In breaking news overnight, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while campaigning for a candidate near Kyoto, Japan. A suspect is in custody. Abe was the longest-serving Prime Minister in Japan and, according to the New York Times, his tenure was “a remarkable feat of longevity.”
The same could not be said for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced Thursday morning that he would resign after more than fifty cabinet members resigned in the wake of the latest scandal to plague his administration.
At the time of his resignation, his approval rating had dropped to 23 percent, and only 13 percent of British voters thought he was trustworthy. The situation had become so dire that there are not currently enough people working in the government to actually pass legislation. He will remain in office until his party chooses a new leader, with defense secretary Ben Wallace considered the favorite to take his place.
Momentum for Johnson to resign has been building for quite some time. He narrowly survived a vote of no-confidence last month. And one of the key figures who helped him garner sufficient support to do so, deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, has since been at the center of another scandal.
After getting so drunk at an exclusive club near Buckingham Palace last week, Pincher allegedly molested two men before being helped into his taxi. While he has since offered his resignation, Pincher has been accused of such behavior multiple times in the past. After elevating Pincher, Johnson lied about being unaware of the former deputy chief whip’s history when questioned about the selection.
It’s hardly the first time Johnson has lied to his fellow members of government or to the British people.
It’s just the first time it’s cost him his job.
A celebrity politician on borrowed time
Boris Johnson became something of a “celebrity politician” while serving as mayor of London from 2008 to 2015. His quirky hair and brash demeanor were endearing to many who thought it made him seem more authentic and relatable. To be sure, it’s seldom been hard to distinguish Johnson from his peers, and that persona helped him rise up the political ranks after joining former Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet in July of 2016.
Roughly a month earlier, the British people voted to leave the European Union, and Johnson was one of the primary figures pushing toward that end. He and May had quite different views of what that exit from the EU should look like, however, and he would eventually leave his post before running to replace her once May stepped down in 2019.
He won that election in large part because of his promise to ensure that Britain would leave the European Union, even if the two parties had not reached an agreement on what their continued relationship would look like after the country’s exit. That platform was strong enough to grant him the most decisive win in a Conservative party election in over thirty years.
It was not a promise he would be able to keep, which became something of a pattern for his term in office.
Parliament eventually passed legislation that mandated an agreement be in place before leaving the EU and forced Johnson to accept a deal in early 2020 that looked very similar to the one he had lampooned under May’s administration. However, any potential fallout he may have faced from that failure was masked by the onset of COVID-19.
He got into further trouble during the pandemic for his uneven governance and inconsistent policies (though such accusations could be levied against most governments during those uncertain times.) But it was his violation of his own rules that proved most damning.
Reports eventually emerged of him attending parties that clearly violated his own COVID policies during the early parts of the pandemic. He had initially assured investigators that they had followed the guidelines “at all times,” but mounting evidence later forced him to admit that he had lied. Misleading Parliament has historically been grounds for a Prime Minister to resign, and many encouraged him to do so. He refused, however, and though Russia’s ensuing invasion of Ukraine bought him a few more months, he governed on borrowed time from that point forward.
After his party lost two key seats in an election last month—a result many saw as a referendum on Johnson’s leadership—the call for change became impossible to ignore. The aforementioned controversy surrounding Chris Pincher provided the necessary means of instituting that change.
“Rueful but unrepentant”
As Tom McTague described, Boris Johnson “is both the most self-aware political leader I’ve come across, a leader who seems to genuinely reflect on his character flaws, and the one who seems most determined to do absolutely nothing about them.” Given that those flaws and the ways that they endeared him to his base were a big part of why he was elected, it’s understandable that he would resist calls to change.
Indeed, even in his resignation speech, he could be aptly described as “rueful but unrepentant.” However, in so doing, Johnson demonstrates an important principle for us to keep in mind today: sin, even when profitable for a time, is never worth what it costs in the end.
It’s possible that Johnson would have had a more difficult time rising to the ranks of professional prominence that he achieved were it not for his brazen personality and willingness to lie in service to some larger agenda. And maybe he would still deem those accomplishments worth the shame and infamy that will follow his name as history reflects on his time in office.
But the idea that we can only accomplish our goals by sinful means is a lie, and in the rare instances where it’s not, that should be a flashing neon sign that those are not goals worth pursuing. After all, Satan has zero interest in blessing you unless doing so will drive you further from the Lord. He is and always will be “a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” and the fastest way to end up as one of his meals is by believing the lie that any sin is worth what it will cost in the end (1 Peter 5:8).
Why do you need to remember that truth today?