Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned from his position as a Member of Parliament (MP) and announced his immediate step-down. In a comprehensive statement, the ex-PM accused a Commons investigation of attempting to force him out.
Johnson initially became an MP in 2001, representing the Henley constituency in Oxfordshire. Subsequently, he served as the Mayor of London, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, and ultimately became the Prime Minister. Approximately four years ago, he led the Conservative party to an 80-seat majority, their best result in three decades. However, he left the position of Prime Minister in 2022 following a ministerial revolt triggered by various scandals, including Partygate.
Reasons behind the resignation
Regarding his resignation as an MP, Johnson stated that he had decided to step down “for now” due to an investigation into the Partygate scandal conducted by the Privileges Committee. He accused the committee of engaging in a “witch hunt” against him, with the intention of driving him out of Parliament. Consequently, he chose to resign pre-emptively rather than being pushed out. Johnson emphasised that it was not in anyone’s interest for the committee’s on-going process to continue. This decision prompted an immediate by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency.
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The Privileges Committee’s report, authored by a cross-party committee of senior MPs, was delivered to Johnson just 24 hours prior. According to his statement, the report’s contents remain undisclosed, but his claim implies that the committee had indicated a likely recommendation for a suspension of 10 or more sitting days. This would trigger a recall petition in his seat, potentially leading to a by-election. Notably, the report is currently in draft form, and the Privileges Committee’s process is still ongoing. The report, authorised by a House of Commons vote, will be published as early as next week. The final recommendation would need to pass an MP vote before it is enacted.
External factors may have also influenced Johnson’s decision. As mentioned in his letter, the Conservative Party is trailing behind Labour by an average of 16 points in the polls. If he had chosen to remain and fight, his return to Parliament was not guaranteed. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are actively targeting his former Uxbridge seat, which is a marginal constituency with a majority of 7,200. While Johnson still had options, he strategically cut his losses and forego further engagement.
An imminent civil war in the Conservative Party?
This time last year, Boris Johnson held the position of British Prime Minister. However, last night, he made the decision to resign as a Member of Parliament (MP) after receiving the findings of an investigation into his alleged misleading of Parliament regarding the “Partygate” scandal. The scandal involved accusations that Johnson and his staff violated social distancing regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic, ultimately leading to the downfall of his premiership.
The significance of this event in British politics cannot be understated. No other prime minister, not even Sir Anthony Eden, who deceived the British public during the Suez crisis in 1956, has left office with such a tarnished reputation as Johnson now carries. For the UK, this moment is as momentous as the resignation of US President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. Similar to Nixon, Johnson will forever be remembered as a liar. Unlike Nixon, who had some achievements to balance his record, Johnson’s tenure lacks any such redeeming factors.
The consequences of last night’s events are profound, especially when considering the Conservative Party. Late last year, Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss was forced out of office due to the catastrophic failure of her economic policies, resulting in national humiliation. Now, Johnson, her predecessor, has been compelled to leave both Downing Street and Parliament after being exposed. Even prior to this unprecedented ousting, the Conservatives appeared destined for defeat in the next general election. Now, the party’s very survival is in question, and some may argue it’s for the best.
The Conservative Party has become synonymous with chaos, cronyism, moral corruption, personal greed, and a blatant sense of entitlement. Their actions have inflicted significant damage on the United Kingdom, leading to a severe decline in its international reputation. A significant portion of Johnson’s statement was directed at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak personally, violating the convention that a former prime minister should remain out of the limelight. Johnson still believes his authority derives from his landslide election victory, failing to acknowledge the loss of popularity he experienced while in office.
While Sunak may be viewed as a reliable figure, Johnson’s challenge poses a threat to him as a vote-winner. Sunak now faces the task of dealing with three by-elections to prove his electoral prowess. The last MP to resign “with immediate effect” was Nigel Adams.
