Boris Johnson has resigned as Britain’s Prime Minister, ending one of the most difficult tenures for a world leader in modern times after a series of scandals shook his government’s confidence in him.
Bowing to mounting pressure as more than 50 ministers resigned and lawmakers said he had to go, Johnson addressed his Downing Street office on Thursday to confirm he would step down.
“It is now clearly 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.
However, he said he would remain Prime Minister while a leadership contest was held to choose his successor.
“The process of selecting this new leader should begin now. And today I appointed a cabinet that will serve until a new leader is in place,” Johnson said.
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Possible candidates to succeed him include former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak, Secretary of State Liz Truss and Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace.
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer welcomed the news of Johnson’s resignation but said it should have happened “a long time ago”.
“He was always unfit for office. He was responsible for lies, scandals and fraud on an industrial scale,” Starmer said.
Truss, a Conservative MP, also said Johnson was right to step down as prime minister.
“The prime minister made the right decision,” she said. “We need calm and unity now and must continue to rule while a new leader is found.”
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Johnson’s departure marks a remarkable fall from grace for the charismatic Conservative leader, who just two and a half years ago celebrated a resounding election victory and full support for his party.
He had vowed to move forward as prime minister after narrowly surviving a vote of confidence last month sparked by the postponement of stories of COVID-19 lockdown parties at government offices – which he partially attended.
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But that stance proved untenable after two of his senior cabinet ministers resigned on Tuesday over similarly alternating statements about his handling of a sexual misconduct scandal that stalked a recently appointed government official.
Finance chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes, costing Johnson the support of the men responsible for tackling two of Britain’s biggest problems – the cost of living crisis and rising COVID-19 infections.
These two were then followed by Attorney General Alex Chalk, who also joined four parliamentary private secretaries, the Conservative Party deputy leader and two trade envoys to abandon Johnson and resign.
In their letters of resignation, both cabinet officials said Johnson’s credibility had been shaken by the growing list of scandals, and Chalk added that public confidence in the government under her current leadership had “collapsed irretrievably”.
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Johnson has shown on numerous occasions that he is adept at deflecting criticism and political scandal, dating back to his previous roles in Parliament and as Mayor of London.
He came to power in 2019 after Theresa May’s resignation as Conservative leader and proved naysayers wrong in December when his party won the largest majority government since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. He then completed the country’s exit from the European Union. which had persecuted both May’s government and her predecessor, David Cameron.
But pundits and even some Conservative MPs had suggested this week that the cabinet’s wave of resignations would be too much.
The latest scandal began on Thursday when Chris Pincher resigned as Deputy Chief Whip after he complained of groping two men at a private club. This sparked a flurry of reports about previous allegations against Pincher and questions about why Johnson had promoted him to a managerial job that enforced party discipline.
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Pincher denies the allegations.
Johnson’s office initially said he was unaware of the previous allegations when he promoted Pincher in February. On Monday, a spokesman said Johnson was aware of allegations that “have either been resolved or have not resulted in a formal complaint.”
But in a highly unusual move, Simon McDonald, the most senior official at the UK Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020, went public with claims that the Prime Minister’s office was not telling the truth.
McDonald said in a letter to Parliament’s Commissioner for Standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. An investigation confirmed the complaint, and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.
“Mr. Johnson was personally briefed on the initiation and outcome of the investigation,” McDonald wrote.
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Hours after McDonald’s comments were released, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the PM forgot Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.
Minutes before Javid and Sunak announced their resignations, Johnson told reporters that Pincher should have been fired by the government following a previous incident in 2019.
When asked if appointing Pincher to the government was a mistake, Johnson said: “I think it was a mistake and I apologize for that. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”
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Johnson’s shifting statement fueled dissatisfaction in the Cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly state the prime minister’s denials, only for the statement to be postponed the next day.
Johnson’s authority had already been shaken by last month’s vote of confidence. Although he survived, 41 percent of Conservatives voted to remove him from office. But as of Tuesday, his cabinet had largely remained in place.
Concerns about Johnson’s leadership were fueled by his reactions to months of allegations about lockdown-breaking parties in government offices, which ultimately resulted in 126 fines, including one against Johnson.
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Two weeks later, Conservative candidates were severely beaten in two special elections to fill vacant seats in Parliament, fueling discontent within Johnson’s party and suggesting that the ongoing allegations were gaining public traction.
Even before the Pincher scandal, there were suggestions that Johnson would soon face another no-confidence vote.
The existing rules require 12 months between such votes, but several Conservative lawmakers had suggested they support changing the rules in an upcoming vote on the issue.
– with files from Reuters and The Associated Press
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8969102/boris-johnson-resigns-british-prime-minister/ Boris Johnson agrees to resign while remaining prime minister for now – National