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Furious former prime minister Boris Johnson sensationally quit as an MP over Partygate tonight, accusing Remainers and other political opponents of conspiring to force him out of politics.
Mr Johnson stunned Westminster by resigning his seat with immediate effect over the findings of an investigation into Partygate lawbreaking in Downing Street during the pandemic.
He launched a scathing attack on the cross-party Privileges Committee, led by Labour’s Harriet Harman but with a Tory majority of MPs. It investigated whether he misled MPs when he assured them that Covid rules were followed in No 10 following allegations of lockdown-busting parties.
Mr Johnson confirmed it had found against him and recommended he serve a ban from the House of more than 10 days. Under Commons rules this would trigger a by-election in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency he has represented since 2015 but which is a Labour target seat.
He accused the committee of having ‘still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons’.
Furious former prime minister Boris Johnson sensationally quit as an MP over Partygate tonight (pictured in March)
In a furious resignation letter the ex-Tory leader accused the probe of attempting to ‘drive me out’ and suggested it was a plot by Remain supporters still angry about the 2016 referendum.
‘Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court,’ he wrote.
‘Most members of the Committee – especially the chair – had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence. They should have recused themselves.
‘In retrospect it was naïve and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair. But I was determined to believe in the system, and in justice, and to vindicate what I knew to be the truth.’
He added that he was ‘very sad to be leaving parliament – at least for now’.
Dame Priti Patel, who served under Boris Johnson as home secretary and was nominated in the former prime minister’s long-awaited resignation honours list, tweeted a message of support for Mr Johnson on Friday evening, describing him as ‘a political titan’.
‘Boris is a political titan whose legacy will stand the test of time.’
Tory MP for Morley and Outwood, Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who was revealed on Friday to have been nominated for the honour by Boris Johnson, has said she will not resign in the wake of the former prime minister’s resignation.
‘Its (sic) a great honour to serve my constituents & our great country. The unjust events & @BorisJohnson resignation tonight has made me more determined to stand up to the blob wherever they reside.’
One of Mr Johnson’s allies, Sir Michael Fabricant, who was handed a knighthood in his resignation honours list today, said the investigation was ‘disgraceful treatment of a political leader who has made world history’.
Another, Sir James Duddridge, said: ‘History will recognise the great work Boris did on Brexit, Ukraine and Covid. He is a titan amongst minnows.
‘This is the conclusion of a chapter not the end of the book. We will hear more about Boris over the coming days, months and years.’
Mr Johnson was a lead figure in the Vote Leave campaign to quit the EU in 2016 and tonight blamed Remainers for forcing him out of politics
Boris Johnson leads a virtual news conference on the Covid-19 pandemic inside Downing Street in 2021
In a furious resignation letter the ex-Tory leader accused a House of Commons investigation into whether he misled Parliament over Partygate of attempting to ‘drive me out’ (pictured in March)
In a rallying call to his followers, Boris Johnson used his resignation statement to deliver a stinging attack on Rishi Sunak’s Government (pictured together in 2020, with Boris as PM and Rishi as Chancellor)
But Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said: ‘Good riddance.’
MPs quickly began squabbling on social media after Johnson’s resignation, with one Conservative calling a Labour MP a ‘traitorous twerp’.
Christian Wakeford, who caused shock when he defected from Tory to Labour in 2022, tweeted ‘Goodbye @BorisJohnson I can’t say you’ll be missed much.’
He was met with a furious response from Tory MP for Workington, Mark Jenkinson, who replied: ‘You literally owe your seat to him you traitorous twerp.’
In a rallying call to his followers, Boris Johnson used his resignation statement to deliver a stinging attack on Rishi Sunak’s Government.
‘When I left office last year the government was only a handful of points behind in the polls. That gap has now massively widened,’ he said.
‘Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a century, that majority is now clearly at risk. 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. We must not be afraid to be a properly Conservative government.
‘Why have we so passively abandoned the prospect of a Free Trade Deal with the US? Why have we junked measures to help people into housing or to scrap EU directives or to promote animal welfare?
‘We need to deliver on the 2019 manifesto, which was endorsed by 14 million people. We should remember that more than 17 million voted for Brexit. ‘
The shock announcement came just hours after huis close ally Nadine Dorries also quit her seat.
The ex-Tory minister, a close ally of Boris Johnson, has represented the longstanding Tory seat of Mid-Bedfordshire since 2005.
She had been linked with a seat in the House of Lords in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list but her appointment is believed to have been blocked by officials.
Downing Street denied blocking the appointments, but there was fury among supporters of Mr Johnson.
The former Prime Minister, 58, has resigned his seat in Westminster with immediate effect, triggering a by-election (pictured in 2019)
Ms Dorries, who has been an MP since 2005, has been a vocal critic of Mr Sunak’s Government since he entered No 10 and is set to release a book on the downfall of former prime minister Mr Johnson
The ex-Tory minister, a close ally of Boris Johnson , has represented the ultra-safe Tory seat of Mid-Bedfordshire since 2005.
In a reference to Mrs Dorries’ upbringing, one said: ‘The posh Oxbridge boys in No 10 and the House of Lords Appointments Commission (Holac) have made sure a girl born on one of the poorest streets in Liverpool did not get to the House of Lords.’
