- Johnson attacks the Lockdown Parties Committee and Prime Minister Sunak
- He said the committee was determined to convict him
- The resignation throws the Conservatives into new turmoil
- Labor says audience is tired of ‘Tory opera’
LONDON (Reuters) – Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson abruptly resigned from Parliament on Friday in an angry protest against lawmakers investigating his behaviour, reopening deep divisions within the ruling Conservative Party ahead of a general election expected next year.
Johnson was under investigation by a parliamentary inquiry looking into whether he misled the House of Commons about the closing of parties in Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After Johnson received a confidential letter from the committee, he accused the lawmakers investigating him of behaving like a “kangaroo court” and intending to end his political career.
Accusing the commission of constituting a “political blow,” Johnson said in a statement: “I was forced out by a small handful of people, with no evidence to support their assertions.”
Parliament’s Privileges Committee – the main disciplinary body for lawmakers – has the power to recommend Johnson’s suspension from Parliament. If the suspension lasted more than 10 days, the voters in his district could demand that he run for re-election to continue as their representative.
Johnson hinted that he could return to politics, announcing that he was leaving Parliament “for the time being”.
But the decision to resign could be the end of his 22-year political career, as he rose from parliament to mayor of London, then built a profile that tipped the balance of the 2016 EU referendum in favor of Brexit.
Johnson, whose premiership was cut short in part by anger in his party and across Britain over COVID-19 lockdown parties at his Downing Street office and residence, said the committee had found no “evidence” against him.
“I am not alone in thinking that a witch-hunt is underway to avenge Brexit and ultimately to reverse the outcome of the 2016 referendum,” he said. “My dismissal is the necessary first step, and I think there has been a concerted effort to make that happen.”
The inquiry is being chaired by a senior Labor MP, but the majority of lawmakers on the committee are Conservatives.
The committee said it will meet on Monday to finalize its investigation and will publish its report soon. A spokesman for the committee said Johnson had “challenged the integrity” of parliament with his resignation statement.
Attack on the Sun
The resignation would lead to a by-election for his West London constituency. It is the second in a single day for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after Johnson’s ally Nadine Dorries announced she was stepping down.
“The British public is sick to the back teeth of the Tory party’s never-ending series at their expense,” said Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labor Party.
Johnson came to power nearly four years ago, promising to get Brexit done and save it from the bitter wrangles that followed the 2016 referendum. He shrugged off concerns by some fellow Conservatives that his narcissism, failure with detail and reputation for dishonesty meant he was unsuitable.
Some conservatives enthusiastically supported the former journalist, while others supported him, though with reservations, because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that would normally disapprove of their party.
This was proven in the December 2019 elections. But his administration’s combative and often chaotic approach to governance and scandals have exhausted the goodwill of many of his deputies. Polls show that he is no longer popular with the general public.
Johnson used his resignation statement on Friday to launch an attack on the premiership of Sunak, whom he blames in part for the end of his government. The men, who have worked closely together during the pandemic, have been at odds since Sunak resigned as finance minister last summer in protest at Johnson’s leadership.
“When I left office last year, the government was only a few points behind in opinion polls. Now that gap has widened dramatically,” he said.
“Our party desperately needs to regain its sense of momentum and its belief in what this country can do.”
Editing by David Milliken and Daniel Wallis
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