Priti Patel leads tributes to ‘political titan’ Boris Johnson after former PM quits as MP

 Boris Johnson and  Priti Patel during a visit to Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford  (PA Wire)
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel during a visit to Surrey Police headquarters in Guildford (PA Wire)

Priti Patel dubbed her former boss Boris Johnson a “political titan” after his shock decision to quit the House of Commons over a Partygate investigation.

Mr Johnson resigned as Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip – triggering a by-election in the seat - on Friday evening due to the investigation by the Privileges Committee into whether he misled Parliament over gatherings held in Downing Street during the pandemic.

The former Prime Minister accused the investigation of trying to drive him out, and claimed there was a “witch-hunt under way, to take revenge for Brexit and ultimately reverse the 2016 referendum result”.

Ms Patel, who served under Mr Johnson as home secretary and was nominated for a damehood in the former PM’s long-awaited resignation honours list, tweeted a message of support for him last night, describing him as “a political titan”.

She wrote: “Boris Johnson has served our country and his constituency with distinction. He led world in supporting Ukraine, got Brexit done, and was our most electorally successful Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher. Boris is a political titan whose legacy will stand the test of time.”

A number of other MPs also took to Twitter to heap praise on Mr Johnson.

Mark Jenkinson, the Conservative MP for Workington, wrote: “Very sad tonight as we lose a political giant from the Commons, a man that will go down in the history books as one of the greatest political leaders in my lifetime.

“Against all odds - an 80 seat Conservatives majority, turned Workington Man out to vote for me & delivered Brexit. Boris Johnson has his place in the heroes gallery.

“When the witch hunt has been forgotten, future generations will look back in astonishment. Brexit and covid sent the country mad.”

Sir James Duddridge, the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, wrote: “History will recognise the great work Boris did on Brexit, Ukraine and Covid.

“He is a titan amongst minnows. This is the conclusion of a chapter not the end of the book. We will hear more about Boris over the coming days, months and years.”

Mr Johnson insisted that he was being truthful when he told MPs that he believed “all rules were followed” when it came to the lockdown-breaking gatherings in Downing Street.

In his statement, he added: “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.”

Following his decision to step down as MP, the committee will meet to complete its inquiry on Monday.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “The committee has followed the procedures and the mandate of the House at all times and will continue to do so.

“Mr 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.”

While Mr Johnson was supported by some MPs, others from the other the Opposition attacked his decision to step down.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said it was “tosh” for Mr Johnson to argue that the Commons’ Privileges Committee’s Partygate inquiry had not been fairly conducted.

Sir Chris Bryant, the Labour chairman of the Privileges Committee who recused himself from the Boris Johnson investigation, said the former prime minister could be levelled with a new contempt of Parliament charge after his “narcissistic rant”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Chris said: “The report still stands and will have to go to the House.”

He added: “They may want to conclude that there has been an additional contempt of Parliament by the way that Boris Johnson has behaved in the last 24 hours and in the attacks on the committee, which are in effect an attack on the whole House.

“I don’t think anybody can now be in any doubt that Boris Johnson holds Parliament in contempt.”

His decision to step down came after he held a series of calls with his staunch ally Nadine Dorries, who made a surprise announcement yesterday that she would resign down from her Mid-Bedfordshire seat.