One Whitehall source said Holac, which vets the appointment of peers, was concerned about the precedent that would be set by allowing MPs to join the Lords mid-term.
But an ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘This is Rishi’s revenge. It’s war now.’
Ms Dorries, 66, who was also a health minister under Mr Johnson, this afternoon tweeted: ‘I have today informed the chief whip that I am standing down as the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, with immediate effect.’
The Times earlier reported Ms Dorries, as well as Sir Alok Sharma – president of the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, were struck from Mr Johnson’s trimmed-down honours list to avoid potentially damaging by-elections as they would have stood down to take the peerages.
Tory high command is said to have feared the prospect of a difficult double-by-election if Mrs Dorries and Sir Alok were allowed to go to the Lords.
And shortly afterwards a number of senior officials who were implicated in the partygate scandal have been nominated in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said it was ‘sickening’ that those who held ‘boozy lockdown bashes’ during the pandemic in Downing Street had been recognised by the former prime minister.
Martin Reynolds, formerly Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary in No 10, has been nominated for a peerage.
He has admitted emailing Downing Street staff to invite them to come for drinks in the No 10 garden to ‘make the most of this lovely weather’ on May 20, 2020.
The ‘bring your own booze’ event took place at a time when rules and guidance restricted gatherings of more than two people and workplaces were meant to maintain social distancing.
In his evidence to the Commons’ Privileges Committee investigation into whether Mr Johnson misled MPs over his response to the scandal, Mr Reynolds admitted the wording, which he has said he signed off but did not draft, had been ‘totally inappropriate’.
Boris Johnson’s resignation letter
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.
They have still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons.
They know perfectly well that when I spoke in the Commons I was saying what I believed sincerely to be true and what I had been briefed to say, like any other minister. They know that I corrected the record as soon as possible; and they know that I and every other senior official and minister – including the current Prime Minister and then occupant of the same building, Rishi Sunak – believed that we were working lawfully together.
I have been an MP since 2001. I take my responsibilities seriously. I did not lie, and I believe that in their hearts the Committee know it. But they have wilfully chosen to ignore the truth because from the outset their purpose has not been to discover the truth, or genuinely to understand what was in my mind when I spoke in the Commons.
Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.
Most members of the Committee – especially the chair – had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence. They should have recused themselves.
In retrospect it was naive and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair. But I was determined to believe in the system, and in justice, and to vindicate what I knew to be the truth.
It was the same faith in the impartiality of our systems that led me to commission Sue Gray. It is clear that my faith has been misplaced. Of course, it suits the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the SNP to do whatever they can to remove me from parliament.
Sadly, as we saw in July last year, there are currently some Tory MPs who share that view. I am not alone in thinking that there is a witch hunt underway, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result.
My removal is the necessary first step, and I believe there has been a concerted attempt to bring it about. I am afraid I no longer believe that it is any coincidence that Sue Gray – who investigated gatherings in Number 10 – is now the chief of staff designate of the Labour leader.
Nor do I believe that it is any coincidence that her supposedly impartial chief counsel, Daniel Stilitz KC, turned out to be a strong Labour supporter who repeatedly tweeted personal attacks on me and the government.
When I left office last year the government was only a handful of points behind in the polls. That gap has now massively widened.
Just a few years after winning the biggest majority in almost half a century, that majority is now clearly at risk.
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.
We must not be afraid to be a properly Conservative government.
Why have we so passively abandoned the prospect of a Free Trade Deal with the US? Why have we junked measures to help people into housing or to scrap EU directives or to promote animal welfare?
We need to deliver on the 2019 manifesto, which was endorsed by 14 million people. We should remember that more than 17 million voted for Brexit.
I am now being forced out of parliament by a tiny handful of people, with no evidence to back up their assertions, and without the approval even of Conservative party members let alone the wider electorate.
I believe that a dangerous and unsettling precedent is being set.
The Conservative Party has the time to recover its mojo and its ambition and to win the next election. I had looked forward to providing enthusiastic support as a backbench MP. Harriet Harman’s committee has set out to make that objective completely untenable.
The Committee’s report is riddled with inaccuracies and reeks of prejudice but under their absurd and unjust process I have no formal ability to challenge anything they say.
The Privileges Committee is there to protect the privileges of parliament. That is a very important job. They should not be using their powers – which have only been very recently designed – to mount what is plainly a political hitjob on someone they oppose.
It is in no one’s interest, however, that the process the Committee has launched should continue for a single day further.
So I have today written to my Association in Uxbridge and South Ruislip to say that I am stepping down forthwith and triggering an immediate by-election.
I am very sorry to leave my wonderful constituency. It has been a huge honour to serve them, both as Mayor and MP.
But I am proud that after what is cumulatively a 15 year stint I have helped to deliver among other things a vast new railway in the Elizabeth Line and full funding for a wonderful new state of the art hospital for Hillingdon, where enabling works have already begun.
I also remain hugely proud of all that we achieved in my time in office as Prime Minister: getting Brexit done, winning the biggest majority for 40 years and delivering the fastest vaccine roll out of any major European country, as well as leading global support for Ukraine.
It is very sad to be leaving parliament – at least for now – but above all I am bewildered and appalled that I can be forced out, anti-democratically, by a committee chaired and managed, by Harriet Harman, with such egregious bias.