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Labour attacks ‘coward’ Boris Johnson as parties prepare for byelection – UK politics live

Angela Rayner says former PM has no respect for voters, as Keir Starmer and Ed Davey turn focus to winning new seat

Boris Johnson departs his house.

Boris Johnson has quit as an MP just four years after his landslide general election victory. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

Boris Johnson has quit as an MP just four years after his landslide general election victory. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

From 21m ago

Full story: Johnson a 'coward' with no respect for Tory voters, says Labour

Aletha Adu
Aletha Adu

Boris Johnson is a “coward” who has “no respect” for the 2019 Conservative voters who put their faith in him, Labour’s deputy leader has said, after he dramatically quit parliament before the findings of a cross-party investigation into whether he lied to the Commons had been published.,

The former prime minister resigned on Friday night after learning that an investigation into the Partygate scandal found he misled parliament, and he was likely to face a lengthy suspension from the Commons.

In a resentful statement Johnson said there was a “witch-hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately to reverse the 2016 referendum result”, while accusing the investigation of acting as a “kangaroo court”.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said he had jumped to avoid a potential byelection in his west London constituency.

Key events

Johnson's resignation statement - what he really meant

Peter Walker
Peter Walker

Boris Johnson’s statement announcing he will quit the Commons is not brief – more than 1,000 words – and, as ever with the former prime minister’s pronouncements, there is a lot of often barely hidden subtext:

I have received a letter from the privileges committee making it clear – much to my amazement – that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of parliament.

They have still not produced a shred of evidence that I knowingly or recklessly misled the Commons.

This is Johnson trying to preshape opinion about the privileges committee report into whether he lied to MPs about lockdown-breaking parties, which he has seen but is not yet public. This is the statement’s key message: whatever the evidence, Johnson and his allies will always insist he was wronged.

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.

They know that I corrected the record as soon as possible; and they know that I and every other senior official and minister – including the current prime minister and then occupant of the same building, Rishi Sunak – believed that we were working lawfully together.

I have been an MP since 2001. I take my responsibilities seriously.

I did not lie, and I believe that in their hearts the committee know it.

But they have wilfully chosen to ignore the truth because from the outset their purpose has not been to discover the truth, or genuinely to understand what was in my mind when I spoke in the Commons.

Their purpose from the beginning has been to find me guilty, regardless of the facts. This is the very definition of a kangaroo court.

This is the other central message to not just this statement but most of Johnson’s public output since he was ousted – the idea that not only has he done no wrong, but that there is a conspiracy to remove him from politics. Both the argument and the seeming lack of any real evidence to back it up are strongly reminiscent of Donald Trump – a repeated theme in this missive.

Read more here:

What's happened so far today?

If you’re just joining us, here’s a round-up of this morning’s reaction to the news that Boris Johnson has stepped down as an MP after receiving the privileges committee report on Partygate.

  • Chris Bryant, the chair of the standards committee, said Johnson had left the Commons in “disgrace” after realising he was set to be suspended due to the Partygate findings. He added his “narcissistic rant” about the committee could even result in a new charge of contempt of parliament.

  • Will Walden, a former spokesman for Johnson, also said the ex-PM had likely quit because he had “seen the writing on the wall”. Walden described Johnson’s refusal to take responsibility for his actions as “Trumpian” – but added he did not think this was the end of his political career.

  • Labour’s top team of Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have both been on the attack, accusing Johnson of treating the public with ‘“contempt” and being a “coward” for quitting before the report was published.

  • Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, meanwhile, has ruled out any form of election pact with Labour ahead of the byelections resulting from the resignations of Johnson and Nadine Dorries.

  • We are yet to hear anything from No 10.

For a story like this, you would expect to wake up to pictures of a bleary-eyed Johnson being interviewed on his doorstep – or at least reporters camped outside his house.

This morning, however, we haven’t seen that.

One theory as to why that might be, says the Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Hope, is because Johnson is not actually in the UK, or even Europe.


Government whips were given no notice of Boris Johnson's decision to resign.

I understand the former PM is in Africa, and not in the UK.

