As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to resign on Thursday, digging in his heels even as dozens of officials quit, it emerged that in 2010 he compared Gordon Brown to “an illegal settler in the Sinai Desert” when the then-premier remained in his position as coalition talks were held.
“The whole thing is unbelievable. As I write these words, Gordon Brown is still holed up in Downing Street. He is like some illegal settler in the Sinai desert, lashing himself to the radiator,” Johnson wrote in a column for Britain’s The Telegraph.
“Isn’t there someone – the Queen’s Private Secretary, the nice policeman on the door of No 10 – whose job it is to tell him that the game is up?” Johnson wrote.
Egypt regained the Sinai Peninsula through the Camp David peace accords with Israel, and the Israeli settlements there were all dismantled by 1982.
However, many of the settlers were resistant to leaving and some had to be forcibly removed by Israeli forces amid clashes.
Johnson wrote the 2010 column while serving as Mayor of London, during a three-day period when Brown was interim prime minister and government negotiations were taking place after elections returned a hung parliament, with no clear winner.
Brown announced his resignation a day after the column was published when he concluded that he would not be able to form a government.
He was eventually succeeded as prime minister by then-Conservative Party leader David Cameron, a contemporary of Johnson from school and university.
The column was read aloud in full on Times Radio on Thursday morning, as Johnson rejected clamors for his resignation from his Cabinet and across the Conservative Party, and previously loyal allies urged him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership.
A group of Johnson’s most trusted Cabinet ministers visited him at his office in Downing Street Wednesday, telling him to stand down after losing the trust of his party. But Johnson instead opted to fight for his political career and fired one of the Cabinet officials, Michael Gove.
As of early Thursday, four Cabinet ministers had quit — the latest was Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who told Johnson in his resignation letter that “we are… past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now.”
Some 40 junior government officials have also left amid a furor over Johnson’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official that was the latest in a long line of issues that have made Conservative lawmakers uncomfortable.
“He’s breached the trust that was put in him. He needs to recognize that he no longer has the moral authority to lead. And for him, it’s over,” Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told The Associated Press.
Johnson cannot continue because his government has not even got ministers to attend to regular Parliament business after so many resigned, Blackford added.
Johnson’s future remains extremely uncertain. So far, most Cabinet officials have remained in their positions but a mass walkout by the Cabinet could force his hand if that leaves him unable to run a functioning government.
If Johnson still refuses to resign, the Conservatives could oust him by potentially triggering a new no-confidence vote.