Health Minister Sajid Javid tendered his resignation, explaining in a letter posted on Twitter that the head of government had “lost his confidence”. He was followed minutes later by Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.
It is “clear that this government is collapsing”, reacted the leader of the Labor opposition Keir Starmer by calling for new general elections.
The two resignations came as Boris Johnson had just publicly apologized, acknowledging that he had made a “mistake” in appointing Chris Pincher to his government in February, who resigned last week after being accused of touching two men.
Downing Street had initially denied having been made aware of older accusations against this deputy chief “whip”, responsible for the parliamentary discipline of Conservative MPs.
A version discredited by a former senior official, prompting Downing Street to recognize on Tuesday that the Prime Minister had indeed been informed in 2019 of accusations against Mr. Pincher, but that he had “forgotten” them by naming him.
“I think it was a mistake (to appoint him to government) and I apologize for that,” Mr Johnson said after being once again accused of lying.
– Serial scandals –
The Pincher affair was “the icing on the cake” for the two ministers, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told Sky News.
“It is time for Boris to go. He can let this drag on for a few hours if he wants. But I and a large part of the party are now determined that he is gone before the summer holidays: the the sooner the better,” he added.
Boris Johnson was already significantly weakened by the Downing Street party affair despite restrictions introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic. It earned him a fine and a vote of no confidence from his own camp, which he narrowly survived last month.
There have been several sexual cases in Parliament: an MP suspected of rape was arrested and then released on bail in mid-May, another resigned in April for watching pornography in the House on his mobile phone, and a former member was sentenced in May to 18 months in prison for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy.
The departure of these two deputies caused partial legislative elections and heavy defeats for the conservatives. The party had already suffered a very poor result in the local elections in May.
These scandals occur in a tense social climate with the British exasperated by inflation, at its highest for 40 years and at the origin of strikes in several sectors of activity.
“The public rightfully expects the government to be conducted competently and seriously” and “this is why I am resigning,” wrote Mr Sunak, 42.
For his part, Mr. Javid, 52, judged that the British were entitled to expect “integrity from their government”. “I regret to say however that it is clear to me that this will not be the case under your leadership – and you have therefore lost my confidence,” he wrote to the prime minister.
According to a poll by the YouGov institute on Tuesday evening, 69% of British voters believe that Boris Johnson, once very popular, should resign.
He who has always refused to leave his post despite the crises has already named the replacements for the resigning ministers.
Nadhim Zahawi, former Minister of Education, takes over the Finance portfolio, while Steve Barclay, hitherto in charge of government coordination, inherits Health.
Other ministers, including Foreign Minister Liz Truss, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defense Minister Ben Wallace, continue to support Mr Johnson, sources around them said.