.

Mr Johnson paid tribute to his successor Ms Truss in his speech, saying with her at the helm of "this compassionate Conservative government", everything would be done to get people through the cost of living crisis this winter. In an attempt to offer hope to British households facing a "tough time" with rising energy bills, he said "this country will endure it and we will win".

Boris Johnson is greeted by the Queen Elizabeth II's equerry Lt Col Tom White and her private secretary Sir Edward Young as he arrives to formally resign as prime minister at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Tuesday. Getty Images

He also took a swipe at Russia President Vladimir Putin and his "vicious war" on Ukraine, blaming him for restricting gas supplies which has caused energy prices to soar.

"And if Putin thinks that he can succeed by blackmailing or bullying the British people, then he is utterly deluded," he added.

Ms Truss's first act as prime minister is expected to be a freeze on energy bills.

Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson outside No 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. AFP

As Mr Johnson prepared to bid farewell, heckles could be heard from a crowd of protesters gathered outside the gates of Downing Street.

In a typical Mr Johnson speech laced with one-liners, he praised his administration, saying it had reduced crime and channelled funding into schools and hospitals.

He added that government had also managed to drive unemployment down to levels not seen since he was a 10-year-old boy "bouncing around on a space hopper".

He joked about his post-prime ministerial future, alluding to plans for a getaway, but pledged to offer Ms Truss's government "my most fervent support".

"On the subject of bouncing around in future careers, let me say that 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 and obscure corner of the Pacific," he said.

He said that if his dog Dilyn and Larry, the domestic cat who lives in No 10, could manage to put their differences aside, then so could MPs in the divided Tory party.

The outgoing leader emphasised his administration's help for Ukraine after the Russian invasion in February. He said the “early supplies of weapons to the heroic Ukrainian Armed Forces” might “very well have helped change the course of the biggest European war of 80 years”.

Tory MPs cheered as Mr Johnson finished his address.

Mr Johnson held his wife’s hand and shook hands with officials as he left the street to rapturous applause. Rachel Johnson, Mr Johnson's sister, was among those who turned up to show their support.

Mr Johnson delivered his speech to the nation at 7.30am (10.30am UAE) to allow enough time to travel to Scotland to meet the queen before returning to London.

Ms Truss will be handed the keys to her new home in Downing Street on Tuesday and is expected to make a speech outside the residence.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 1:11 PM
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