Boris Johnson compared MPs who wanted him to quit as PM with 'marketing for a Swiss euthanasia clinic'

15 June 2023, 07:10

Guto Harri reveals the inner workings of Boris Johnson's Downing Street
Guto Harri reveals the inner workings of Boris Johnson's Downing Street. Picture: Global/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson's former communications chief Guto Harri has said Boris Johnson compared MPs who wanted him to go with "marketing of a Swiss euthanasia clinic".

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Speaking on Unprecedented: Inside Downing Street, Mr Harri said Mr Johnson's Downing Street speech announcing he was quitting as prime minister was originally even punchier than it ended up being before it got watered down.

Mr Johnson resigned in July last year after a string of departures from his government in the wake of scandals including Partygate and the Chris Pincher allegations.

Speaking in the Global Player podcast's final episode, he said: "Critics within the Conservative Party and beyond, not least in the press thought [Johnsons' resignation] speech was a bit punchy.

"They basically wanted a massive mea culpa from Boris, a grovelling apology yet again, for messing up Britain and lying to Parliament and all that kind of jazz, that was never going to happen.

"He didn't really feel remorseful, he felt bitter at what had happened to him and what his own party had done to him.

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Guto Harri has spoken about Boris Johnson's final day
Guto Harri has spoken about Boris Johnson's final day. Picture: Global

"And what was interesting was an earlier draft of the speech was even tougher.

"That morning, when it was all very raw, he basically had a dig at those MPs who had been urging him to 'go with dignity', saying that they reminded him ‘of the marketing of a Swiss euthanasia clinic'.

"We all decided, thankfully, that it was a bit too graphic, even for those dramatic times."

Read more: 'Outrageous hypocrisy': Boris calls for Tory MP on Privileges Committee to resign over Covid party allegation

He said he was willing to keep the "show on the road" if Mr Johnson had decided to push on.

The day before Mr Johnson quit, he had been grilled by MPs and faced Sir Keir Starmer in Parliament in a "turbulent day" that saw him refill "half the posts in his cabinet".

Mr Harri advised him to sleep on it to avoid a resignation he might go on to regret, having recalled the time Michael Gove "shafted him" during the race to replace David Cameron as prime minister.

"And so, some of us were really clear, only one man can make that call," Mr Harri said.

Boris Johnson quit after a string of scandals
Boris Johnson quit after a string of scandals. Picture: Alamy

"And until he makes that call to stand down our job as his loyal lieutenant is to stand by him. And if he wants to keep the show on the road, we keep the show on the road.

"The next day, I got up and sent him a quick message about half past five in the morning saying 'It's not looking good. To be honest, it's looking pretty bad.’"

"And he came straight back to me. 'I know, I know' he said, 'I'm writing my speech.' And that was the speech a few hours later, that he delivered on the doorstep finally conceding defeat."

Read more: 'Boris Johnson - an incontinent Labrador, weeing and pooing all over the place': James O'Brien takes aim at the ex-PM

Mr Harri served as Mr Johnson's communications guru between February and September 2022, the final months of his turbulent time as prime minister.

In that time, the then-prime minister had to bat away criticism over Partygate before his handling of the Chris Pincher saga led to his downfall

While he soon tried to make a comeback after Liz Truss's disastrous days in Downing Street, he failed to get back in the job.

He then a grilling by the privileges committee that probed whether he misled Parliament over Partygate before ultimately quitting as MP on Friday - almost a year after he announced he would leave Downing Street.

Speaking about the moment he realised the game was up at No10, Mr Harri said: "Boris had survived a police investigation, had survived Sue Gray, had survived a vote of no confidence.

"And yet the party was restless. And I think the final straw for me, the moment I realised the game was really up, was when the Chief Whip, the man responsible for party discipline, advised Boris that the party was not willing to vote down a Labour motion, an opposition motion, calling on Boris to be referred to the Privileges Committee of the Commons...

"I knew a year ago that it would be excruciating, I knew it would prolong the agony.

"And I pleaded with the Chief Whip and everyone else around the table to just this one time force the party to vote it down to avoid what was going to be months of ongoing pain that would just keep Partygate alive forever. And they decided against it."

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