Getting his retaliation in first: Boris Johnson takes to the attack in resignation letter

Tantrum: Boris Johnson’s resignation letter makes him look like a petulant child. Where’s Nanny to tell him to take his medicine?

It was probably the best thing he could think of doing.

After receiving notification from the Commons Privileges Committee of its decision in the Partygate Inquiry, and realising that he was going to be suspended for the 10-day period required to trigger a recall petition and possible by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, Boris Johnson decided to pre-empt it and resign immediately.

This gave him the opportunity to attack the decision, the committee that made it, and anybody else he felt like in what comes across as nothing less than an epistolary tantrum.

“The Privileges Committee… are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of Parliament,” he wrote. “They have still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons.”

Of course, that would be a very hard thing to do, if Johnson himself wasn’t willing to admit it – and he clearly isn’t. Committee members would have had to weigh up what Johnson had said he knew, against what could be concluded from his actions at the times of the parties in Downing Street, his comments at those events, and his behaviour in Parliament thereafter.

Clearly they have decided that it is unreasonable to believe he did not know that they were parties when he attended them and when he discussed them in the Commons chamber. That is all the committee members needed to do.

In that light, much of the rest of Johnson’s letter comes across as the sulking of a spoilt boy who hasn’t been allowed to have his own way.

Also in that light, though, his comments about the Privileges Committee and its individual members may be taken very seriously indeed.

To say, “Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court,” is to call into question the honesty and integrity of the committee’s members – his then-fellow MPs. He has no right to do that.

His comment, “It was naïve and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair,” falls into the same category.

… as does his attack on individual committee members and opponents in the Tory Party: “Most members of the Committee – especially the chair – had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence… there are currently some Tory MPs who share that view… there is a witch hunt under way.”

Already leading Parliamentarians – foremost among them Chris Bryant, the former Privileges Committee chair who recused himself from proceedings after passing comment on Johnson’s behaviour – are saying action may justifiably be taken against Johnson over these ill-chosen words.

But Johnson may face reprisals from other quarters as well. His letter also attacked Sue Gray, who chaired Johnson’s own inquiry into Downing Street parties and who is now set to become Labour leader Keir Starmer’s designated Chief of Staff, along with her chief counsel, Daniel Stilitz KC.

The letter went on to attack the Conservative Party in general, along with Rishi Sunak’s government. Remember: this was a resignation letter – there was no call for any of this material (it amounts to nothing less than a rant) to be included.

And he claims multiple successes that are either not his to claim, or are not successes. The Elizabeth Line was approved by Tony Blair and it was former London Mayor Ken Livingstone who made sure it happened.

Brexit has been a hugely costly failure for the vast majority of people in the UK. Johnson should not mention his conduct during the pandemic as it led to more than 200,000 unnecessary deaths. And while it is right that the UK should support Ukraine against invasion, did we really lead that support internationally?

Put it all together and Boris Johnson appears to have suffered some kind of breakdown. This letter seems, at best, deranged.

Does he honestly believe his statements? Well, yes he probably does – but that doesn’t make them true; it makes him unbalanced, as economist Richard Murphy argues in a Twitter thread today:

Then again, there were definitely some in the Conservative Party who supported Johnson all the way. In the interests of balance, let’s hear from one:

If you’re wondering why Ms Jenkyns would say that, see this:

One good thing about Johnson’s letter is that it means the Privileges Committee doesn’t have to wait two weeks before concluding the inquiry and publishing its report.

But that won’t be the end of the affair.

Many people – some of them in positions of considerable power and responsibility, will be taking this weekend to consider their response to Johnson’s rant.

He may find that his tirade has cost him not only his future in Parliament, but also any future at all.

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One Comment

  1. Hecuba June 11, 2023 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Little duck johnson has another episode of male hysteria because wah everyone is against him and he never ever commits any crimes, lies or mistakes! He is a wonderful man everyone bow down to this male genius – oops I mean male egoist!

    I so hope he gets his come uppance from his fascist tory bros because his lies about them will ensure their taking revenge at the first opportunity! Still never mind little criminal duck johnson will continue to earn huge sums by giving worthless talks to fascist political organisations in the USA!

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