Boris Johnson quits as MP and claims he is victim of ‘Partygate and Brexit witch-hunt’

Decision comes as Partygate probe set to deliver damning verdict – but ex-PM hints at political comeback, saying he will be out of parliament ‘for now’

Kate Devlin,Jon Stone
Saturday 10 June 2023 10:31 BST
Boris Johnson resigns as an MP

Boris Johnson has sensationally announced he is quitting as an MP – plunging the Conservatives into fresh chaos and launching an all-out assault on Rishi Sunak’s leadership.

In a bid to rally supporters the former prime minister claimed he was a victim of a Partygate and Brexit “witch-hunt”, as he faced a damning verdict following a parliamentary inquiry into his conduct during the Covid pandemic.

In a 1,000 word resignation statement branded “Trumpian” by former allies Mr Johnson said he would trigger a by-election in his London seat – causing a major political headache for Mr Sunak.

The ex PM announced his decision to stand down amid growing speculation that the conclusions of the Commons privileges committee could lead to his being kicked out as the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

He claimed his political enemies had sought revenge on him ever since he led the campaign to take the UK out of the EU in 2016.

The shock move is bound to lead to speculation that Mr Johnson – who has been made aware of the as yet unpublished findings of the committee’s inquiry – jumped before he was pushed.

Mr Johnson’s resignation statement also pointedly said he was leaving parliament “for now” – and laid out an alternative vision for a “proper Conservative government” – raising the prospect that he could already be preparing a comeback.

Will Walden, who was chief of staff and spokesperson to Boris Johnson as foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He's convinced by his own truth in his own righteousness. There's no apology, no taking responsibility. It all feels very Trumpian."

He added: "He had seen the writing on the wall, he knew he probably would lose a by-election in his marginal seat. His primary motivation here, as it has been for the last year or so, is protecting his version of the narrative.

“So by going, as he has, all guns blazing, he is able to avoid defeat, he is able to blame pretty much everyone else, including it seems anyone that voted Remain in 2016.

“There is no plan but he is preparing himself for what might be next without the humiliation of being kicked out.

“But it is so Boris. He told the committee that if they found against him, he wouldn’t respect the outcome – and so it has proved, there is no great surprise here.”

It comes after Mr Johnson was accused of cronyism for handing out peerages, knighthoods and other honours to his closest allies, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel as well as aides linked to the Partygate scandal.

His surprise departure was announced only hours after his most loyal former cabinet ally, Nadine Dorries, also announced her decision to leave the Commons after Mr Johnson’s bid to award her a peerage was effectively blocked.

Boris Johnson made the shock announcement on Friday evening (AP)

Mr Johnson also used his bombshell resignation statement to launch a devastating political and personal attack on his successor.

Allied to a thinly veiled threat to return to the political fray, it will be seen by some as a personal manifesto and the platform for a possible future leadership challenge against the embattled Rishi Sunak.

Mr Johnson accused Mr Sunak’s government of “endlessly” putting up taxes, not being “properly” Conservative, and appearing to forget about Brexit voters.

“Our party needs urgently to recapture its sense of momentum and its belief in what this country can do,” he said.

Mr Johnson launched a broadside at Rishi Sunak – and hinted at a comeback (PA Archive)

In an apparent bid to rally his supporters, he also sought to tie the investigation against him to Brexit – claiming his removal as an MP was “the necessary first step” to reversing Britain’s exit from the EU.

“I am not alone in thinking that there is a witch-hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result,” he said.

In an extraordinary 1,034-word statement, he accused the Commons investigation into whether he misled parliament over Partygate of attempting to “drive me out” and compared it to a “kangaroo court”.

And he accused the cross-party Commons privileges committee, which carried out the inquiry, of bias against him.

“It is very sad to be leaving parliament – at least for now – but above all I am bewildered and appalled that I can be forced out, anti-democratically, by a committee chaired and managed, by Harriet Harman, with such egregious bias,” he said.

His resignation came hours after his staunch ally Nadine Dorries also stood down as an MP (Getty)

The Commons Privileges Committee said the cross-party panel of MPs will meet on Monday to complete its inquiry and that the report would be published “promptly”.

Opposition parties said Mr Johnson would not be missed.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said the public were “sick to the back teeth of this never-ending Tory soap opera played out at their expense”. Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper added: “Good riddance.”

Earlier he was accused of delivering a “sickening insult” to those bereaved by Covid, after he gave honours to allies embroiled in the Partygate scandal, including one dubbed “Party Marty”.

Martin Reynolds, his former principal private secretary who boasted “we seem to have got away with” the “bring your own booze” garden party during coronavirus restrictions, received a gong.

There were also honours for Dan Rosenfield, his ex-chief of staff, and Jack Doyle, his former director of communications, both of whom were in office during some of the rule-breaking.

Those put forward for a knighthood included staunch loyalist Mr Rees-Mogg, former housing secretary Simon Clarke, and MPs Conor Burns and Michael Fabricant.

Former home secretary Ms Patel was nominated for a damehood, along with former ministers Andrea Jenkyns and Amanda Milling.

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