‘Coward’ Boris Johnson triggers by-elections and consternation with resignation

Commentary Opinion Westminster

“Coward” Boris Johnson has triggered at least three by-elections with his shock resignation from parliament.

Almost to prove he’s been trolling the country since forever, Johnson quitting his seat – because of a report about his lying to peers – came just hours after his ‘sickening’ honours list of cronies, sycophants and fellow pantomime villains was released.

Johnson probably thought it a great wheeze to put his Westminster hairdresser in his resignation honours list given the state of his own unruly mop. But that joke isn’t funny anymore. It never has been. Not even when the punchline is that the even more ridiculously coiffed Michael Fabricant MP is on the same resignation honours list with the wig-wearing Bojo-tribute act being made a knight by Johnson. As too, Jacob Rees-Mogg while Priti Patel is now a dame. But not Nadine Dorries.

The Bojo-besotted former culture secretary missed out on her expected elevation to the Lords. And, to make true the cliché, the scorned woman didn’t take it well. Dorries, who planned to step down at the next election as an MP, said she is quitting immediately having just a few hours earlier said she would see out her term. It would be best for the party, she explained, before saying something unexpected had happened to make her change her mind. An hour later, it was clear what exactly that something else was.

Rumours that Dorries stepped down from her “true-blue” Mid Bedfordshire seat – held with a 24,000 majority – so that Johnson could step in were quickly dashed by members of the Tory party, aghast at the changing circumstances. Their fissures and frictions are once again exposed and today’s announcement that Johnson loyalist Nigel Adams is quitting too, “with immediate effect”, means there’s now three unwanted byelections on the immediate horizon for the Tories to contend. Remember this is the party that promised “strong and stable” government under Theresa May and, as is their wont, has delivered anything but.

As ever with the coward Boris Johnson, his actions have overshadowed all else. Once again the focus has shifted to him and the latest bouts of Tory turmoil, rather than on finding solutions to the myriad problems the party has caused.

This time the Johnson has quit before being forced out. It suggests the report by his parliamentary peers into whether the disgraced former PM lied to the Commons is political dynamite.

It would have to be something explosive to shift him given Johnson’s desperate attempts to cling on to power last year even as his cabinet deserted him. Sir Keir Starmer memorably described the exodus of ministers as being the first instance of “ships deserting the rat”. Even then he clung on, limpet-like until the total collapse of his cabinet persuaded him to leave No 10.

As such, the report by the Commons’ privileges committee – now set to be published “promptly” – must be devastating given it has caused Johnson to flee from Westminster and abandon his plans to retake “his” throne.

To many, the act confirms the coward Boris Johnson. His bitter 1,000 word statement explaining it confirms his narcissism, mendacity and ego.

A former prime minister would be expected to show respect and decorum to the institutions they led. Instead, Johnson lashed out like a spoilt, deluded child accusing the committee – which has a majority of Conservative MPs –  of being a “kangaroo court” embarking on a “witch-hunt” to take “revenge for Brexit” and undo the 2016 referendum result”.

He claims he has been forced out when the committee holds no such power. Their report was to be submitted to the Commons and it would be for MPs to decide – by voting – whether to accept the (likely) recommendation for a suspension. That in turn could have led to a petition in his constituency for a recall and, had the required number of signatures been attained, a subsequent by-election.

Given the polling and pitiful standing of the Tory party, largely due to his own leadership, the coward Johnson could not risk giving the public the chance to deliver their own verdict on him and his record.

How could “he”, the Tory who smashed the Red Wall, not even be able to keep his own Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat? Even for such a shameless rogue, the humiliation would be too much because it would undo the myth that he’s the Heineken Tory, reaching parts no other can with a political Midas touch. But just because something worked in the past, does not mean it will do so forever and Johnson, the classicist, knows that keenly.

It’s why he’s scarpered now. A vain attempt to flee, yes, with injury but not fatally and thereby there’s still a chance for the coward Boris Johnson to fight another day. Or so he believes.

“To me, he is a coward,” said Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner. “He knows that the privileges committee has seen through this fiasco and he has jumped. He could have defended himself, he could have gone to his constituents and fought the suspension, and he has decided he is not going to do that because he knows he is in the wrong.”

So much so that Labour MP Chris Byrant, the chair of the privileges committee who recused himself from the investigation into Johnson, said the former PM’s “narcissistic rant” could result in a fresh contempt of parliament charge.

Johnson’s attacks on the committee “are in effect an attack on the whole house,” said Bryant, warning the privileges committee “may want to conclude that there has been an additional contempt of parliament”.

He added:“I don’t think anybody can now be in any doubt that Boris Johnson holds parliament in contempt. I thought that was evident through the illegal prorogation of parliament, but it’s certainly true now.”

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