Analysis: Is This Finally The End Of The Road For Boris Johnson?

The privileges committee's devastating findings dramatically reduce the chances of a political comeback for the former prime minister.
Boris Johnson was found guilty of multiple contempts of parliament.
Boris Johnson was found guilty of multiple contempts of parliament.
Jonathan Brady via © 2023 PA Media, All Rights Reserved

The ink on the privileges committee’s devastating report finding Boris Johnson guilty of lying to MPs about partygate was barely dry before the former prime minister’s supporters began the fightback.

″I am appalled at what I have read and the spiteful, vindictive and overreaching conclusions of the report,” Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith tweeted in response to the finding that Johnson be effectively banned from parliament.

For good measure, he appended a graphic declaring: “I’m backing Boris.”

Nadine Dorries - Johnson’s most loyal defender - made a dark warning about “deselections” for any Tory MP who endorses the committee’s findings when it is put to a vote in the Commons next Monday.

She said: “This report has overreached and revealed it’s true pre-determined intentions. It’s quite bizarre.

“Any Conservative MP who would vote for this report is fundamentally not a Conservative and will be held to account by members and the public.

“Deselections may follow. It’s serious. MPs will now have to show this committee what real justice looks like and how it’s done.”

Former cabinet minister Simon Clarke - who was given a knighthood by Johnson in his resignation honours last week - said: “I believed Boris before and I believe him today. This punishment is absolutely extraordinary to the point of sheer vindictiveness, and I will vote against this report on Monday.”

However, the real barometer of the level of residual support there is for Johnson will be revealed in Monday’s vote.

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt today confirmed that it will be a free vote, meaning Conservative MPs will not be whipped (officially at least) to back the report.

A number of pro-Johnson Tories will undoubtedly vote against the committee’s findings, but it is unlikely to be a number significant enough to worry Rishi Sunak, who is now officially at war with his predecessor.

Johnson himself lashed out at the privileges committee’s “deranged” findings, which he said were “intended to be the final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination”.

Andrew Gimson, who has written a biography of Johnson and knows the former PM well, believes it is certainly his intention to deny them that pleasure.

He told BBC2′s Newsnight programme: “He’s not a great parliamentarian, but of course he wants to come back.”

As he is no longer an MP, Johnson must first of all find a local Conservative Association willing to select him as their candidate. Given his enduring popularity with a significant number of Tory members, this should be eminently doable.

However, given the scathing nature of the privileges committee’s report it is surely all but impossible for him to achieve his ambition to become Tory leader - and prime minister - once again.


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