Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Quits as MP Ahead of Verdict on Partygate Scandal

Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Quits as MP Ahead of Verdict on Partygate Scandal
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving evidence to the Privileges Committee at the House of Commons, London, on March 22, 2023. (House of Commons/UK Parliament via PA Media)
Alexander Zhang

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stepped down as an MP as the Parliamentary committee investigating the “partygate” scandal is set to announce its final verdict on whether he had lied to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons Privileges Committee, which is led by Labour MP Harriet Harman but has a Conservative majority, has been investigating whether Johnson misled Parliament when he repeatedly claimed that COVID-19 rules had been “followed at all times” in Downing Street.

 Boris Johnson at a gathering in 10 Downing Street. (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA)
Boris Johnson at a gathering in 10 Downing Street. (Sue Gray Report/Cabinet Office/PA)

The Times of London reported on Thursday that the panel had sent Johnson a draft of the report.

On Friday evening, the former prime minister announced his intention to step down as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip with immediate effect.

‘Kangaroo Court’

In a statement to the media, Johnson wrote: “I have received a letter from the Privileges Committee making it clear—much to my amazement—that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of Parliament.”

“Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts,” he alleged, adding, “This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.”

Johnson also claimed the probe has been a “witch hunt” intended to “take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result,” despite the fact that the Privileges Committee has a Tory majority and includes arch-Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin.

He said he was “bewildered and appalled” that he could be “forced out, anti-democratically,” by a committee “with such egregious bias.”

But he appears to have left the door open for a return to Westminster, saying, “It is very sad to be leaving Parliament—at least for now.”

Parting Shot

In the statement, Johnson also defended his record in office and fired a parting shot at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, saying there is a need for a “properly Conservative government.”

He claimed that Labour’s lead over the Tories has “massively widened” since Sunak replaced him as prime minister, adding, “Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a century, that majority is now clearly at risk.”

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

“We need to show how we are making the most of Brexit and we need in the next months to be setting out a pro-growth and pro-investment agenda.

“We need to cut business and personal taxes—and not just as pre-election gimmicks—rather than endlessly putting them up.”

But he said the Conservative Party “has the time to recover its mojo and its ambition and to win the next election.”

It had long been suspected he could abandon Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where he had a majority of only 7,210 in 2019, in favor of a safer seat.

His resignation came just hours after leading ally Nadine Dorries resigned her Mid-Bedfordshire seat, where the Tories enjoy a majority of more than 24,000, fuelling speculation that Johnson could target that safer constituency for a comeback.

‘Deceit and Lies’

Responding to Johnson’s statement, a spokesperson for the Privileges Committee said: “The committee has followed the procedures and the mandate of the House at all times and will continue to do so.

“Mr. Johnson has departed from the processes of the House and has impugned the integrity of the House by his statement. The Committee will meet on Monday to conclude the inquiry and to publish its report promptly.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said the former prime minister had “jumped” to avoid facing a potential by-election in his marginal constituency.

“To me, he is a coward,” the senior opposition MP told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Johnson has “a track record of deceit and lies.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I never thought he was fit to be an MP, let alone prime minister.”

PA Media contributed to this report.