Additionally, the consequences for Brexit must be considered. Johnson was closely associated with Brexit, both during the 2016 referendum and as the prime minister who campaigned on the promise of “getting Brexit done” in the 2019 general election. Even before the Privileges Committee’s ruling that further damaged Johnson’s reputation, public opinion had already shifted significantly away from Brexit. With Brexit’s champion now ostracized, there will likely be renewed momentum for those advocating a return to the European Union.
Brexit is increasingly seen by major businesses as a self-inflicted wound, a unique case where a country imposed economic sanctions on itself. As the US and EU heavily invest in their green economies, Britain is perceived to be falling behind by not following suit. While they lead, Britain is forced to follow. The logic behind Brexit has been turned on its head.
Finally, the third consequence is more immediate and potentially perilous for Sunak. Just hours before announcing his resignation, Johnson’s honors list was published. The list includes a controversial selection of Johnson’s associates, which was to be expected from a disgraced former prime minister. However, a brewing scandal questions why the honors list was allowed to proceed at all.
The end of Boris Johnson?
Whether or not Rishi Sunak was aware of Boris Johnson’s impending resignation before it occurred, it is evident that Johnson has dragged a Conservative prime minister into a moral quagmire. Similar to the alleged actions of Russian sappers who reportedly destroyed the Nova Kakhovka dam in Ukraine, Johnson’s departure from Parliament reflects an ego that proclaims, “After me, the deluge.”
Johnson has cast doubt on the integrity of a parliamentary inquiry, a committee that he himself established and which includes a majority of Tories, including long-time Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin. He has undermined Sunak’s claim of having successfully accomplished Brexit. He has challenged the core principles of the Conservative Party. He has misused the resignation honors list. Additionally, he has placed the monarchy in an embarrassing position. Sunak, in turn, has been exposed as naïve and negligent in his duty to safeguard the monarchy from political scandal.
Furthermore, Johnson’s actions have forced three by-elections and left open the possibility of his return at some point. It remains uncertain whether the party, let alone Sunak, would allow Johnson to come back as a Conservative candidate or if he would reappear as a figure similar to Nigel Farage on the far right.
Johnson has implicated Sunak in his sordid legacy as prime minister. If Sunak aims to salvage his own reputation, the first step he should take is to discard Johnson’s honors list. However, like Putin’s soldiers, Johnson may have caused far more damage than he intended. Sunak would be wise to bid Johnson a swift farewell, as it is crucial for the preservation of the Conservative Party.
Johnson’s political career has concluded in a blaze of fireworks, but ultimately, it is his judgment and legacy that have gone up in flames.
The illustrious political career of Boris Johnson
After commencing his professional journey as a journalist, Boris Johnson gained prominence as an editor while simultaneously establishing his political foundation as a Conservative MP. In a surprising turn of events, he emerged victorious in London’s mayoral race in 2008. This famously dishevelled politician fervently supported the “Leave” movement during the Brexit referendum in 2016 and later served as the foreign secretary for a period of two years. Eventually, Johnson ascended to the position of prime minister in 2019, overseeing the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. However, his premiership was marred by criticism for violating Covid-19 lockdown rules, ultimately leading to his resignation in July 2022.
Boris Johnson, whose full name is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, was born on June 19, 1964, in New York City. He is the eldest of four children born to Stanley, a politician, environmentalist, and author, and Charlotte, a painter. Johnson’s sister, Rachel, gained recognition as a journalist, while his middle brother, Jo, became a member of Parliament and a government minister. His youngest brother, Leo, pursued a career in finance. Furthermore, Johnson has two half-siblings, Maximilian and Julia, from his father’s second marriage.
During his early years, Johnson experienced frequent relocations due to his father’s diverse professional pursuits, having moved 32 times by the age of 14. These travels included stays in London, where he attended Primrose Hill Primary School, and Brussels, where he enrolled at the European School. Affected by a medical condition known as “glue ear,” which caused partial deafness until the age of eight, Johnson was described as a quiet and diligent boy. However, his personality began to blossom after he was sent to Ashdown House, a boarding school in East Sussex. It was there that he developed an interest in ancient Greek and Latin studies and developed a passion for rugby.
