Boris Johnson has at least one virtue: consistency. He has ended his political career in a way absolutely in line with how he conducted the rest of it – avoiding an accountability process, telling ridiculous lies as he does, monumentally screwing over his party and fuelling paranoid conspiracy theories to boot. Politics is richer for his passing.
As if the 5pm Friday news dump of his honours list wasn’t bad enough – all but guaranteeing yet another weekend of wall-to-wall Boris Johnson coverage – the 8pm ‘bombshell’ resignation has likely guaranteed a week or more of that.
There is a lot we don’t know yet. Unlike Boris Johnson, we have yet to read the report by the Commons Privileges committee into his conduct and whether he misled the House – we only know, from Johnson, that it recommended a sanction of more than ten days.
We don’t know whether Boris going ‘quietly’ was the deal he made with Rishi Sunak in exchange for his crony-stuffed resignation dishonours list. We don’t know whether this is finally it, or whether the ever-delusional has-been PM thinks he’s got another political career ahead of him. Expect days of this stuff.
What we do know is Boris Johnson, like a toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket cereal aisle, has no impulse control and no ability to understand the consequences of his own actions. Johnson broke Covid-19 laws that his own government passed, and presided over mass rule-breaking at the heart of government – and then tried and failed for a year to cover it up. That is what brought him to the committee, not some outside plot.
Johnson’s statement swipes at Harriet Harman as if she were some hand-picked apparatchik chosen by his enemies to conduct a hatchet job. In reality she was voted through unanimously by parliament to lead the committee, not least because she is mother of the house, through her long political service.
The petulant PM then complained that he was being undemocratically forced out. This couldn’t be further from the truth if Johnson tried, instead of rattling out the sort of shit he wrote in his column as his hopefully-final political statement.
Privilege committee recommendations have to be voted on by the full House of Commons. If a ten-day suspension is to trigger a recall petition, it must be signed by 10% of the voters in that constituency to trigger a by-election. The triggered MP is then welcome to stand in that by-election and reclaim their seat.
It is harder to think of a process that could be more democratic than that, but it is clear despite his aggressively expensive education, Johnson simply understands “democratic” to mean that he gets what he wants. It is not surprising his shtick long since wore thin.
Finally, Johnson tries to pitch his ‘ouster’ – in reality his own choice to flee the scene of his crimes – as the result of some form of shady conspiracy to reverse Brexit. This is as pathetic as it is dangerous: conspiracism is fuelling political violence across the world, and multiple MPs have been severely injured or even killed by extremists fuelled by the paranoid style.
Boris Johnson is a man incapable of shame or remorse, but his few remaining adherents should take a long look at his actions today and reconsider their ride-or-die mentality. They have, after all, got their gongs and peerages already – what’s he got left to offer? Venality cuts both ways.
Ultimately, Rishi Sunak is once again left looking the utter fool, having appeased and mollified a man incapable of a single act of generosity or even reciprocity, only to find himself completely screwed over yet again.
Sunak will have weeks of the Boris Johnson show, just as he would if Johnson had fought the claims, but this time he’s the man who gave him what he wanted on the way out. Johnson might be a contemptible politician, but Sunak is perhaps even worse – he’s just pitiable.