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Boris Johnson resigns from Parliament, citing an upcoming report on his behavior as PM

Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a tour after a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas State Capitol on May 23, 2023 in Austin. Johnson announced Friday that he's stepping down from his seat in Parliament.
Brandon Bell
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Former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a tour after a meeting with Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas State Capitol on May 23, 2023 in Austin. Johnson announced Friday that he's stepping down from his seat in Parliament.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will give up his parliamentary seat amid a long-running ethics investigation that is expected to produce a report into his behavior as prime minister next week.

In a blistering statement announcing his resignation from the legislature, Johnson described as a "kangaroo court" the parliamentary committee tasked with examining whether he lied to fellow lawmakers about social gatherings inside government buildings that had flouted his own COVID-19 social distancing regulations.

The committee had provided him with a preview of its report, apparently prompting his decision. His departure statement, the investigative committee responded, had further "impugned" Parliament. Opposition parties termed the turmoil a "soap opera" and wished Johnson "good riddance."

He and others — including current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak — had previously received criminal fines for their behavior during the pandemic. But Johnson has long insisted that incorrect and misleading accounts he gave on several occasions to Britain's legislators denying these "lockdown parties" — as they became known — had not amounted to intentional lies.

A magazine editor who became a member of parliament then mayor of London, Johnson took power at a time of chaotic division inside his own Conservative Party, stemming from Britain's botched Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

After helping oust, then replace Theresa May, he led his party to a seismic victory in a 2019 general election, with Brexit as a rallying cry — allowing him to force through Britain's eventual departure from the European Union.

But soon after, the pandemic upended his premiership, and his own personal behavior became problematic for much of the public, and many in Parliament too.

Controversies centered around those in Downing Street — including Johnson — dominated Britain's politics, frustrating his legislative agenda and further fragmenting the Conservatives.

For months, eyewitness accounts, photographs and other evidence about parties piled up, infuriating a British citizenry wounded by more than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths and angered by the apparent hypocrisy of those in power.

Johnson eventually apologized — and narrowly stayed in the post despite deep discontent among many of his fellow lawmakers.

But a subsequent scandal involving allegations of sexual assault by a close parliamentary colleague — after Johnson's appointment of the man to a prominent role — moved many members of his government to resign en masse, and soon after he too was forced to depart from Downing Street.

A year and two prime ministers later, the ongoing enquiry into Johnson had once more begun to overshadow U.K. politics — and its findings were expected to force a recall vote over Johnson's parliamentary seat.

In his late-night and lengthy resignation statement designed to counteract publication on Monday, Johnson also criticized the policies of his successor Sunak, who served as his finance minister until last July.

His allies describe him as a "political titan" whose treatment was "disgraceful," and Johnson left out hope for supporters that he might one day return to frontline politics. He has bounced back from successive scandals before, and opponents know he is unlikely to disappear from Britain's public life for long.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Willem Marx
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