Boris Johnson has suffered his first resignation from around the Cabinet table – and it’s from his brother Jo. Jo Johnson has announced via social media that he will be stepping down both as a minister and an MP. The Minister of State for universities and science said that in recent weeks, he had felt ‘torn between family loyalty and the national interest’.
‘It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for 9 years & to serve as a minister under three PMs. In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister.’
In some ways, Johnson’s appointment as a minister was surprising. The MP for Orpington had quit as transport minister under Theresa May over his issues with her Brexit position. At the time, Jo Johnson – who backed Remain in the EU referendum – called for the public to have a fresh say on Brexit. It follows that Jo was at odds with his brother on Brexit for some time.
So, why now? Johnson’s resignation this week is a further sign of the unease in the party at recent actions taken by Downing Street. The decision to prorogue parliament troubled many former Remain MPs who had rallied behind Boris Johnson on the promise of one nation conservatism. The decision this week to withdraw the whip from the Tory MPs who rebelled on Brexit has added to such concerns. A number of former ministers are pointing the blame at Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Dom Cummings for what they describe as the ‘purge’ of anti-no deal MPs. Jo Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election as an MP is another sign of the shift the party is undergoing. Dissenting voices on Brexit are dwindling.
How damaging is this to Boris Johnson? As was shown by David and Ed Miliband, a brotherly rift rarely plays well with the electorate. If Jo Johnson doesn’t think he can serve in his brother’s government, it could be weaponised by Boris Johnson’s critics.