Upon attending Eton College, Johnson dropped his first name and embraced a more extroverted persona. He led the debate society, served as the school’s captain, and gained membership to the exclusive “Pop” club. However, his behaviour sometimes clashed with faculty, leading to criticism from one housemaster about his “disgracefully cavalier attitude.”
Following a gap year spent teaching in Australia, Johnson returned to England to pursue a classics degree at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Within his cohort of future luminaries, Johnson stood out and eventually became the president of the Oxford Union. He also co-edited the satirical publication Tributary and was a member of the Bullingdon Club. In 1987, Johnson earned an upper second-class degree in classics.
From 1994 to 1999, Johnson served as the chief political columnist and an assistant editor at The Daily Telegraph. He then became the editor of The Spectator, a right-wing magazine, until 2005. During this time, he also wrote a regular automotive column for GQ and gained further recognition through his appearances on the popular quiz show “Have I Got News for You.”
After starting his career as a journalist, Boris Johnson gained significant attention as the Conservative candidate for London mayor in 2007. Known for his dishevelled appearance and charismatic but occasionally clumsy manner, he defeated the incumbent Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, and assumed office as London’s second elected mayor in 2008.
During his tenure as mayor, Johnson faced initial challenges, including the resignation of several top aides. However, he introduced notable initiatives such as the “Boris bikes” cycle-sharing program in 2010 and the updated “Boris bus” fleet in early 2012. Although he faced criticism for his response to the 2011 London riots, Johnson triumphed over Livingstone once again and secured a second term in 2012.
Throughout his mayoralty, Johnson oversaw significant projects, including the completion of the ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower and Emirates Air Line cable cars in time for the 2012 London Olympics. Notably, his image stuck on a zip line above Victoria Park became a lasting memory of the event. However, ambitious ventures like the proposed “Boris island” airport and the garden bridge over the River Thames did not materialize despite his efforts.
In addition to his mayoral duties, Johnson became involved in the Brexit campaign leading up to the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union. Initially undecided, he eventually emerged as a prominent figurehead for the “Leave” campaign, opposing Prime Minister David Cameron’s position. Johnson’s populist message advocating for an independent U.K. resonated with the public, culminating in the historic vote to leave the EU on June 23, 2016.
After the referendum, Johnson briefly pursued the Conservative leadership but withdrew, allowing Theresa May to become the prime minister. In July 2016, Johnson was appointed secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs under May’s government. However, his tenure was marked by controversial off-the-cuff remarks, including criticism of Saudi Arabia and a misjudgment regarding a British-Iranian national detained in Iran.
While serving as foreign secretary, Johnson engaged in diplomatic efforts concerning alleged Russian activities and support for the Iran nuclear deal. However, he clashed with May over her Brexit negotiations, ultimately resigning from his position in July 2018.
Following May’s resignation in 2019 due to the inability to reach a Brexit agreement, Johnson once again vied for the Conservative Party leadership and succeeded. He assumed the role of prime minister on July 24, 2019, with a strong commitment to implementing Brexit by October 31, deal or no deal.
Johnson faced immediate opposition when he requested the suspension of Parliament until mid-October, which critics argued limited opposition to his Brexit plans. Parliament passed a bill requiring the prime minister to seek an extension for Brexit if no agreement was reached with the EU. In the subsequent snap election, Johnson’s Conservative Party secured a decisive victory in December 2019, enabling him to finalize a Brexit deal after the U.K.’s formal exit from the EU on January 31, 2020.
However, Johnson’s tenure as prime minister was marred by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially reluctant to impose strict measures, he eventually implemented a nationwide lockdown. Johnson himself contracted the virus and required intensive care. While the U.K. approved a vaccine in December 2020, the country faced significant challenges and criticisms regarding its handling of the pandemic, including delays in enacting social distancing measures.
In April 2022, Johnson faced further scrutiny when he was fined for breaking lockdown rules, and subsequent revelations of lockdown-defying social gatherings among government officials tarnished his reputation. Facing mounting pressure, Johnson resigned as prime minister in July 2022.