Boris Johnson’s departure from life as an MP ahead of the publication of the Partygate report plays out across the British newspapers’ front pages, which are filled with a mixture of acrimony, triumph and predictions of further “Tory bloodletting”.
While some of the papers bemoan the former prime minister’s resignation, others welcome his departure – but most agree he will continue to shape British politics for some time to come.
The Daily Express declares his decision to quit means there is “war in the Conservative Party” and says the government “will be stuck in zombie status”.
It says the resignation announcements by Mr Johnson and staunch ally Nadine Dorries were almost certainly co-ordinated, and asks whether others will follow.
Its analysis piece said: “For many this will be justice over Partygate, but for his thousands upon thousands of supporters in the Conservative Party this was a poisonous campaign to attack him and undo Brexit.
“With a series of defeats – because it is hard to see how he wins any of those by-elections – Sunak’s authority to be prime minister will evaporate.”
The Daily Mail gives full prominence to Johnson’s version of events with the headline: “Boris: I’ve been forced out by a witch-hunt” and lists out his grievances in a series of bullet points. It notes the “prospect of a fresh round of Tory bloodletting”.
It says “questions have been raised” about the Privileges Committee’s independence under “ex-Blairite minister” Harriet Harman, saying the Partygate narrative against him was “fashioned out of gossamer” from “his efforts to maintain morale at No 10 during the grim night watches of the pandemic”.
It said: “Boris Johnson was brought down by the envy of Westminster and the spite of Whitehall… Lilliputians trying to tie down this Gulliver of politics.
“Rather than be damned as a liar by the Privileges Committee, then hounded out of the Commons by weasels who owe their very existence as MPs to him, Boris chose to leave politics with dignity.
“We should be in no doubt, however, that the nation has lost a transformative political genius whose like we shall not see again.”
The image of “a giant felled” is echoed in the headline of The Sun’s editorial which says: “Boris Johnson’s unique magnetism and historic achievements dwarf those of the pygmies who set out to expel him as an MP and, appallingly, have succeeded.”
They say while “BoJo had no choice” other than to go, he will not be disappearing.
Former political editor Trevor Kavanagh harks back to a film classic when he writes: “It was classic Bonny [sic] and Clyde climax. Two blonde bombshells, Boris Johnson and ex-Cabinet gunslinger Nadine Dorries, running hand-in-hand into a hail of enemy bullets.
“Whatever defence Boris could muster – and to be fair, it was pretty flimsy – he had already been hung, drawn and quartered, his dream of a comeback in ruins.”
Not all titles are as sympathetic to Mr Johnson, the Daily Mirror saying he “could not even resign as an MP with dignity”.
“Like a criminal who refuses to come to court for his sentencing, the former PM cowardly quit Parliament rather than hear the verdict of the Privileges committee in person,” it said.
“Mr Johnson brought shame on his office when in government and has brought shame on Parliament in the manner of his departure.”
The Guardian’s political editor Pippa Crerar says the man who won an 80-seat majority in 2019 “now has little appeal outside the ranks of the Tory faithful”.
“The former prime minister has long relished comparisons with his historical and political hero, Winston Churchill, who was returned to office in 1951 despite losing the 1950 election, and went on to serve as prime minister for another four years,” she wrote.
“But despite his reputation for staging gravity-defying political comebacks, both Tory MPs and others from across Westminster really do believe that it is over for Boris Johnson this time.”
The Daily Star is more succinct, labelling him the “professional clown and former prime minister Bozo Johnson”.
His departure “does not make him any less dangerous to Sunak” according to The Times, which says “Johnson not only has no intention of going quietly but no intention of staying quiet either”.
The Daily Telegraph also ponders about Mr Johnson’s future, but says any return to be Parliament by being selected in a different seat “could be complicated by his tense relationship with Mr Sunak”.
The Times is among a few that go with the “party’s over” angle in their headline. It gives its main picture to a Johnson ally, Donald Trump, who is facing his own troubles over the retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.
The Daily Record says: “Party’s over, Boris”, and says he resigned over a “damning Partygate probe report into his lockdown antics”. It says he refused to take blame for his own downfall.
The Telegraph plays it relatively straight with the headline “Johnson quits as MP over Partygate” but notes his accusations of a “kangaroo court” and biased investigation in its subhead and intro.
The Daily Express, a long-term, vocal Johnson supporter, says “Boris quits! ‘Kangaroo court forces me out’”. Its tweet foreshadows a “Tory civil war”, which could create a fresh headache for Sunak.
The Sun has “Bojo: I quit” and reports that Sunak now faces a “knife-edge by-election”.
The Financial Times gives Johnson a slot further down its front page, with the headline: “Johnson blames ‘partygate’ inquiry as he quits as MP and trigger by-election.” – Guardian/agencies