British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government rocked by cabinet resignations.
Boris Johnson’s government has been rocked by the resignations of the treasurer and Health Secretary amid the latest scandal engulfing the British Prime Minister.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced their decisions as Mr Johnson was apologising for appointing a former minister to a job in government despite knowing there was a sexual misconduct complaint against him.
And the announcements came just a month after Mr Johnson survived a no-confidence vote from Conservative MPs.
As Mr Johnson’s apology was being aired on nightly news bulletins on Tuesday evening local time, Mr Javid announced his resignation in a statement, saying he could “no longer continue in good conscience”.
Moments later, Mr Sunak also announced he was quitting.
Both had formerly publicly supported Mr Johnson during months of scandal over his government’s conduct and a damning report into parties at his Downing Street office and residence that broke strict COVID-19 lockdown rules.
The two resignations were followed later on Tuesday evening by the resignations of three junior ministers and Mr Johnson’s trade envoy for Morocco.
Mr Sunak, who had reportedly clashed with the prime minister in private about spending, said: “For me to step down as Chancellor while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.”
“However, the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.
“I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Mr Javid said many MPs and the public had lost confidence in Mr Johnson’s ability to govern in the national interest.
“I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership — and you have therefore lost my confidence too,” Mr Javid said in his resignation letter.
In separate letters to Mr Sunak and Mr Javid, the Prime Minister said he would miss working with them.
He thanked Mr Sunak for his “outstanding service to the country through the most challenging period for our economy in peacetime history” and said he was looking forward to Mr Javid’s “contribution from the backbenches”.
Other cabinet ministers threw their support behind Mr Johnson, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab all indicating they would stay in government.
He also received support from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who said Mr Johnson “consistently gets all the big decisions right”.
Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “clear that this government is now collapsing”.
“Tory cabinet ministers have known all along who this Prime Minister is,” the Labour leader said.
“They have been his cheerleaders throughout this sorry saga.
“The British public will not be fooled,” adding that only a change in government would give Britain a fresh start.
‘It was a mistake and I apologise for it’
The latest drama to befall Mr Johnson involves his appointment of Conservative MP Chris Pincher to the position of deputy chief whip despite knowing there had been accusations of sexual misconduct made against him.
Mr Pincher quit his role in disgrace last Thursday amid fresh allegations that he groped two male guests at a members-only club in London while drunk.
He said in a resignation letter that he had drunk too much, embarrassed himself and “caused upset”.
For several days, Downing Street and government ministers told the media Mr Johnson was unaware of past allegations against Mr Pincher.
It came to a head on Tuesday morning when a former top Foreign Office official accused Mr Johnson’s office of lying about what the Prime Minister knew about the complaints.
By Tuesday evening, a contrite Mr Johnson was apologising for appointing Mr Pincher to his government.
“I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it,” he said.
“I think in hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.
“I apologise to everybody who’s been badly affected by it and I just want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power.”
Johnson on unsteady ground
The resignations of Mr Javid and Mr Sunak, two of the government’s most senior cabinet ministers, came just a month after Mr Johnson survived a confidence vote by Conservative MPs in the wake of the “partygate” scandal.
The scandal saw revelations that staff at Downing Street held boozy parties throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that flouted restrictions put in place by Mr Johnson’s government, and even saw the Prime Minister himself issued a fine by police for attending one.
Mr Johnson won the June internal poll 211 to 148, but his 59 per cent share of the vote was less than the 63 per cent achieved by his predecessor Theresa May in her confidence vote of December 2018.
She was replaced seven months later.
The result meant he cannot face another no-confidence vote for a year, although Conservative backbenchers are agitating at changing the rules to allow one sooner, potentially before parliament goes into summer recess on July 21.
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen, a former Johnson supporter, told the BBC the Prime Minister “should do what he should have done some time ago and resign”.
“If he doesn’t do that, the party will have to force him out,” he said.
Mark Harper, the former chief whip, echoed Mr Bridgen’s calls.
“The Conservative Party still has so much to offer to our country,” he tweeted.
“It’s time for a fresh start.”
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