— Christopher Hope📝 (@christopherhope) June 9, 2023

Johnson treated public with contempt, Starmer tells Labour members

The Labour party has wasted no time this morning in using the imminent byelection in Uxbridge and South Ruislip as a prompt for asking supporters for donations.

In an email to supporters, Keir Starmer writes:

[Boris Johnson] believed himself to be above the law. He treated the British public with contempt, partying while the nation grieved.

Labour now has an opportunity to deliver a historic victory. One that will send a real message about the sort of country we want to see, where decency and respect in our politics matters.

Rishi Sunak knows this moment is critical and will throw everything at it. We cannot let the Tories outspend us. They cannot have that advantage.

Victory in this contest is a vital step towards the next Labour government.

Johnson's lack of apology 'very Trumpian', says former spokesman

We’ve got a bit more from Will Walden, former adviser to Boris Johnson, who earlier said he did not think it was the end for him politically.

He has since added that his old boss’s refusal to take responsibility for his actions is similar to the behaviour of Donald Trump.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

It feels to me he is angry and he is convinced by his own truth and his own righteousness.

There’s no apology, no taking responsibility. It all feels very Trumpian.

I think a large part of him actually believes that he really has been done wrong.

Angela Rayner said Boris Johnson had let down those voters who handed him his landslide election victory in 2019, arguing that the former prime minister has shown he had “no respect for the British public”.

The deputy Labour leader told the BBC:

I think the people put their trust in him because they thought he was about change and he was about putting them at the heart of decision-making, and he has let them down truly in the most devastating way at the time when they needed him most.

No one could have predicted what happened to this country during the pandemic, but at the time when the public needed him the most, he basically was partying and lying to them at a time when they couldn’t see their loved ones.

And that is unforgivable.

The fact that he cannot recognise the damage that he has done, and he has tried to stuff the Lords with people that propped him up and helped him and assisted him at the time shows us that actually he had no respect for the British public.

It was all about Boris and it has always been all about Boris to him, and people will be left disappointed by his legacy.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, who earlier called for a general election, has ruled out a pact with Labour when voters pick replacements for Boris Johnson’s and Nadine Dorries’ vacated seats.

We’ll stand candidates in both those elections and we’re going to take on the Conservatives on their dreadful record.

There’ll be no pacts, no deals. We will fight both byelections. Voters will make the decision.

They’ll decide which party is best placed to beat the Conservatives. We’ll put our case in both constituencies.

How has the privileges committee responded to Johnson's attack?

The committee of MPs, which has Tory, Labour and SNP members, is believed to have recommended his suspension for more than 10 days, which could have led to a recall petition and byelection in his constituency.

In the wake of Johnson’s attacks, a committee spokesperson said it had “followed the procedures and the mandate of the house at all times and will continue to do so”.

They hit back, saying Johnson has “departed from the processes of the house and has impugned the integrity of the house by his statement”.

The committee will “meet on Monday to conclude the inquiry and to publish its report promptly”, the spokesperson added.

Johnson saw the writing on the wall, says former spokesman

We may still be waiting to hear from Tory MPs, but Will Walden, a former Johnson spokesman, has now added his voice to the mix.

He has said his former boss saw “the writing on the wall” that he could be ousted in a potential byelection triggered by the privileges committee’s sanction.

Speaking to the Today programme, Walden, who does not think Johnson’s decision to quit as an MP has marked the end of his political career, added:

I think the most important thing that people need to understand this morning is there is only one thing driving Boris and that is that he likes to win, or at least not to lose.

And he hasn’t lost an election for 26 years, when the voters of Clwyd South decided he wasn’t their man in 1997.

I think the first thing to understand is this report clearly threatened to change all that.

He had seen the writing on the wall, he knew he probably would lose a by-election in his marginal seat. His primary motivation here, as it has been for the last year or so, is protecting his version of the narrative.

So by going, as he has, all guns blazing, he is able to avoid defeat, he is able to blame pretty much everyone else, including it seems anyone that voted Remain in 2016.

There is no plan but he is preparing himself for what might be next without the humiliation of being kicked out.

But it is so Boris. He told the committee that if they found against him, he wouldn’t respect the outcome - and so it has proved, there is no great surprise here.

