Boris Johnson’s surprise resignation from the British Parliament underscored deep divisions within the Conservative Party a year before a general election and many commentators cast doubt on the former prime minister’s true political retirement on Saturday.
The 58-year-old former leader, who was ousted from Downing Street last July by his majority, handed in his MP on Friday evening. Two of his allies resigned from Parliament on Friday and Saturday.
In a lengthy press release issued on Friday evening, he calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the parties’ “participation” held in Downing Street in defiance of restrictions linked to Covid-19. He claims to be the victim of a “witch hunt” and controls his successor Rishi Sunak.
Boris Johnson is under parliamentary inquiry to determine whether he lied to Parliament by repeatedly claiming that all hygiene restrictions were respected during these parties.
The process, led by the Privileges Committee, was in the process of completing its work and submitted its findings to the former president, according to the British press. So it seems that he expected the suspension that he would be imposed.
But despite his resignation, the former leader, as charismatic as he is controversial, will continue to haunt Saturday’s political life, media and commentators alike. He also wrote that he was leaving Parliament, noting that “at least for now”.
Boris Johnson “may have resigned as an MP, but he has made it clear that he does not see this as the end of his political career”, the Times highlights. “He has no intention of keeping quiet,” the newspaper said. “Even if Johnson doesn’t have the ability to make an immediate political comeback, that doesn’t make his successor any less dangerous.”
“Boris Johnson is unlikely to disappear,” analyzes the BBC. “Boris Johnson has found himself exactly where he wants to be: center stage, with viewers wondering what he’s going to do next.” According to the BBC, “Boris Johnson’s ghost haunts Rishi Sunak”, but “this is the last thing the Prime Minister needs”.
High stakes elections
Rishi Sunak, who has been trying to restore political stability since becoming head of government in October, has been quiet since Boris Johnson’s exit.
The resignation exacerbates the difficulties faced by the Prime Minister with a year to go before the Legislative Assembly elections. After 13 years in power, the Conservatives are at their lowest point in the polls and in early May, the “Tories” have already suffered significant losses in local elections.
Boris Johnson’s withdrawal automatically triggers a by-election in his constituency in north-west London, where he had a slim majority.
On Saturday afternoon, one of his allies, Conservative MP Nigel Adams, announced his resignation “with immediate effect”. Earlier in the day, just hours before Boris Johnson, one of his cousins, his former culture minister Nadine Dorries, had already announced her departure.
So there will be high-risk local elections in three or more constituencies if the resignations of Boris Johnson’s allies continue.
“With a series of defeats – as it’s hard to see how she’ll win one of these by-elections – Sunak’s power as prime minister will evaporate,” judged the Daily Express, sparking a “battle” within the Conservative Party.
In his press release, Boris Johnson also violently attacked Rishi Sunak’s government.
“When I left office last year, the government was only a few points behind in the polls. That gap has now widened significantly,” he wrote.
“Our party urgently needs to regain momentum and confidence in what this country can do.”
Opposition Labor has accused Boris Johnson of being a ‘coward’ by resigning rather than face the decision of the Privy Council. “He could have defended himself… and fought the suspension but decided not to because he knew it was wrong,” Labour’s Angela Rayner told the BBC.
“Food trailblazer. Passionate troublemaker. Coffee fanatic. General analyst. Certified creator. Lifelong music expert. Alcohol specialist.”