In Pictures: Serial poll winner’s campaigning skills undone by Covid missteps

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Boris Johnson’s decision to resign as an MP marks the end of the parliamentary career of a man whose success at the ballot box was undermined by his handling of the biggest peacetime crisis in modern memory.

Two terms as mayor in previously Labour-run London propelled the former journalist to national prominence and his was perhaps the most public face of the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum he and his allies won against the odds.

After the resignation of David Cameron and the failure of Theresa May to win over the country with her Brexit deal, Mr Johnson became prime minister and went on to deliver the biggest Conservative win since the Thatcher years in the 2019 Christmas election.

Reports were beginning to emerge of a virus in China which would nearly cost Mr Johnson his life – and in a roundabout way has ended his political career, for now at least.

London Olympic Games – Day 5
Mr Johnson was left hanging in mid-air after he got stuck on a zipwire at a 2012 Olympic event at Victoria Park in London (Ben Kendall/PA)

Boris visit to Kew
Donning a pair of fishing waders to help plant flowers at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson visit to Israel – Day One
Trying out a virtual reality headset at Google’s offices in Israel (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Johnson, who had been mayor of London during the 2012 Olympics, surprised many with his decision to back Brexit and became a familiar figure around the country, descending from a bespoke red bus to rally voters to end the union with the continent that started in 1973.

He was perhaps the most high-profile figure on the campaign and the take-back-control message prevailed, to the surprise of many pundits at home and abroad.

Many saw him as the man to lead the UK out of the union, but as he prepared to contest the leadership after Mr Cameron’s resignation, the shock decision of ally Michael Gove to stand scuppered his campaign before it had started.

In the end, Mrs May, a Remainer, won the contest and put Mr Johnson in charge of the Foreign Office as the UK began what would be a fraught process of exiting the then 28-member body.

EU referendum
Gisela Stuart, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove hold a press conference at Brexit HQ in Westminster after David Cameron quit (Mary Turner/PA)

London Mayoral election
Conservative Party leader David Cameron congratulates Boris Johnson on becoming London mayor in 2008 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson sacked by Conservatives
Boris Johnson on an early morning jog in 2004 after he was sacked from the shadow cabinet by Tory party leader Michael Howard, after revelations about his private life were published in a tabloid newspaper (Chris Young/PA)

Launch of a campaign on sports participation
Promoting a sports participation initiative outside County Hall in London in 2008 (Tim Ireland/PA)

Boris Johnson visit to Japan – Day Four
During a street rugby tournament in Tokyo with school children to mark Japan hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Tory leadership race
An ice cream stop in Barry, South Wales, during the leadership campaign (Frank Augstein/PA)

Mr Johnson eventually quit as foreign secretary amid discord over Mrs May’s perceived soft Brexit.

After she was eventually toppled, Mr Johnson never looked like being beaten in the resulting contest, securing a clear win.

He arrived in 10 Downing Street after being offered the post by the then Queen but it did not take him long to seek a fresh mandate for the “oven-ready” deal he had struck with the EU.

Voters gave him a ringing endorsement, with the Tories claiming spectacular wins in “red wall” seats which had previously been seen as safe for Labour.

Little did Mr Johnson know that the imminent leaving of the EU would soon be superseded by a crisis like no other.

The coronavirus outbreak saw him taking unprecedented decisions, governing every aspect of citizens’ lives with his March 23 2020 address telling people to stay at home at the beginning of a long struggle, politically and personally.

After being treated in intensive care, Mr Johnson resumed full duties but although his physical health recovered, events during the lockdown would in the end help trigger his downfall.

Apprenticeship initiative announcement
Being taught how to make a latte at a Starbucks branch in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

General Election 2019
Mr Johnson and then girlfriend Carrie Symonds arrive in Downing Street after the landslide victory in the 2019 general election (Yui Mok/PA)

Mr Johnson was credited by some for a fast vaccine rollout, but an inquiry will determine his handling of the pandemic.

It was the so-called partygate scandal of socialising at the heart of Westminster while the four nations were locked down that saw his popularity tumble.

After a series of bad election results, the Chris Pincher scandal proved the final straw for a party that had narrowly voted to keep the leader in post just weeks earlier.

Harry with Boris Johnson
Speaking to the Duke of Sussex during the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London in late January 2020 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson
A weary looking Mr Johnson speaking at a coronavirus media briefing in Downing Street on the 99th day since the Tories won the election (Julian Simmonds/Daily Telegraph/PA)

Boris Johnson is greeted by the then Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and her private Secretary Sir Edward Young as he arrives at Balmoral for an audience to formally resign (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Boris Johnson is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II’s Equerry Lieutenant Colonel Tom White and her private secretary Sir Edward Young as he arrives at Balmoral for an audience to formally resign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

With mass resignations ensuing, Mr Johnson finally agreed to stand down before eventually being replaced by Liz Truss, whose own tenure was historically brief.

Mr Johnson’s erstwhile ally Rishi Sunak took over at Number 10 but parliamentary scrutiny of his Covid conduct did not abate.

Friday’s decision to quit as an MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip marks the latest downward trajectory of a politician who was a winner with the voters but who made many political enemies.

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