Boris Johnson quits over recent scandal, messy end to messy tenure

LONDON. Yielding to intense pressure from his own party, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he would step down, ending a tumultuous three-year tenure marked by a landslide election victory and a successful push to get the UK out of the EU. The European Union, but collapsed under the weight of incessant scandals.

mr. Johnson even insisted on Wednesday night that he would fight to stay in power. But after only a few hours, he gave in, crushed by a mutiny in his cabinet, a wave of government resignations and a crushing loss of party support – all caused by the way he handled the latest scandal that engulfed his leadership.

“It is now clear that the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party is that there must be a new leader,” he said. Johnson said in a brief midday speech outside 10 Downing Street. “The process of selecting this new leader must begin now.”

Solution limited A dizzying 48 hours in British politics It began on Tuesday evening with the sudden resignations of two senior cabinet ministers, followed by the resignations of dozens of other ministers and officials throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday morning.

Whoever takes over as prime minister will inherit a frightening array of problems, including double-digit inflation, rising labor unrest and the specter of a recession. The UK shares these concerns with other advanced economies, but there is evidence that Brexit has placed an additional burden on its economy.

And even with Mr. Johnson’s announcement, the fight for his status may not be over. He said he would remain in office until a new party leader was appointed, a process that could take several months.

But some conservatives have argued that Mr. Johnson should not be allowed to remain, even as caretaker. John Major, a former prime minister, wrote a letter to one of the party’s top officials, Graham Brady, urging Mr Johnson to either hand over his duties to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab or the party arrange for a new leader to be quickly elected by lawmakers, reducing the role of the party’s rank and file in decision making.

mr. Johnson made it clear he was leaving against his will, saying he was trying to hold on because “I felt it was my job, my duty, my duty” to continue the work he had done since 2019, when he led the Conservative Party to a convincing victory in the elections thanks to the promise to “make Brexit”.

His announcement contained no acknowledgment of his own role in his downfall, instead seeing it as a reflection of the attitude of his fellow legislators.

“I tried to convince my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re doing so much, when we have such a broad mandate and when we’re actually only a few points behind in the polls,” Johnson told an audience that included his wife. Carrie, who was holding the couple’s young daughter Romy.

“But as we saw at Westminster, the herd instinct is very strong and when the herd moves, it moves,” Johnson added.

mr. Johnson said he expected the timetable for his departure and the selection of a successor to be decided on Monday by the 1922 Committee, a powerful body representing Conservative Party lawmakers. At the latest, the committee will want to nominate a new party leader who will become prime minister in time for the annual party conference in the fall, which the Conservatives hope to use as a chance for a reset.

Potential candidates include two former cabinet ministers whose resignations on Tuesday sparked a wave of resignations: Rishi Sunak, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sajid Javid, who was Health Minister. Others include Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary; Suella Braverman, Attorney General; and Nadhim Zahavi, who briefly replaced Mr. Sunak as Chancellor. There are also two outsiders: Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary who challenged Mr. Trump. Johnson for party leadership in 2019; and Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

mr. Johnson’s fall has changed the broader political landscape in the UK, where the opposition Labor Party has captured a small but steady lead in the polls over the Conservatives ahead of the next election due in January 2025 at the latest. As Labor politicians watch the turmoil in the party, the Tories are happy to see the departure of Mr. Johnson, a polarizing figure who has lost much of the vote-getting appeal he had in 2019.

Keir Starmer, Labor leader, said Boris Johnson’s resignation was “good news for the country” but added: “It should have happened a long time ago.”

mr. Johnson, who has been prime minister since July 2019, leaves a difficult legacy, marked by his aggressive defense of Ukraine, as well as domestic agendas that often seemed to be driven by political rather than political considerations. The Prime Minister’s strong support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made him a popular figure in Ukraine and solidified the UK’s role as a key member of the NATO alliance.

“I look forward to continuing our close collaboration with the Government of the United Kingdom,” President Biden said Thursday, adding: “This includes maintaining a firm and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Putin’s brutal war on their democracy.” . ”

At home, Johnson’s signature programme, the “levelling”, which was intended to improve the economic outlook for the north of Britain, was marked by a conspicuous lack of funding or a workable plan to carry it out.

His tough stance on migrants coming to British shores has pleased his conservative supporters but drawn condemnation from liberals and human rights groups, especially his recent plan to send refugees from the UK to Rwanda.

But it was another scandal that sealed Mr. Destiny Johnson. His latest troubles began last week after Conservative MP Chris Pincher got drunk at an exclusive London club where he is said to have groped two men. Despite earlier complaints about Mr. Pincher’s inappropriate behavior, Mr. Johnson appointed him in February to a senior party position.

mr. Johnson initially denied knowing about the previous complaints but later revealed he knew about them, and on Tuesday he apologized and admitted it was a mistake to name Mr Johnson. Pinscher in an elevated position.

For many Conservatives, this was too much of a scandal, especially since Downing Street had sent others, including a cabinet member, to repeat the erroneous statements on her behalf.

With his support, the party evaporates, Mr. Johnson claimed that the party’s 2019 victory gave him a popular mandate. But constitutional experts have dismissed this as a deliberate misreading of the British system.

“Britain has a parliamentary system, not a presidential system,” said Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government at King’s College London. Johnson’s authority came as leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. But when the followers — the Conservative MPs — stop following, the leader stops leading.”

Despite everything that was against him, Mr. Johnson did not leave quietly. When one of his closest associates, Michael Gove, told him Wednesday it was time to leave, he responded by firing Mr. Black. That evening, he resigned from his post in the cabinet.

However, the attacks continued. Simon Hart, Secretary of Wales, was next to resign. Attorney General, Mr. Braverman not only called on Mr. Johnson to step down, but also announced herself as a candidate to replace him.

By the end of Wednesday, so many ministers or senior aides had resigned that it threatened to paralyze decision-making in several government departments. Downing Street said Mr. Johnson sat at his desk Thursday morning deciding how to reshuffle the team.

But there were too many vacancies and too few loyalists to fill them.

Early Thursday morning, another Cabinet minister, Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, resigned, saying the situation “is now past the point of no return” and adding: “I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they are.” .

Six lower ministers followed suit, including Security Secretary Damian Hinds and Treasury Secretary Helen Whateley.

mr. Johnson seems to have finally realized that even those he had just promoted turned their backs on him. Less than 48 hours after he became chancellor, M. Zahavi demanded that G. Johnson step aside. Then a new Cabinet member, Michelle Donelan, who had been appointed to replace Mr. Zahavi in ​​her previous role as Minister of Education, resigned from her new position.

Shortly thereafter word came from Downing Street that Mr. Johnson acknowledged what had been evident for some time: that his stay in the building was coming to an end, and that he would address the nation later on Thursday.