BORIS Johnson just did the statesmanlike thing.
He put the interests of the country ahead of his own ambition, ego and determination to put right the injustice of his summer sacking.
Mr Johnson was ready until the very last minute to plunge ahead with what amounted to all-out war with his own party.
He and his team were prepared to go over the heads of those Westminster MPs who cannot bring themselves to vote for him and appeal directly to the Tory Party’s rank and file membership.
That would have been a terrible mistake. MPs are democratically elected. Party members are not.
In so doing he would have been igniting the blue touch paper for the mother of all bonfire nights.
Fortunately he heeded wiser advice.
He was urged to spurn all thoughts of vengeance — however justified — against those who brought him down in July.
They included his former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose resignation effectively forced Boris out of Number 10.
Rishi was streets ahead on the votes among those elected MPs.
Boris had just managed to scrape over the 100-vote threshold. Such a showdown would have triggered unending civil war.
Instead he sensationally quit the leadership wars, leaving Rishi Sunak unopposed as the new Prime Minister.
The bombshell came after intense talks between the two men late into yesterday evening.
Boris’s decision, “in the national interest”, ends the months-long Downing Street bloodbath which has paralysed the national economy and humiliated Britain on the world stage.
Mr Johnson threw in the towel despite notching up enough votes for a sudden-death play-off among 180,000 grass roots party members.
At one point his camp signalled he was determined to press ahead.
Campaign manager Chris Heaton-Harris messaged allies: “OK everyone! Some very good news!
“Thanks to all your hard work I can confirm we have completed all the paperwork to be on the ballot tomorrow.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!”
Then at 9pm, after intense discussion between the two men, Mr Johnson announced his stunning U-turn.
He would be pulling out of the race and throwing his weight behind Rishi as PM.
Just 24 hours earlier, it had been BoJo urging Mr Sunak to step aside in favour of his own return to Number Ten.
In the meantime, he weighed up the likely convulsions, the impact on political stability and the consequences of a Labour election walkover.
The object is to clear the way for stability after months of incompetence, intrigue and infighting among MPs and ministers on all sides of the party.
It reached a crisis during Liz Truss’s shambolic six weeks as Prime Minister and Kwasi Kwarteng’s catastrophic mini Budget.
In the meantime, we have had a record four Chancellors and three Prime Ministers in four months.
Had he decided to run, BoJo would have been odds-on to defeat the ex-Chancellor.
Mr Sunak is blamed by some for bringing Boris down as Prime Minister with his dramatic resignation in July.
But victory would have been a poisoned chalice, with MPs resentful at being overruled by unelected members.
Even before the decision, some were threatening to revolt over new laws on illegal immigration, green issues, fracking and spending cuts.
Mr Johnson also faced a showdown with his own side over a Labour-led probe into claims he lied to parliament on Partygate.
Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker had vowed yesterday to vote against Boris if he became PM.
“When the Privileges Committee report comes, as it will, his Government will implode,” he warned.
“I am not willing to lay down my integrity for Boris Johnson.”
Other MPs have threatened to slash the Tory majority by forcing by-elections, potentially plunging the Government into a disastrous General Election.
Polls showed a likely Labour landslide and an end to Conservative power for a generation.
Boris Johnson may be a vote-magnet to millions, but even he would have had trouble turning the tide in what threatens to become a global recession.
This is Rishi Sunak’s chance to restore the extraordinary popularity he built during his early years as Chancellor.
It now falls to him to make Brexit work for Britain and to justify the 2016 Leave referendum.