After more than 50 resignations within the government, Boris Johnson has decided to step down as leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. "The Conservative Party has made it clear that there should be a new leader and therefore a new Prime Minister," Johnson said during a press conference.
"Them's the breaks"— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 7, 2022
Boris Johnson announces his resignation as Tory leader, describing being UK prime minister as the "best job in the world"
He says he will continue to serve in office until a new leader is electedhttps://t.co/qiq4yHpPpB pic.twitter.com/5wgyTpa7aN
Johnson said that the process to elect a new Conservative leader should begin "now" and announced that the timetable for this process will be presented next week. He thanked the British people for the "immense privilege" they have given him. "I am sad to leave the best job in the world," he said.
However, Johnson will remain in office until the autumn, reports the BBC's Chris Mason. By then, the Conservative Party should have already chosen another leader, so the campaign for the party's leadership is expected to take place over the summer.
Scotland's chief minister, the nationalist Nicola Sturgeon, has already expressed her rejection of Johnson remaining in power until the autumn, a plan she has described as unsustainable. "The Tories should never have elected him leader or kept him in office for so long," she wrote on her Twitter account.
Sturgeon's view is shared by politicians who were part of Johnson's cabinet. Two former ministers admitted to The Guardian that they believe "it is not possible for him to stay until the autumn". One of them says he should leave "tonight", and points to Dominic Raab as interim Prime Minister. Raab - Justice Minister, number two in the Executive and Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union between July and November 2018 - is among those who are still loyal to the Prime Minister.
Another source within the Tories told the British newspaper that Johnson's behaviour in the last 48 hours had been "reckless and erratic". "He can't be trusted to run the country until the autumn. God knows what he will do," he added. A former government adviser warned that it was "dangerous" for Johnson to remain in office, while a former minister called it "disgraceful".
By contrast, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss backs the current government remaining in place until a new Conservative leader is elected. The politician believes that Johnson has made "the right decision" and recalls that her government "achieved many objectives". She mentioned Brexit, the vaccination process and support for Ukraine. "We need calm, unity and to continue governing while a new leader is found", she concluded.
The PM has made the right decision.— Liz Truss (@trussliz) July 7, 2022
The Government under Boris's leadership had many achievements - delivering Brexit, vaccines and backing Ukraine.
We need calmness and unity now and to keep governing while a new leader is found.
The opposition, for its part, has welcomed Johnson's decision. Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has assured that the resignation of the still premier "is good news" although "it should have happened a long time ago". In a statement he also pointed out that Johnson "was always unfit for office", as "he has been responsible for lies, scandals and fraud". "The Conservative Party has wreaked havoc on the country during the worst crisis in decades," Starmer added.
The Conservatives have overseen 12 years of economic stagnation, declining public services and empty promises.— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) July 7, 2022
We don’t need to change the Tory at the top – we need a proper change of government.
We need a fresh start for Britain. pic.twitter.com/uMxRTomXX9
Johnson's decision follows a long series of resignations from within the Conservative government itself. Up to 59 members of the Executive have opted to leave office in protest at Johnson's management and multiple scandals, according to the latest tally by Sky News. The still Conservative leader has become the British leader with the most resignations from his cabinet. As the BBC recalls, the highest number had been in 1932, with 11 resignations.
The first to show their displeasure with the Prime Minister and resign were the Finance and Health Ministers, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, respectively. While Sunak referred to "disagreements with the Prime Minister" and "lack of seriousness and competence" of the government leader, Javid regretted "not being able to continue with a clear conscience".
The Finance and Health ministers took the decision after a new crisis shook the foundations of the British government. Although this time the problem was not quarantine parties, but something even more serious: allegations of sexual harassment against one of Johnson's most loyal men, Chris Pincher. Two men accused the Conservative politician of groping them at the Carlton Club, a private London club.
Pincher resigned immediately, although days later the British media reported at least six other cases of alleged sexual misconduct by the Tory. "Dear Prime Minister, last night I drank to excess. I embarrassed myself and others, and that is the last thing I want to do. I apologise to you and to all those involved," Pincher said in a letter. The politician has also said he is seeking "professional medical support".
This sex scandal has been the main reason for the UK government's current situation. Although the Cabinet Office assured the press that Johnson was unaware of the allegations against Pincher prior to his appointment, the BBC revealed that the Prime Minister had been informed of a complaint about Pincher's "inappropriate behaviour" while working at the Foreign Office.
After Sunak and Javid, Children's Minister Will Quince became the third member of the government to resign in rejection of the scandals that have engulfed Johnson. This has been followed by a spate of resignations of ministers, MPs and members of the Conservative Party that has already provoked one of the biggest political crises in the UK in recent years.
Among the ministers who have not resigned are Liz Truss, head of British diplomacy and one of the main candidates to succeed Johnson; Ben Wallace, head of defence; Priti Patel, home secretary; and the head of culture, Nadine Dorries.
The high number of resignations within the British government comes a month after a motion of censure against Jonhson by the most critical sector of the Tories, in which 41% of his own party's legislators voted against him.
On the other hand, Pincher's case comes on top of other scandals involving the Prime Minister, such as the so-called Partygate, the parties held by Johnson and other civil servants in Downing Street in the midst of confinement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The British currency has risen by 0.6% to 1.1994 dollars after several days of declines. The pound sterling made some recovery on the same morning that the British media reported that Johnson's resignation was imminent. Against the euro, the currency rose 85.11 pence, a three-week high.
"We can expect some relief in the price of the UK currency as more details of Johnson's plans are announced. Financial markets prefer certainty," said Mike Owens, head of global sales at Saxo Markets, quoted by Reuters.
The British leader has been in office for two years and 348 days, even less time than Theresa May, a former Prime Minister who also opted to step down. Johnson's decision places him among the four British Prime Ministers with the shortest time in office at 10 Downing Street in the post-war period.
According to The Telegraph, below Johnson are Gordon Brown (2 years and 329 days), Anthony Eden (1 year and 279 days) and Alec Douglas-Home (364 days). At the other extreme are Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. The former Labour leader spent a decade in power, while the "Iron Lady" spent more than 11 years at the helm of the British government.