Johnson's Exit From Parliament Shocks 06/10 08:06
Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson left chaos in his wake Saturday
after quitting Parliament with a blast at fellow lawmakers he accused of
ousting him in a "witch hunt."
LONDON (AP) -- Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson left chaos in his
wake Saturday after quitting Parliament with a blast at fellow lawmakers he
accused of ousting him in a "witch hunt."
As opponents jeered, the Conservative government absorbed the shock of yet
another Johnson earthquake, while a band of loyal supporters insisted Britain's
divisive ex-leader could still make a comeback.
Less than a year after he was forced out as prime minister by his own
Conservative Party, Johnson unexpectedly stepped down as a lawmaker late Friday
-- "at least for now," he said in a self-justifying resignation statement.
Johnson quit after being told he will be sanctioned for misleading
Parliament over "partygate," a series of rule-breaking gatherings in the prime
minister's office during the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson was among scores of
people fined by police over late-night soirees, boozy parties and "wine time
Fridays" that broke restrictions the government had imposed on the country.
Johnson has acknowledged misleading Parliament when he assured lawmakers
that no rules had been broken, but he said he didn't do so deliberately,
genuinely believing the gatherings were legitimate work events.
A standards committee investigating him appears to see things differently.
Johnson quit after receiving the report of the Privileges Committee, which has
not yet been made public. Johnson faced suspension from the House of Commons if
the committee found he had lied deliberately.
Johnson, 58, called the committee "a kangaroo court" that was determined to
"drive me out of Parliament."
"Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of
the facts," Johnson said.
The committee, which has a majority Conservative membership, said Johnson
had "impugned the integrity" of the House of Commons with his attack. It said
it would meet Monday "to conclude the inquiry and to publish its report
Johnson is a charismatic and erratic figure whose career has seen a series
of scandals and comebacks. The rumpled, Latin-spouting populist with a mop of
blond hair has held major offices but also spent periods on the political
sidelines before Britain's exit from the European Union propelled him to the
A champion of Brexit, Johnson led the Conservatives to a landslide victory
in 2019 and took Britain out of the EU the following year. But he became mired
in scandals over his ethics and judgment, and was forced out as prime minister
by his own party in mid-2022.
By quitting Parliament, he avoids a suspension that could have seen him
ousted from his Commons seat by his constituents, leaving him free to run for
Parliament again in future. His resignation statement suggested he was mulling
that option. It was highly critical of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who served
as Treasury chief in Johnson's government before jumping ship with many other
colleagues in July 2022 -- resignations that forced Johnson out as prime
Conservative poll ratings went into decline during the turbulent final
months of Johnson's term and have not recovered. Opinion polls regularly put
the opposition Labour Party 20 points or more ahead. A national election must
be held by the end of 2024.
"Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a
century, that majority is now clearly at risk," Johnson said in a statement
that sounded like a leadership pitch. "Our party needs urgently to recapture
its sense of momentum and its belief in what this country can do."
Johnson allies expressed hope that the former prime minister was not
finished. Conservative lawmaker John Redwood said Johnson "has made it very
clear that he doesn't regard this as the end of his involvement in British
But many others questioned whether a politician who has often seemed to defy
political gravity could make yet another comeback.
Will Walden, who worked for Johnson when he was mayor of London and U.K.
foreign secretary, said the former prime minister quit because he had "seen the
writing on the wall."
"I think the most important thing that people need to understand this
morning is there is only one thing driving Boris and that is that he likes to
win, or at least not to lose," Walden told the BBC. "This report clearly
threatened to change all that."
Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said
Johnson often drew inspiration from his political hero, Winston Churchill, who
led Britain to victory in World War II only to be ousted from power in 1945 --
and then to return to office several years later.
"I believe that he thinks that he can spend some time in ... the wilderness
before the Conservative Party and the country calls upon him once again in its
hour of need," Bale said.
"Frankly, I think that is unlikely. I think partygate has ensured that he is
toxic as far as many voters are concerned. And I think the way he has behaved
over the last two or three days -- and some people will say over the last two
or three years -- probably means that most of his colleagues would rather he
disappeared in a puff of smoke."