Phew, glad that’s over: Boris Johnson quit this week. Picture: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood
Phew, glad that’s over: Boris Johnson quit this week. Picture: Getty Images/Dan Kitwood

Boris Johnson quit his position as Britain’s foreign minister this week, penning a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in which he expressed his disappointment at her failure to exit the EU without compromising.

"Brexit should be about opportunity and hope. It should be a chance to do things differently, to be more nimble and dynamic, and to maximise the particular advantages of the UK as an open, outward-looking global economy.

"That dream is dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt," he wrote.

Fascinating. But not nearly as fascinating as Johnson’s Damascene conversion from supreme colonial master to anticolonial rabble-rouser.

It’s right there in his letter to May. Describing how Britain is now in the parlous position of having to stay in line with Europe’s regulations without having a say in their formulation, thanks to his successful Brexit campaign, he had this to say:

"We are now in the ludicrous position of asserting that we must accept huge amounts of precisely such EU law, without changing an iota, because it is essential for our economic health — and when we no longer have any ability to influence these laws as they are made.

"In that respect we are truly headed for the status of colony — and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantages of that particular arrangement."

Well, that is quite an about-turn from the former Spectator editor, who wrote in The Sun in 2002: "The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty."

Johnson went so far as to write in The Telegraph in 2002: "The queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies."

When these moments of racist hubris were brought to light during his campaign for election to the position of mayor of London in 2008, he began his long journey of self-examination, saying in a debate: "I feel sad people have been offended by my words, and I apologise for them."

It is heartening that years of tortured self-critique have caused him to now see how awful colonialism will be for Britain when it signs its new deal with Europe.

Perhaps he will pick up the spear of former Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah and lead Britain’s anticolonial forces into battle against the European overlords? There must be enough conservative twits with bad teeth and pangas in Chatham to mount an assault. Or not.