Boris Johnson defies calls to resign amid mass exodus

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his political life on Wednesday amid a historic exodus of ministers and aides to his government and pressure from longtime allies to resign.

In Westminster, there was a feeling that the end could be near for a prime minister who has challenged many previous predictions of his death. Johnson, who helped the Conservative Party win a spectacular election in 2019, has become a political responsibility after the scandals that eroded public confidence.

The resignation bomb on Tuesday of two of his top ministers in his cabinet – Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – dropped what the Government Institute called a think tank. record number of departureswith at least 44 Conservative politicians leaving office for two days.

In their resignation letters and speeches in the House of Commons, ministers said they were fed up with Johnson and his self-inflicted scandals, fueled by his prevarications, with a former official who said that “enough is enough. “.

But by all accounts, Johnson was not prepared to go there willingly. In a fiery session of the weekly Questions of the Prime Minister, he dismissed those demanding his resignation.

“Frankly, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been given a colossal mandate is to move on, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

In the late afternoon, a line of cabinet ministers had gathered at the prime minister’s office at 10 Downing Street to tell him, according to the British press, that his time was up. . The state broadcaster said the group included Nadhim Zahawi, who less than 24 hours earlier had been appointed chancellor, the second most important job in government. He was also joined in the riot by Michael Gove, Johnson’s longtime secretary and a longtime enemy, who was fired by the prime minister at the end of the day in what the press called a “revenge reshuffle.” his cabinet.

Johnson’s personal parliamentary secretary, James Duddridge, told Sky News on Wednesday night that the prime minister was “in an optimistic mood and will continue to fight.” Duddridge said Johnson planned to present a “new economic plan” to deal with the pressures of the cost of living. A fellow Conservative later appeared on the same channel to say Duddridge was “delirious.”

And so was the day. Although outgoing government officials highlighted different reasoning, their reasoning generally had to do with mistrust and mismanagement.

Former British Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who resigned in protest of Boris Johnson’s leadership, criticized the prime minister as he watched, on 6 July. (Video: The Washington Post)

Javid, the former health secretary, made a scathing critique of the prime minister, telling Parliament that “stepping on the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months”.

He said late last year, Johnson’s aides assured him that no party had been held on Downing Street during the pandemic blockades. A police investigation into “Partygate” ended with 126 fines, including one for Johnson.

The ‘Partygate’ investigation in the UK ends with 126 fines, with no further citations for Boris Johnson

“This week again, we have reason to question the truth and integrity of what we have all been told,” Javid said, referring to a separate scandal involving Chris Pincher, who had recently resigned as deputy director of the assault after allegations of assaulting two men. while he was drunk. Downing Street initially said Johnson was unaware of any previous allegations of misconduct when the prime minister gave Pincher a key government position, but then stepped back to acknowledge that Johnson knew of an investigation that confirmed similar complaints on 2019.

“The problem starts at the top,” Javid stated.

When Johnson sat in the front seats, his former health minister put on him, saying “loyalty must go both ways” and that “it’s not fair” that government ministers should show up. on TV news every morning defending Johnson’s stories that “no Don’t get up, don’t hold on.”

While Javid was speaking, another minister resigned.

The latest Boris Johnson scandal provokes the resignation of prime ministers

As a sign of the mood of the session, at one point a group of opposition Labor Party lawmakers greeted Johnson, shouting, “Goodbye.”

Rob Ford, a policy expert at the University of Manchester, said there were two ways to explain why a turning point had been reached.

“People were watching [the Pincher scandal] and he thought, keep going, keep going, never stop, “Ford said.” The strongest critics of the Johnson administration will say, how long did it take you to come to that conclusion? But politics is a tribal business. He won a great election. And regicide is hard. But it’s accumulated pressure, at some point people just break up, even loyal people. “

Conservative lawmaker Jonathan Djanogly urged his colleagues to give Johnson a hard push. In a tweet, he wrote: “values ​​and ethics really matter and Britain deserves better.”

The majority of the British public believes that Johnson should throw in the towel. A YouGov survey published on Tuesday found that 69 per cent of Britons said Johnson should resign, including the majority of Conservative voters (54 per cent).

Only 18 per cent of the British public say Johnson should stay.

The resignations of the UK’s top ministers and the plight of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government dominated British newspaper headlines on 6 July. (Video: Reuters)

Under current Conservative Party rules, there is no formal way for the prime minister’s critics to quickly get rid of him if he does not want to leave. Because Johnson narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in his party last month, he is officially isolated from the party’s additional challenges for a year.

But there is a push underway for the powerful 1922 Conservative Legislative Committee, which makes the rules, to change them. A meeting of this committee on Wednesday concluded with the decision not to make changes until the new members are elected on Monday. Some of those campaigning for the papers have suggested they would support allowing another censorship vote.

To activate a vote, 54 Conservative lawmakers — or 15 percent of the parliamentary party — would have to submit letters of censure. (Unless those rules change too.)

Boris Johnson survives but is weakened by the censorship vote

Analysts have said the party could want a new leader ahead of its annual conference in the fall, someone who can help them win the next general election.

Meanwhile, the number of resignations, including those of former loyalists, continued to rise every hour on Wednesday. In a letter, five lawmakers resigned at once. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Government cannot function given the issues that have come to light and the way they have been dealt with,” they wrote.

In another letter, Will Quince, Minister of Children and Families, said he could not accept the way he was asked to defend Downing Street in front of the media over a Pincher-related scandal. He had been given “inaccurate” information about Johnson’s knowledge of the events and had “accepted and repeated these assurances in good faith,” he said.

There is a tradition in British politics of sending ministers in the morning to do media rounds, to argue the government on issues. It is usually both a duty and an honor. This is how politicians can make names. But many ministers say they have just defended this government.

Legislator Jo Churchill resigned as a junior minister saying that “recent events have shown that integrity, competence and judgment are essential to the role of prime minister, while a playful and selfish approach has its limitations.”

Ford said that while Johnson could continue to limping, the prime minister is unlikely to survive another censorship vote, next week or in months.

“I think it would take something like a biblical miracle,” Ford said. “Nothing can be ruled out with the luckiest politician in British politics, but something extraordinary would be needed.”

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