LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) – Boris Johnson said on Thursday he was resigning as Britain’s prime minister, bowing to calls from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers in his Conservative Party.
“The process of choosing that new leader should begin now,” Johnson said at the door of Number 10 Downing Street.
“And today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place.”
Johnson continues that in politics, no one is “remotely indispensable”.
He says “our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader”.
Johnson will give the new leader as much support as he can, he says.
Below is the opening text of a speech he made outside his official Downing Street residence announcing his resignation:
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister, and I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week. And I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until the new leader is in place.”
“And the reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.
“So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019, many of them voting Conservative for the first time: ‘Thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.’
“And of course, I’m immensely proud of the achievements of this government: from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century. Reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown, and in the last few months, leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”
Here’s a summary of the key points from Boris Johnson’s resignation speech:
- Johnson said it was “clearly now the will of the parliamentary party” for there to be a new PM
- The timetable for choosing a new PM will be announced next week
- He said he waited so long to make the decision as he had been keen to deliver on the voters’ mandate in person, saying he felt it was his duty and obligation to do what he had promised
- He said he was immensely proud of his achievements, including getting Brexit done, getting the UK through the pandemic and leading the West in standing up to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
- He said the UK must “keep levelling up”, adding doing so would make the country the most prosperous in Europe
- Johnson said he tried to persuade colleagues it would be “eccentric” to change government when we have such a mandate, but regrets he was not successful in those arguments
- He said “at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful, when the herd moves, it moves”
- He said he wanted to let the public know “how sad I was to give up the best job in the world” but “thems the breaks”
- He thanked his wife Carrie, his children, the NHS , armed forces and Downing Street staff
Earlier, Boris Johnson should be replaced immediately rather than be allowed to remain as a caretaker leader until his successor is found, several Conservative members of parliament said on Thursday.
Johnson will announce his resignation as prime minister on Thursday, a government source said, after he was abandoned by ministers and his Conservative Party’s lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern.
Five Conservative member of parliament demanded he resign on Thursday and said another minister should take over during a process that could take weeks because he has lost the authority after more than 50 people quit government.
Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, would be a suitable replacement, two senior Conservative lawmakers said.
“We need to be rid of Boris as soon as possible. He’s too toxic. Raab as interim prime minister would be acceptable,” one Conservative lawmaker said.
Johnson’s decision to quit marks the end of a political career in which he led Britain out of the European Union and took his Conservative Party to the largest election victory in three decades.
It was not clear whether Johnson would or could stay on in a caretaker role while his successor was chosen.
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said the Conservative Party needed a new leader as soon as feasible, and insisted the government must continue to operate.
“We now need a new leader as soon as practicable. Someone who can rebuild trust, heal the country, and set out a new, sensible and consistent economic approach to help families,” he said on Twitter.
“The wheels of government must continue in the meantime.”
George Freeman, who resigned as science minister on Thursday, was more forthright.
“Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker prime minister to take over today so that ministers can get back to work and we can choose a new Conservative leader to try and repair the damage and rebuild trust,” he said.
Starmer says Johnson must go now, warning of no confidence vote
The opposition Labour Party will call a parliamentary no confidence vote in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government if his Conservative Party don’t get rid of him immediately, Labour Party chief Keir Starmer said in a statement on Thursday.
“His own party have finally concluded that he’s unfit to be prime minister,” Starmer said. “If they don’t get rid of him, then Labour will step up in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence because we can’t go on with this prime minister clinging on for months and months to come.”
A full British cabinet team has been appointed, BBC Political Editor Chris Mason said on Twitter, ahead of the expected resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
British lawmaker Greg Clarke has been appointed as the country’s new levelling up secretary, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street office said on Thursday.
Another lawmaker, James Cleverly, previously junior minister for Europe and North America, was appointed as education minister, Downing Street said.
Boris Johnson will announce his resignation as British prime minister on Thursday after he was abandoned by ministers and his Conservative Party’s lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern.
