Boris Johnson resigns as UK prime minister – POLITICO


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LONDON — Boris Johnson today stood down as U.K. prime minister after a wave of government resignations and a revolt from his own Cabinet left him unable to carry on.

Johnson — who spearheaded the campaign for Brexit and led his party to an emphatic election victory in December 2019 — made a statement outside No.10 Downing Street, teeing up a race to replace him as head of the governing Conservative party..

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said. He added that he intended to serve until a new leader was in place and a timetable for the leadership race would be announced next week.

He thanked voters who backed him in the December 2019 election. “The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.”

“I am immensely proud of the achievements of this government, from getting Brexit done to settling relations with the Continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown and in the last few months leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine,” he added. “I want you know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”

However, there are signs that even this won’t be enough for Johnson’s internal party critics, who want him gone immediately.

“I’m hearing from colleagues that they are uncomfortable with him continuing to stay as caretaker,” senior party official Nusrat Ghani said in an earlier interview on BBC Radio 4. “We have a deputy prime minister … and I think it’s important that we have somebody in place that has the confidence of colleagues to put in place an administration that can function.”

Even in the face of his inevitable downfall, Johnson still attempted a show of strength and continued trying to fill the many now vacant ministerial positions. Greg Clark, whom Johnson stripped of the Conservative Party whip in 2019 after he rebelled over Brexit, was appointed leveling up secretary, tasked with a key Johnson policy promise to address regional inequalities across the country. He replaces Michael Gove, who was sacked after telling the prime minister to quit yesterday.

James Cleverly, a longstanding ally of Johnson’s, was made education secretary. His immediate predecessor Michelle Donelan lasted less than 48 hours in post. She was promoted to the job on Tuesday night and resigned Thursday morning while urging Johnson to step aside.

Kit Malthouse, another Johnson ally who worked with him while he was mayor of London, was appointed chancellor to the Duchy of Lancaster, a role coordinating cross-departmental work. Robert Buckland, who was sacked as Justice Secretary last year and said on Wednesday night that he had no confidence in Johnson, was appointed secretary of state for Wales. Shailesh Vara was appointed Northern Ireland secretary and Andrew Stephenson has been made minister without portfolio

The appointments drew rancour from Johnson’s internal party critics, who want him gone immediately. One official who worked for a rebel Cabinet minister said Johnson was “literally buying time” and that his appointments meant people were now “questioning whether he intends to leave at all.”

Dominic Cummings, who was Johnson’s most senior adviser until he was ousted in an extraordinary power struggle at the end of 2020, tweeted: “I know that guy & I’m telling you -he doesn’t think it’s over, he’s thinking ‘there’s a war, weird shit happens in a war, play for time play for time, I can still get out of this, I got a mandate, members love me, get to September…”

Keir Starmer threatened to trigger a no confidence vote in the House of Commons if Johnson does not step down immediately. “His own party have finally concluded that he is unfit to be prime minister. They cannot now inflict him on the country for the next few months,” he told broadcasters in a pooled clip. “If they do not get rid of him, then Labour will step up in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence, because we cannot go on with this prior minister clinging on for months and months to come.”

Johnson’s decision to go follows days of high drama in Westminster, which began with the resignation of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Tuesday evening and was followed by a spate of exits that rippled through the government ranks. A delegation of senior ministers — including a chancellor Johnson had appointed less than a day earlier — visited the prime minister Wednesday night to tell him the game was up.

Sir Graham Brady chair of Tory MPs organizing group, known as the 1922 committee, visited the prime minister in Downing Street on Wednesday night and Thursday morning to underline he had lost the confidence of his party and it was time to go.

Johnson’s government had been in crisis mode for months.

A string of revelations, first about coronavirus lockdown-busting parties attended by key figures at the top of British politics, including Johnson himself, and later concerning the government’s poor handling of successive allegations of abusive behavior by Conservative MPs, shook Johnson’s grip on power.

Just hours before it emerged he was quitting, Johnson had defiantly vowed to fight on, telling MPs in the House of Commons that he had “a colossal mandate” from voters and wanted “to keep going.”

Ghani, vice-chair of the 1922 Committee, which oversees Tory leadership elections, said colleagues had run out of patience “because of issues around honesty, integrity, trust and respect had been trashed for them.”

Johnson’s announcement has set off the starting gun for a Conservative Party leadership contest to replace him. 

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and widely tipped as a leadership contender, cut short her trip to a G20 meeting in Indonesia to return to the U.K. and is expected to make a statement on Thursday.

Suella Braverman, the attorney general, announced Wednesday night that she would stand, though she did not resign from the government. Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister and influential backbencher, told Times Radio he was “taking seriously” requests from his party to throw his hat into the ring. 

A YouGov snap poll of 716 Conservative party members found Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is the current favorite, with 13 percent of those asked backing him to take over as prime minister. A minister in the trade department, Penny Mordaunt, came in second with 12 percent, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak third with 10 percent and Truss on 8 percent. MPs will narrow the field down to two candidates who will then face a runoff vote by the wider party membership.


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