Despite sharp criticism from his own ranks and around three dozen resignations from party friends, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to remain in office. An ITV reporter reports that Johnson firmly refused to resign at the meeting with his cabinet colleagues.
According to media reports, leading British ministers wanted to ask him to resign on Wednesday. As the “Guardian” reports, the so-called Liaison Committee in the House of Commons had informed Johnson that a delegation of ministers was waiting for him in Downing Street, Johnson’s official residence, to inform him of their demands.
The PM has presented the situation as a choice between a summer to focus on economic growth or a chaotic leadership dispute, ITV journalist Anushka Asthana tweeted.
Should the Tories lose an eventual election, it would result in a coalition that would break Britain. According to the information, it is assumed in the environment of the prime minister that some other ministers will step down, but not all.
Johnson has fired Housing Secretary Michael Gove following calls for his resignation from Cabinet. “He fired Michael Gove,” James Duddridge, a close associate of Johnson, told Sky News on Wednesday night. According to British media reports, Gove, who was considered an influential member of the cabinet, had asked the head of government to resign. “The PM is in high spirits and will keep fighting,” added Duddridge.
Gove was a driving force behind Brexit. Since September he has headed the Department of Housing and Communities, which was tasked with implementing Johnson’s plans to promote disadvantaged regions. Gove ran for Conservative leader in 2016 and 2019, but came third both times.
Before the meeting in Downing Street, other members of the government apparently submitted their resignations. According to a running count by the BBC, the number is now 37 – 17 of them alone resigned on Wednesday.
According to the Guardian, the ministers included British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, Transport Secretary Grant Shepps, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis and Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales. Also Conservative Party MPs Chris Heaton-Harris, Michelle Donelan and Kit Malthouse.
However, according to the Guardian, Johnson was also received at the seat of government by a second group: Johnson supporters who want to convince him to remain prime minister. Among them is said to be Michelle Donelan, Secretary of Culture and a Johnson loyalist. This group should be in a different part of the building than the Johnson opponents.
However, the prime minister does not have to expect another vote of no confidence – he barely survived the first one at the beginning of June – next week at the earliest. The responsible 1922 committee of his Conservative Party did not change the rules, media in London reported on Wednesday evening.
Rather, a new committee leader should be elected on Monday. But since Johnson’s opponents within the party are likely to gain the upper hand, a rule change is then expected.
According to the current regulations, after a vote of no confidence has been won, there may be no further vote for one year. Since the last vote, however, the number of Tory MPs calling for Johnson’s resignation has increased significantly.
Conservatives are not putting as much pressure on Johnson as expected. There had previously been suspicions that the committee leadership would allow an immediate vote of no confidence in Johnson.
The government crisis began when Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid resigned from their posts on Tuesday.
In his letter of resignation published on Tuesday evening, Javid wrote that he had lost confidence in the head of government. They now demanded the same from Johnson.
Following his resignation as British Health Secretary, Javid indirectly called on his former cabinet mates to overthrow Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Doing nothing is an active choice,” Javid said in Parliament in London on Wednesday.
“Those of us who are in a position to do so have a responsibility to change something.” Something is fundamentally wrong. “I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem is at the top and that’s not going to change,” Javid said, without naming Johnson.
“The team is always as good as its captain,” he said now. For a long time he believed Johnson’s assurances that all the rules at Downing Street had been observed. “There comes a point when enough is enough. I think that point has now been reached.”
Several state secretaries had already resigned on Tuesday. On Wednesday, five other state secretaries then submitted their resignations. These include Secretary of State for Family and Children Will Quince and Deputy Secretary of State for Transport Laura Trott.
Johnson also loses the Attorney General for England and Wales. British MP Alex Chalk also resigned on Tuesday in protest at Johnson’s governance.
“At a time when our country is facing great challenges, when trust in government has rarely been so important, sadly the time has come for new leadership,” the government’s chief legal adviser said in his letter of resignation on the night of Wednesday on Twitter with.
He cited the Partygate scandal and the handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a member of the government as reasons. “Being part of government means accepting a duty to advocate for difficult or even unpopular political positions when doing so serves the broader national interest. But it cannot extend to defending the untenable.”
It was “clear that this government is collapsing now,” wrote opposition leader Keir Starmer of the Labor Party in a first reaction to the resignations of Sunak and Javid: “The Tory party is corrupt and it will fix nothing but one man exchange.” What the country needs are quick new elections.