After ministers, including two secretaries of state, continued to quit the government early on Thursday, an isolated and powerless Johnson was set to bow to the inevitable and declare he was stepping down later, a source said.
His Downing Street office said Johnson would make a statement to the country later.
After days of battling for his job, Johnson had been deserted by all but a handful of allies after the latest in a series of scandals broke their willingness to support him.
“His resignation was inevitable,” Justin Tomlinson, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, said on Twitter. “As a party we must quickly unite and focus on what matters. These are serious times on many fronts.”
The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take weeks or months. It was not clear whether Johnson would or could stay on in a caretaker role while the person who would be the new prime minister was chosen.
Many said he should leave immediately and hand over to his deputy, Dominic Raab.
“As well as resigning as party leader the PM must resign his office,” Conservative parliamentary deputy Nick Gibb said. “After losing so many ministers, he has lost the trust and authority required to continue.”
The crisis comes as Britons are facing some of the tightest squeeze on finances in decades, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with soaring inflation, and the economy forecast to be the weakest among major nations in 2023 apart from Russia.
It also follows years of internal division sparked by the narrow 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and threats to the make-up of the United Kingdom itself with demands for another Scottish independence referendum, the second in a decade.
Support for Johnson had evaporated during one of the most turbulent 24 hours in recent British political history, epitomised by finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed to his post on Tuesday, calling on his boss to resign.
Zahawi and other cabinet ministers had gone to Downing Street on Wednesday evening, along with a senior representative of those lawmakers not in government, to tell Johnson the game was up.
Initially, Johnson refused to go and seemed set to dig in, sacking Michael Gove – a member of his top ministerial team who was one of the first to tell him he needed to resign – in a bid to reassert his authority.
One ally had told the Sun newspaper that party rebels would “have to dip their hands in blood” to get rid of Johnson.
But by Thursday morning as a slew of resignations poured in, it became clear his position was untenable.
“This is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country,” Zahawi said on Twitter. “You must do the right thing and go now.”
Some of those that remained in post, including defence minister Ben Wallace, said they were only doing so because they had an obligation to keep the country safe.
There had been so many ministerial resignations that the government was facing paralysis with no one willing to accept the vacant posts.
“It is our duty now to make sure the people of this country have a functioning government. This is true now more than ever,” Michael Ellis, a minister in the Cabinet Office department which oversees the running of government, told parliament.
FROM POPULAR TO DESERTED
The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Brexit and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 referendum.
Since then, some Conservatives had enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.
That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration’s combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.
The recent crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher, who held a government role involved in pastoral care, was forced to quit over accusations he groped men in a private member’s club.
Johnson had to apologise after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister said he had forgotten.
This followed months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into boozy parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police over a gathering for his 56th birthday.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Johnson’s resignation was good news for Britain.
“But it should have happened long ago,” he said. “He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale.”
IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:
UK continues to have functioning government, minister tells parliament
LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) – Britain continues to have a functioning government, Paymaster General Michael Ellis said on Thursday in a statement to parliament ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s expected resignation.
“We must continue to serve our country … It is our duty now to make sure the people of this country have a functioning government. This is true now more than ever.” Ellis, a minister in the Cabinet Office department which oversees the running of government, said.
Ellis said he would not pre-empt the content of Johnson’s statement.
Truss returning to London
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is cutting short her trip to a G20 meeting in Indonesia and returning to London.
She will issue a statement “shortly”, I am told.
Raab should become caretaker PM, 1922 Committee vice-chair says
The deputy chair of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs has joined colleagues calling for Boris Johnson to be replaced as prime minister immediately.
Johnson is set to quit as party leader today but hopes to stay as PM until autumn to allow a leadership contest to be held and a successor appointed.
But Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, said Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should take over from Boris Johnson immediately on an interim basis.
She told BBC’s Woman’s Hour he could do so this afternoon.