If you’re wondering how Boris Johnson’s latest attempts to bring his party together to deliver Brexit are going, the prime minister’s own brother has just quit the government and claimed his sibling may be damaging the country.
Jo Johnson, a lawmaker for the Conservative party since 2010, has announced that he’s standing down as a member of parliament (MP) and a minister in his brother’s government because he can no longer reconcile “family loyalty and the national interest.”
While Jo Johnson didn’t specifically mention Brexit in his announcement, there is no doubt the resignation is over his brother’s increasingly belligerent attempts to force through Britain’s withdrawal. Jo Johnson is on the pro-Europe wing of the Conservative party and has previously called for a second referendum to decide the fate of Brexit.
“It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for nine years and to serve as a minister under three prime ministers,” he wrote. “In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest—it’s an unresolvable tension and [it’s] time for others to take on my roles and MP and minister.”
The betrayal is the most personal in a series of blows suffered by the prime minister this week. Johnson has lost his first four parliamentary votes as prime minister, has seen his Brexit negotiating position destroyed by parliament, and had his proposal for a general election aimed at solving the Brexit impasse rejected. With no working majority, Johnson is rapidly running out of options and his judgment is being seriously questioned.
Ridiculed for his series of missteps by the opposition, Johnson and his reputation in his own party have also taken a battering. He fired 21 Conservative rebels for voting against him on Tuesday, including the grandson of his hero Winston Churchill and the party’s longest-serving lawmaker.
One of his own lawmakers compared him to a dictator on Thursday. “There’s deep disquiet across the Party at the handling of this issue of the Whip. We can’t win unless our base is broad and representative of all strands of opinion. [Number 10] needs to rethink and fast. I think we are better being like Churchill and NOT Stalin,” Simon Hoare wrote on Twitter.
Johnson is expected to deliver a speech later Thursday to make the case to the public for a fresh general election. He responded diplomatically to his brother’s resignation, with a spokesman saying: “The prime minister would like to thank Jo Johnson for his service. He has been a brilliant, talented minister and a fantastic MP. The PM, as both a politician and brother, understands this will not have been an easy matter for Jo.”
After news of Jo Johnson’s resignation spread on social media, people delighted in sharing Boris Johnson’s quotes from 2013 in which he attacked the former Labour leader Ed Miliband for standing against his brother David in a bitter Labour leadership election in 2010.
Asked in 2013 if the Johnsons were as ruthless as the Milibands, Boris responded: “We don’t do things that way, that’s a very left-wing thing. Only a socialist could do that to his brother, only a socialist could regard familial ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.”
Not for the first time this week, his judgment was proven to be flawed.