Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that he is stepping down as UK prime minister following calls from fellow ministers and lawmakers from his Conservative Party.
After more than 50 ministers resigned and lawmakers said he must go, an isolated and powerless Johnson spoke outside 10 Downing Street and confirmed he would resign.
“The process of selecting this new leader must begin now. And today I appointed a cabinet that will continue until a new leader takes his place,” Johnson said.
The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process that could take weeks or months.
Johnson admitted that it was “painful” for him not to continue his government in the future, as his resignation came just over two and a half years after he won a landslide election victory at the end of 2019.
“My friends, there is no one even remotely indispensable in politics,” he said.
Labor leader says Johnson shouldn’t mess around
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, said ahead of the announcement that he would call a parliamentary vote of confidence if the Conservatives did not remove Johnson immediately.
“If they don’t get rid of him, then Labor will act in the national interest and pass a vote of no confidence because we cannot continue to cling to this prime minister for months and months,” he said. .
It’s also unclear if a majority of his party would support him staying for a few more weeks, although he appeared to be backed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who called it “the right thing to do.”
“Now we need calmness and unity to continue to rule the country until a new leader is found,” Truss wrote on Twitter.
After several days of fighting for his job, the scandal-ridden Johnson was deserted by all but a handful of allies after the latest in a series of scandals broke their willingness to support him. Health Minister Sajid Javid and Chief Treasurer Rishi Sunak resigned within minutes of each other on Tuesday over the latest scandal involving Conservative MP Chris Pincher.
“His resignation was imminent,” Conservative Party Vice Chairman Justin Tomlinson tweeted. “As a party, we need to come together quickly and focus on what’s important. These are serious times on many fronts.”
The crisis comes as the British face the worst financial crisis in decades since the COVID-19 pandemic, skyrocketing inflation and the economy is projected to be the weakest of any major nation in 2023 outside of Russia.
It also follows years of internal division, sparked by a narrow 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and threats to the composition of the United Kingdom itself with demands for another referendum on Scottish independence, the second in a decade.
Johnson, in his brief speech, pointed to what he considered his government’s accomplishments, including achieving a Brexit that eluded his predecessor, Theresa May, managing the UK’s recovery from the ravages of COVID-19, and recent vocal support and military aid to Ukraine as he fights off the Russian invasion.
“I know that many people will be relieved, and perhaps many will be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to turn down the best job in the world,” Johnson said in his speech.
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outside Downing Street.
“But these are breaks,” he added.
Charter election losses
The recent crisis erupted after a government pastor, MP Pincher, was forced to resign over allegations that he molested men at a private club.
Johnson had to apologize after it was revealed that he was informed that Pincher had previously been the target of sexual harassment complaints prior to appointing him. The prime minister said he forgot.
This followed months of scandals and gaffes, including a damning report of drunken parties at his Downing Street residence and office that violated COVID-19 lockdown rules and resulted in him being fined by police for his 56th birthday gathering. Johnson was accused of lying about knowing about the parties and attending them.
There have also been political reversals, an ill-fated defense of an MP who broke lobbying rules and criticism for not doing enough to fight inflation as many Britons struggle to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
Johnson’s conservatives have been hit by other sexual abuse scandals, including two that led to the resignations of MPs Ahmad Khan and Neil Parish. In both cases, the Conservatives lost the snap elections held last month to replace them.
Johnson looked set to dig in despite this week’s resignations. On Wednesday, he fired Michael Gove, a member of his ministerial team who was one of the first to tell him he needed to step down.