Faced with an avalanche of resignations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tendered his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party, on the third day of an unprecedented political crisis. He remains head of government, the time to elect his successor at the head of the party. The former mayor of London said it is ‘clearly the will of the parliamentary party that there is a new leader and a new prime minister’, saying he remains proud of his record, mentioning Brexit and management of the health crisis.
During his speech, Boris Johnson conceded that “no one is essential”, displaying his sadness at giving up the “best job in the world”. The Prime Minister says he tried to persuade his colleagues that changing the leader would be “quirky”, but he failed to convince them, he admits.
He added that the timetable for the election of a new Conservative leader would be specified next week.
Ahead of the announcement, Opposition Leader Keir Starmer called the prospect of Boris Johnson’s departure “good news”. But “we do not need a change in the leadership of the Tories. We need a real change of government”, he argued, threatening to organize a vote of no confidence in the House if Boris Johnson remained in power. “He has to leave completely,” he insisted.
Resignations and calls for the departure of Boris Johnson, a turbulent three years marked by repeated scandals, continued on Thursday, as Downing Street announced a series of appointments to replace resigning ministers and secretaries of state. New Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi, appointed on Tuesday, called on Boris Johnson to “leave now”, while the Minister of Education, also appointed on Tuesday, announced her resignation. In total, around sixty departures have been announced in the government since Tuesday, including five ministers, an exodus of unprecedented speed in British political history.
All day Wednesday, resignations had succeeded, the conservative party tired of repeated scandals since Boris Johnson, the former hero of Brexit, arrived in Downing Street in 2019. The weekly session of questions in the House had been particularly stormy for Boris Johnson, with new calls for resignation in his own camp, laughter testifying to his loss of authority, and a “bye Boris” at the end of the session.
Discontent had been simmering for months, fueled in particular by the scandal of illegal parties in Downing Street during the anti-Covid confinement, when the British had to respect very strict rules.
Boris Johnson, known for not being close to a lie, had varied in his explanations, provoking frustration and then anger among elected Conservatives, in a country faced with record inflation of 9% and social movements. His popularity rating had plunged, and nearly 70% of Britons now want him gone, according to two polls this week.
The resignations on Tuesday evening of Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid sounded the hallali for the Prime Minister, after a new sex scandal involving the deputy “whip”, in charge of the discipline of Conservative MPs, whom Boris Johnson had named in February, “forgetting” past accusations of the same type.