The arrest of the former First Minister of Scotland capped a chaotic weekend in British politics that began with the shock resignation of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from his parliamentary seat.
The arrest of Nicola Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland and the dominant figure in Scottish politics for the last decade, capped a chaotic weekend in British politics that began with the shock resignation of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson from his parliamentary seat.
- Johnson stepped down from Parliament on Saturday after he was given advance notice about a report nearing publication from a parliamentary committee investigating whether the former prime minister misled Parliament over “Partygate” – the boozy lockdown-busting parties he held at his official residence while putting the rest of the UK in a restrictive lockdown.
- In a 1,000-word statement announcing his resignation as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, Johnson said the report was “riddled with inaccuracies and reeks of prejudice” and slammed the committee as a “kangaroo court” and a “witch hunt” that was keen “to find me guilty, regardless of the facts.”
- His abrupt resignation has led to a circular firing squad within the UK’s governing Conservative Party between Johnson loyalists and those loyal to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. As Grant Shapps, a leading minister and Sunakite told Sky News: “The world has moved on” from Boris Johnson.
- Two Johnson allies, Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams, followed him and resigned their seats as well. The triple vacancy will force the Conservatives to fight three daunting by-elections to defend the seats.
- North of the border in Scotland, former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was arrested by Police Scotland and questioned for hours investigating the finances of the governing left-wing pro-independence Scottish National Party that she led for almost a decade.
- Police are investigating what happened to more than $750,000 of party funding that was allegedly used for other purposes. Sturgeon’s arrest follows the April arrests of her husband Peter Murrell and then-party treasurer Colin Beattie as part of the same investigation.
- Sturgeon was released without charges, but the investigation is ongoing. After her release, Sturgeon released a statement saying, “I know beyond doubt that I am innocent of any wrongdoing.”
- Chris Mason wrote for the BBC that “the ghost of Boris Johnson haunts Rishi Sunak.” What’s next for Johnson? “As you may have guessed, Boris Johnson is not likely to vanish into obscurity.” Instead, “Boris Johnson finds himself just where he likes to be: the centre of attention, onlookers asking what on earth will he do next?”
- The Guardian’s Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell wrote about where Sturgeon’s arrest leaves the SNP: “Polling has shown a marked fall in support for the SNP after Sturgeon’s resignation and the ensuing tumult, with strong indications that Scottish voters are now less likely to choose which party to back based on their constitutional preferences.”
- The New York Times called Sunday’s events “a dramatic fall from grace” for Sturgeon and a threat to her dream of Scottish independence. As the Times noted, “Scottish police can arrest someone if they think the person may have committed a crime and if they want to question the person formally. The person can then be released while investigations continue into whether there is enough evidence for charges to be laid.”
- Fox News quoted further from Johnson’s resignation letter: “I am being forced out by a tiny handful of people, with no evidence to back up their assertions, and without approval even of Conservative party members let alone the wider electorate.”
- National Review noted “leaving now allows Johnson to run for Parliament in the future on his own terms instead of facing a special election. However, a political comeback appears more remote now than ever before.”
- The New York Post reported further about the Conservative Party infighting sparked by Johnson’s resignation: ““Well done Rishi for starting this nonsense!!” legislator Andrea Jenkyns wrote in a Conservative Party WhatsApp group. Jenkyns, who received an honorary title from Johnson on Friday, blamed current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the divisions in the party. Sunak supporters used resignations to drive Boris and his supporters from office,” veteran Conservative lawmaker John Redwood told Reuters.”
© Dominic Moore, 2023