Boris Johnson resignation as MP: it may be 'au revoir' but many will hope it's 'goodbye'

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Ex-prime minister does not want to face verdict of MPs or risk losing his 7000-plus majority

Boris Johnson is said to have declared at the age of eight that he wanted to be "world king". And looking at his political career and his latest posturing it feels like that childish ambition for power and privilege hasn't changed much.

He was forced to quit as prime minister last year when ministers in his own government decided they could no longer support him. But his parting comment in the Commons – "Hasta la vista" – was designed to encourage the idea that he planned to return at some point and speculation about such a comeback has never been far away ever since.

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But does the ex-premier's decision at the weekend to stand down as an MP with immediate effect mean the end of Boris Johnson and his political ambitions? He again chose to leave his options open – or leave people guessing – by talking about his regret at leaving parliament “at least for now”. Some say he's had enough and realises he can make lots more money giving speeches and writing books and columns for right-wing newspapers. Others think it is just a tactical retreat and he plans to mount a comeback when it suits him, perhaps after Rishi Sunak has lost the next election and the Conservatives are looking for a new leader.

Has Boris Johnson finally had enough and decided to leave politics for good?  Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty ImagesHas Boris Johnson finally had enough and decided to leave politics for good?  Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Has Boris Johnson finally had enough and decided to leave politics for good? Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Mr Johnson likes to be seen as a winner and boasts about the huge 80-seat majority he won for the Tories at the 2019 general election. But a lot has happened since then and he is no longer the electoral asset he was. Then the country was stuck in a quagmire over Brexit and he promised to "get Brexit done". Now Mr Johnson is best known for presiding over Partygate, the scandal which saw Downing Street repeatedly breaking the Covid rules which it decreed for the rest of the country, partying while people were banned from visiting dying relatives or mixing with family a funerals.

Mr Johnson refuses to recognise his diminished appeal, but he also chooses not to enter contests where he risks losing. He is quitting parliament, railing against the “bias” of the privileges committee even though it has a majority of Tory members, and dodging the Commons vote on its recommendation to suspend him, even though the there is a large Tory majority among MPs. And he would rather quit as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip than fight a by-election, even though a poll by Lord Ashcroft suggested he would win. Despite his self-image as a winner, he doesn’t want to face the verdict of MPs and he's not confident enough that his 7000-plus majority would hold.

So is it the end? Commentators say you should never write off Boris Johnson. But politics professor Sir John Curtice is dismissive. “He is a spent asset, he has destroyed his credibility. There is a potential future for him as an after-dinner speaker, there may also even be a role for him on television, but as a politician, including on the international stage, I think frankly no.”

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Mr Johnson will no doubt want to seize every opportunity he can from outside parliament to make life difficult for Rishi Sunak. As far as his Westminster is concerned, it may be “au revoir” but many will hope it’s “goodbye”.