The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday reported the harsh words of an MP who had always defended Johnson in his almost three years in office. “I’m screwed if I ever do that again.” That sentiment has become fairly common among Conservatives.
The Tories are in an “open war”, commented the broadcaster Sky News on Wednesday night. The BBC quoted an anonymous MP as saying he even heard the “smell of death” in London’s Westminster precinct.
“Conservative MPs have finally lost patience with their leader, who is rapidly becoming a contemptible figure for voters,” said political scientist Mark Garnett from the University of Lancaster to the German Press Agency in London. The expert suspects that Johnson’s party will now do everything in its power to get rid of its boss.
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve warned the party would be “destroyed” if Johnson didn’t go. “A majority in the party wants a change,” MP Chris Loder told BBC Radio 4. The opposition is vehemently demanding new elections. She is ahead in the polls.
The Pincher affair was the last straw for former ministers Sunak and Javid, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, one of Johnson’s harshest critics, told Sky News. “It’s time for Boris to go. He can delay that for a few more hours if he wants. But I and a large part of the party are now determined that he has to be gone by the summer break: the sooner the better.”
A government spokesman initially denied that Johnson knew about the old allegations against Pincher. That line of defense collapsed on Tuesday after a senior former official said Johnson had been briefed on an incident in 2019. Opposition MPs and some Tories then accused the prime minister of lying.
“I think it was a mistake and I apologize for it,” Johnson told reporters about Pincher’s appointment that evening. “In retrospect, it was wrong to do that.”
The ruling party has been shaken by a series of scandals in recent months. In mid-May, a member of parliament was temporarily arrested on suspicion of rape. Also in May, a former Tory MP was sentenced to a year and a half in prison for sexually abusing a minor. At the end of April, a member of parliament resigned after watching porn videos on his mobile phone in parliament.
In addition, there is the scandal surrounding alcohol-fueled parties at the seat of government during the corona lockdown, which brought Prime Minister Johnson an internal party vote of no confidence. The prime minister barely survived the vote in early June. At that time, Minister of Health Javid had publicly backed the head of government.
Now, Javid wrote that after surviving the no-confidence vote, Johnson had an opportunity to show “humility, determination and new leadership.” But now he realized “that the situation will not change under your leadership, and you have that’s why I lost my trust”.
But despite the immense pressure, Johnson ruled out resigning from office several times on Wednesday. “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he has been entrusted with a colossal mandate, is to carry on and I will do that,” the prime minister said in parliament.
He also rejected the new elections demanded by the opposition. Nobody in the country wants politicians to get involved in campaigning right now, Johnson said. “I think we need to keep working to serve our constituents.”
In advance, Johnson’s remaining allies had already scattered that the prime minister was combative. “Fuck it,” he is said to have replied when asked about his resignation, the Times reported.
Political scientist Garnett predicted: “His party will have to drag him out of Downing Street.” A former Johnson adviser told the online portal “Politico” that the Prime Minister could run a “scorched earth policy” and drag others into the abyss .
Tory rebel Andrew Mitchell on the BBC compared Johnson to legendary Russian tsarist adviser Rasputin, who is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts. “He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, his body thrown into a freezing river – and he’s still alive.”
Johnson’s critics have great respect for the “Boris cult”. The prime minister is seen by many conservatives as the only candidate to win elections. In addition, there is still no obvious successor in sight, said expert Garnett. After his resignation, former finance minister Sunak is once again seen as the most promising candidate. His successor Nadhim Zahawi and Foreign Minister Liz Truss are also said to have ambitions. However, both demonstratively backed the prime minister.
The new finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, also defended Johnson. The conservative head of government is of integrity and “determined to deliver,” Zahawi told Sky News on Wednesday. Johnson has apologized for appointing Pincher to a senior parliamentary position despite being aware of allegations of sexual harassment. Former education minister Zahawi was appointed finance minister on Tuesday evening. Johnson also appointed his former chief of staff, Steve Barclay, as health secretary.
Johnson could now be in danger from the hard-liner corner of the Conservatives. Former Brexit Minister David Frost in particular seems to be positioning himself here. He had long hoped that the prime minister would be the one who would implement a traditional conservative version, Frost wrote in the “Telegraph” – of all places in the newspaper for which Johnson himself worked as a columnist for a long time.