LONDON. With his support crumbling, his government in disarray, his alibis exhausted, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was desperate to salvage his position on Wednesday, even as a delegation of cabinet colleagues traveled to Downing Street to plead with their scandal-ridden leader to step down.
More than 30 ministers or government aides have resigned, many Conservative Party MPs have urged. Johnson to resign, and he received a sharp reception in Parliament, where the backbenchers ridiculed: “Bye, Boris!” when he walked out the side door after being relentlessly interrogated about how he handled the latest sex and bullying scandal at the party.
On a day of rapid events, Mr. Johnson vowed to keep fighting, insisting he has a mandate from the electorate to steer the UK into its post-Brexit future, even as rebellious cabinet ministers try to unseat him. But elsewhere in Westminster, lawmakers weighed – and then put off for at least a few days – a change to the party’s charter that would allow for another vote of confidence, possibly next week, against a prime minister who has survived such a vote of the entire a month ago.
There is a growing consensus that, however events unfold over the next few hours or days, the curtain on the Boris Johnson era is falling. Less than three years after coming to Downing Street before riding the tide of pro-Brexit passion to win a landslide election, Mr Johnson seemed stymied – the versatile political player had finally lost his footing.
This does not mean that the end will come quickly or beautifully. mr. Johnson resisted calls from the cabinet delegation to resign. He does not rule out the possibility of holding early elections to decide his fate for British voters. Such a move would require the consent of Queen Elizabeth II, which could provoke a political crisis.
“The job of the prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he has been given a colossal mandate, is to keep moving forward,” Mr. C. Johnson said with a grim face in Parliament, rejecting another call for his resignation.
Despite all the drama in Parliament, Wednesday’s real action took place out of sight, where Mr. Johnson’s dwindling band of supporters and a growing mob of opponents were manoeuvring. One of his key allies, Michael Gove, told the prime minister in a private meeting that it was time for Mr. Trump. Johnson to go. Later Wednesday, the BBC reported that M. Johnson had fired Mr. Gow.
Later on Wednesday, UK Attorney General Swella Braverman called Mr B. Johnson to resign and said she would stand in the election to replace him if he did so. “If there’s a competition for the lead, I’ll put my name in the ring,” she told the ITV network.
The latest chapter of the crisis began on Tuesday when two senior ministers suddenly resigned: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid. The trigger was Mr. Johnson’s handling of a case involving Chris Pincher, a Conservative MP who admitted to being drunk at a private club in London, where he is said to have groped two men.
Their departure sparked an uprising against Mr Johnson within his own party, which has been antagonistic to him for months, fueled by a flood of embarrassing reports of public gatherings in Downing Street that violated the government’s own rules on the coronavirus lockdown.
Given the speed with which Mr. Johnson’s government is falling apart, many Conservative lawmakers believe that Mr. Johnson needs to be replaced quickly to mitigate the damage to the party from the election.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer issued a scathing criticism. Johnson and cabinet ministers who have yet to step down as prime minister after a seemingly endless stream of scandals.
“Someone who quits now, after having defended all this, has no concept of honesty,” Mr. Starmer, leader of the Labor Party, glares across the table at Mr. Johnson. “Isn’t this the first recorded case of a sinking ship escaping from rats?”