Written by Anoushka Patel
Edited by Annika Lilja
Less than a year after Boris Johnson resigned from his role as Prime Minister of the UK, he has sent shockwaves through the Conservative party by stepping away from politics altogether on the 9th of June when he announced that he would no longer be an MP (Member of Parliament). Using rhetoric similar to that of former US President Donald Trump, Johnson cited the “witch hunt” of the Partygate inquiry into whether Johnson intentionally misled Parliament over his breaching of lockdown restrictions during the pandemic – for which he was found guilty of and fined – as his reason for no longer representing his constituency. Although Johnson and his allies such as MP Jacob Rees-Mogg have repeatedly criticised the Partygate inquiry over its alleged bias against him (despite the committee being predominantly composed of Conservative MP’s) an overwhelming majority of 354 MPs backed its findings that Johnson had intentionally misled Parliament, and just 7 MPs opposed the ruling. The committee had recommended a 90-day suspension for Johnson from the House of Commons, as well as denying him the parliamentary pass, however, by this point Johnson had already resigned.
Boris Johnson’s resignation has caused a massive political headache for current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has been described as “cowardly” and “weak” by both the Liberal Democrats and Labour because he did not take part in the vote on the inquiry and refused to say whether he would support the inquiry’s results. When Rishi Sunak started his tenure as PM, he promised the British public that he would lead a government with “integrity, professionalism and accountability” - but the actions of his controversial predecessor and former ally are detracting from the key message of Sunak’s campaign, and they threaten to derail any chance that the Conservatives have of winning the next election. Johnson’s resignation also led to Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams (both of whom are close allies to the former PM) to step down from their respective roles, which will trigger a total of three by-elections (special elections) in the next couple of months. According to Statista, in June 2023, 42 percent of British adults would vote for the Labour Party in a general election, compared with 26 percent who would vote for the Conservative Party. With the Conservatives trailing Labour by 15 points in the polls, it is highly likely that the Conservatives will lose at least one of the three seats that are up for grabs, painting a bleak picture for the Tories of what appears to be their impending defeat at the general election next year.
To add to the unfolding drama, Johnson has also come under fire for his contentious Resignation Honors List, which all former PMs are entitled to and usually involves awarding knighthoods and damehoods to British citizens who have contributed to society in some way. The people on the Honors List are promoted to the House of Lords, which is a lifelong position and allows them to amend, pass and block laws that MPs in the House of Commons have debated on. The reason why there is outrage surrounding Johnson’s list is because he has appointed people who have been his closest allies, rather than people who are deserving of recognition for their charitable work. For example, one woman on the honors list is Charlotte Owen, who at 29-years-old is the youngest ever peer (a member of the House of Lords). In total, she has worked for the government for five years and eight months, mainly as an intern and an assistant, and she then became an aide to both Boris Johnson and later Liz Truss. It can hardly be argued that she deserves a peerage because she has had such little experience and has had no impact on the country at all. Other names of the Honors List that have vexed the public are MP Michael Fabricant, whose comments include making a joke out of a Conservative MP being accused of rape, and failed London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, who attended a “Jingle and Mingle” party with his staff during the coronavirus lockdown, in breach of the rules at the time. For many people, appointing people of this caliber to senior positions has brought the Honors List into disrepute and has reignited conversations about how anti-democratic the House of Lords is, because nobody actually elects any of its members.
There has also been a frenzy around whether Rishi Sunak had some of the names on the Honors List removed. It has been alleged by Nadine Dorries – the former Culture Secretary who was denied a role in the cabinet by Sunak – that the PM’s political team had intervened and had taken away her chances of receiving a peerage, even though Dorries was one of Johnson’s closest allies and had expected to be named on the list. This infighting between the remainder of Johnson’s allies and Sunak’s supporters has caused a rift in the Conservative Party, and members of the opposition have been keen to point out that Johnson has become a liability for the government and has potentially slowed down efforts to relieve the cost of living crisis and reduce immigration, both which are at the top of the government’s agenda.
Once a man that defied all political norms by winning a thumping majority of 80 seats in the 2019 general election, Boris Johnson has now been ousted from Parliament for lying and breaking his own lockdown rules. Although current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised a government of sensibility and honesty, thus far there is little evidence that the Conservative party is ready to root out the corruption and sleaze that has marred Boris Johnson’s brief but tumultuous period of leadership. But given his flamboyant personality and his return to journalism as a columnist for the divisive right-wing paper The Daily Mail, it can be assumed that Johnson will continue to be a thorn in the government’s side – and could cost them the next election.
Sam Francis. “Nadine Dorries says sinister forces stopped her peerage.” BBC News, 13th June 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65888166
“Who is Charlotte Owen? The youngest life peer after being named in Boris Johnson’s honours list.” ITV News, 12th June 2023, https://www.itv.com/news/2023-06-12/who-is-charlotte-owen-the-youngest-ever-life-peer-named-by-boris-johnson
“Voting Intentions in a general election in the United Kingdom from July 2017 to June 2023.” Statista, 15th June 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/985764/voting-intention-in-the-uk/
Daniel Bruce. “Ensuring integrity and accountability at the highest levels of government.” Transparency International UK, 9th December 2022, https://www.transparency.org.uk/Independent-Adviser-Ministers-Interests-rishi-sunak-government
Becky Morton. “Boris Johnson: MPs back Partygate report as just seven vote against.” BBC News, 20th June 2023, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-65953605
Rowena Mason and Aubrey Allegretti. “Sunak approves Boris Johnson honors list including aides linked to Partygate.” The Guardian, 9th June 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/jun/09/rishi-sunak-approves-boris-johnson-resignation-honours-list