Johnson Resigns as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

By Phil Boucher

Boris Johnson, U.K. prime minister, speaks during a daily coronavirus briefing inside number 10 Downing Street in London, U.K., on Friday, March 20, 2020. Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants and leisure centers across the country to close from Friday night in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Photographer: Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has stepped down as the British Prime Minister.

The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party leader announced his resignation outside No.10 Downing Street on Thursday after losing the confidence of his cabinet. He was elected prime minister in July 2019.

Johnson now aims to continue as caretaker Prime Minister until the fall while the Conservative Party holds a leadership election across the summer.

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and, therefore, a new Prime Minister,” Johnson told reporters Thursday.

“I have agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.

“I have today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place,” he added.

Johnson’s resignation was largely prompted by the COVID-19 “Partygate” scandal, in which 16 social gatherings were found to have taken place in Downing Street during a 20-month period of various levels of COVID-related lockdowns in England.

In April, Johnson, 58, was fined by the Metropolitan Police for the parties, becoming the first U.K. Prime Minister in history to be officially found to have broken the law.

In June, he also survived a vote of confidence among his own members of parliament as a result of the investigation by 211 votes to 148 after an unknown number of Conservative MPs submitted letters stating they could no longer trust him to effectively run the U.K. government.

This left Johnson in the position of governing the country without the support of a large percentage of his own lawmakers — a situation that ultimately led to the downfall of Conservative governments helmed by Margaret Thatcher, John Major and his predecessor, Theresa May.

ST IVES, ENGLAND – JUNE 10: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson walk together with U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Bidenn outside the Carbis Bay Hotel on June 10, 2021 in St Ives, England. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, will host leaders from the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada at the G7 Summit which begins on Friday, June 11 2021. (Photo by Toby Melville-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Johnson’s premiership finally came to an end as a result of a scandal involving Conservative MP Chris Pincher, however, who was forced to resign as deputy chief whip of the Conservative Party after being suspended for allegedly groping two men at the prestigious Carlton Club in London’s upscale Mayfair neighborhood.

“I drank far too much,” Pincher wrote to Johnson in his resignation letter on June 30. “I’ve embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned.”

Yet it was Johnson’s actions after Pincher’s resignation that had the most impact, when it emerged that he’d been warned that the MP had acted similarly before promoting him to government office.

When questioned about whether he knew about the earlier allegations on July 1, a spokesperson for Johnson said he was not aware of “specific allegations.”

On July 5, Lord McDonald, a former lead staffer in the Foreign Office, publicly refuted this, however, accusing Downing Street of “not telling the truth.”

“I briefed the relevant senior official in the Cabinet Office,” he told the Today program on BBC Radio 4. “I know that the senior official briefed the prime minister in person because that official told me so at the time.”

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With the political pressure building, Johnson told the BBC that he “bitterly” regretted giving Pincher a government job.

“In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do and I apologize to everyone who has been badly affected by it,” he said. “I just want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or abuses their position of power.”

Ultimately, however, the combination of “Partygate,” Pincher and other scandals — such as Johnson refurbishing his Downing Street apartment with wallpaper costing $1,000 a roll — led to him losing the support of the public and his own government, evidenced by the resignation of two high-profile members of his inner circle on July 5.

“The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stated in his resignation letter on July 5. “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Sunak, who was previously in charge of the U.K.’s economy and effectively No. 2 in the government, added: “Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. I am sad to be leaving government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”

Health Minister Sajid Javid backed up this belief in his own resignation letter, writing “We [the Conservative party] may not have always been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are now neither.”

“It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership and you have therefore lost my confidence,” Javid told Johnson.

On Thursday, Johnson’s exit was hastened by the resignation of at least 50 ministers and aides from the U.K. government, including five ministers who urged Johnson “to step aside” in a combined resignation letter.

Johnson also lost the support of key cabinet minister Michael Gove on Wednesday afternoon, his close friend and political sparring partner since their student days at Oxford University.







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