Boris Johnson has announced he is standing down as an MP with immediate effect.
The former prime minister said he had received a letter from the committee which is investigating whether he lied to MPs over partygate “making it clear, much to my amazement, that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of parliament”.
Mr Johnson said: “I have 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.”
The cross-party privileges committee, led by Labour MP Harriet Harman, has been assessing whether Mr Johnson misled parliament with his statements claiming all COVID rules and guidance were followed by Number 10 during lockdown gatherings.
A recommended suspension from the Commons of 10 days or more – if approved by MPs – would trigger a recall petition which would then result in a by-election if 10% of his constituents backed the move.
Mr Johnson said the committee “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.”
He claimed their purpose “from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts” and that there is a “witch hunt underway, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result”.
“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.”
Mr Johnson also used his 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.”
Johnson throwing in the towel in his political career
It reads like a declaration of war but in reality today matters because Boris Johnson is simply throwing in the towel in his political career.
Ever since he was slung out as prime minister, Boris Johnson has been a ghost at the Tory feast. He sucked the oxygen out of the room, with the media and a slice of Tory party still hanging off his every word as if it mattered.
A more sober analysis suggests it does not, and today’s decision is less about taking a public stand, and more a recognition he is never “coming back” and doesn’t have the support in Parliament even to make causing trouble fun.
In 12 month’s time todays decision will be seen in another light – as an inevitability, rather than simply the consequences of the privileges committee and its demand he face a by-election.
The massive earning, the fact he would never likely have numbers to run for leader given the stain on his reputation – these are not reasons for staying. If he remained, he would likely undermine the current and every future Tory leader through his magnestism charm troublesome cunning and presence.
That’s why, once more, he has voted to leave: to preserve the myth, and not put it to the test with reality.
Mr Johnson’s departure has been welcomed by opposition MPs.
Daisy Cooper, deputy leader of the Liberal democrats, said two words in a statement: “Good riddance.”
Labour’s shadow secretary for Wales Jo Stevens, tweeted something similar.
She wrote: “Always someone else’s fault. Good riddance to him.
“He has debased our country’s reputation, our politics and our democracy. It’s entirely his fault and no-one else’s.”