Jo Johnson: PM’s brother steps away from politics over ‘unresolvable tension’
Jo Johnson’s shock exit from politics may be typical of his family’s flair for drama but his brother is unlikely to appreciate its timing.
A firm Remainer who was brought into his Boris Johnson’s inner political circle, attending Cabinet as universities minister, Mr Johnson has left as the Prime Minister is besieged from all sides.
It is his second resignation in the space of a year, having quit his role as transport minister in Theresa May’s Government last November to join the clamour for a second referendum.
He said then that he had wanted Brexit to work in order to “reunite our country, our party and, yes, my family too” and returned to Government in July after his older brother’s took over at Number 10.
In a tale of two Johnsons, the pair had always been seeking a different outcome but the former MP for Orpington was at least loyal to the last.
He was not among the Tory rebels who voted against the Government for legislation seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, and he backed his brother’s failed motion for a snap general election.
But he admitted that the tension between their Brexit positions and family loyalties had now become “unresolvable” for him.
Mr Johnson, 47, had a swift rise through the Tory ranks after being elected MP for Orpington in 2010 as he was appointed to head the Number 10 policy unit and made a Cabinet Office minister in 2013.
After the 2015 Tory election victory, he became universities and science minister, a role he held until January 2018 when he switched to the transport department as rail minister and was also made minister for London.
Unlike his brother, Mr Johnson has largely avoided controversy but became involved in a bruising political squall over the appointment of journalist and free school campaigner Toby Young to the board of the Office for Students (OfS).
Mr Young quit the role in January last year after social media posts from his past caused an outcry.
Like his older brother, Mr Johnson enjoyed a distinguished career in journalism before entering politics, working for the Financial Times as, among other roles, South East Asia bureau chief and Paris correspondent.
After receiving a first class Oxford degree in modern history in 1994, Mr Johnson worked as an investment banker before going into the media.
And his sharpness with words was evident in that November statement when he decried Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement and insisted “Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War”.
But he added at the time that his sudden exit from the Government had given him a fresh perspective on family unity, stating: “If these negotiations have achieved little else, they have at least united us in fraternal dismay.”
In another bold move on Thursday, Mr Johnson has perhaps achieved that unity once again.