It is worth noting that while Labour and Lib Dem MPs are lining up to slate Boris Johnson this morning, there is a notable absence of Conservative voices – either in support or criticism of the former PM.

We are also still waiting on an official statement from Downing Street.

Johnson's honours list includes some of the most discredited people in UK politics, says Bryant

We reported earlier on Chris Bryant and his views on Johnson’s resignation.

He has since added that what really surprises him is why, if Sunak knew Johnson was likely to step down, he approved his resignation honours list.

Speaking to BBC News, Bryant said:

One of the things that really surprises me is that Rishi Sunak must have known this was coming, so why on earth did he allow a man who was about to be a disgraced former prime minister to have a resignation honours list which is full of some of the most discredited people in British politics.

All of this just stinks.

Hugh Muir
Hugh Muir

On Johnson’s honours list, my colleague Hugh Muir has this to say:

If nothing became Boris Johnson more than the manner of his leaving No 10, nothing says more about the political rot he accelerated than the honours list that trails behind him and his announcement on Friday night that he will quit parliament having been told he faces ignominious suspension.

To scan the list that was perhaps his final act in frontline politics is to relive the era of cronyism and maladministration that he inflicted on the country. It redefined the very idea of honours as a reward for public service, replacing it with the sort of cheap favour you bestow on friends by buying them a seaside hat or a round in the pub.

Priti Patel, who took the Tory hostile environment badge of shame and wore it as a badge of honour, who as home secretary presided over a degradation of policing that has become a crisis of public trust, becomes a dame. Jacob Rees-Mogg, chief apologist for the chaos and deficiencies of the Johnson years in government, gets a knighthood.

Amid the continuing search for answers as to why the response of his administration to Covid was so poor, Johnson unveils a list containing honours and preferment for some of his aides who allegedly joined him at No 10 in ignoring the safety rules they had imposed on the rest of the population. If they partied then, they will party even harder now.

Read more here:

Rowena Mason
Rowena Mason

Johnson’s dramatic move came on the same day Sunak cleared a resignation honours list for him, including more than 40 peerages and other rewards, for some of his closest allies from the time of the Partygate scandal.

These include Martin Reynolds, who oversaw a Downing Street garden party during lockdown restrictions in 2020, and Jack Doyle, his former director of communications, who had discussed how to downplay the story.

Labour said the list amounted to “rewards for those who tried to cover up rule-breaking”, while the Lib Dems said it was “gongs for Johnson’s Partygate pals” and described it as “corruption pure and simple”.

Sunak had faced criticism for clearing the list while the privileges committee inquiry into Partygate was continuing, but Johnson’s resignation means their report will not have the same power as it would towards a sitting MP.

You can see who’s on Johnson’s honours list here:

Accusation of privileges committee bias is 'tosh', says Rayner

More from deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner now.

She has said it is “tosh” for Boris Johnson to argue that the Commons’ privileges committee’s Partygate inquiry had not been fairly conducted.

She added it was “highly respected” and pointed to it having a Conservative majority.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner
Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP/Getty Images

Their report is also subject to a vote in the Commons where the Tories currently have a 66-seat majority, so this idea that he hasn’t been given a fair hearing is absolutely for the birds.

It is absolute rubbish and tosh, as he would say. It is just another way of Boris Johnson not accepting responsibility for his actions.

He thinks he can run fast and loose, and this time it has caught up with him.

He is trying to play the victim when the real victims in this is the people that he tried to gaslight, those that couldn’t see their relatives during Covid, who sadly passed away while they were in Downing Street having parties.

  • Boris Johnson a ‘coward’ for quitting to avoid byelection, says Angela Rayner

  • Boris Johnson’s resignation statement – what he really meant

  • ‘It is sad to be leaving … for now’: Boris Johnson’s resignation statement in full

  • Boris Johnson resigns as MP with immediate effect over Partygate report

  • Boris Johnson has been given Commons Partygate inquiry findings, say sources

  • No 10 denies Boris Johnson is victim of stitch-up after fresh Partygate claims

  • Sue Gray will take up Labour role no matter how long the delay, says party

  • Why is Sue Gray back in the news?