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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."

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