Boris Johnson gives up on latest scandal, a messy end to a messy tenure

LONDON – Bowing to intense pressure from his own party, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday said he would step down, ending a stormy three-year term marked by a long election victory. landslide and a successful drive to pull Britain out of the European Union, but collapsed under the weight of relentless scandals.

Mr Johnson insisted even on Wednesday night that he would fight to stay in power. But just hours later, he had to give way, overwhelmed by a mutiny in his cabinet, a wave of government resignations and a severe loss of party support – all of which was spurred on by his handling of the latest scandal aimed at undermining his leadership role.

“It is clear now that it is the will of the Conservative Party in parliament that a new leader is needed,” Mr Johnson said during a brief midday appearance. outside 10 Downing Street. “The process of selecting that new leader should begin now.”

Limit decision 48 hours of vertigo in British politics started Tuesday night with the surprise resignations of two of the most senior ministers in the cabinet, followed by dozens of resignations by other ministers and officials both Wednesday and Thursday morning. Five.

Whoever takes over as prime minister will inherit a tough set of challenges, with double-digit inflation, mushroom-like labor unrest and the specter of a recession. The UK shares those problems with other advanced economies, but there is evidence that Brexit has placed an additional burden on its economy.

And even with Mr Johnson’s statement, his battle for status may not be over. He said he would stay in his post until a new party leader is found, a process that could take several months.

But some Conservatives argue that Mr Johnson should not be allowed to stay, even as a caretaker figure. John Major, the former prime minister, has written to one of the party’s top officials, Graham Brady, urging that Mr Johnson either hand his duties over to the deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, or the party arrange for a meeting. rapid election of new leaders of legislators, cutting the decisive role of party members with rank and profile.

Mr Johnson made it clear he had left against his will, saying he was trying to hold on because “I feel it’s my job, my duty, my duty” to continue the job he has been since 2019, when he led the Conservative Party. Next to a landslide election victory with a vow to “Get Brexit done.”

His announcement does not acknowledge his own role in his downfall, instead, as a reflection of the attitudes of his fellow legislators.

“I have been trying to convince my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much, when we have such a large mandate, and when we falling only a few points in the polls,” Mr. Johnson told an audience that included his wife, Carrie, who was holding the couple’s daughter, Romy.

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

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

Among the potential candidates are two former Cabinet ministers whose resignations on Tuesday touched on the flow of departures: Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sajid Javid, who is the medical secretary. economic. Others include Liz Truss, secretary of state; Suella Braverman, attorney general; and Nadhim Zahawi, who quickly replaced Mr. Sunak as prime minister. There are also two outsiders: Jeremy Hunt, the former foreign secretary who challenged Mr Johnson for party leadership in 2019; and Tom Tugendhat, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr Johnson’s downfall has rattled the broader political landscape in Britain, where the opposition Labor Party has won a small but persistent lead in the Conservative Party polls ahead of the next election. followed, taking place no later than January 2025. While Labor politicians view the turmoil within the Tory party with gusto, they can feel the air around Mr. Johnson’s departure , a polarizing figure who lost much of the voting appeal he had in 2019.

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

Mr Johnson, prime minister since July 2019, leaves behind a complicated legacy, marked by his active defense of Ukraine but also by domestic programs often heavily motivated by politics. as well as policy considerations. The Prime Minister’s ardent support of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, has made him a popular figure in Ukraine, while reinforcing Britain’s role as a key member of the NATO alliance.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the UK government,” President Biden said on Thursday, adding, “That includes maintaining a strong and united approach to support support the Ukrainian people as they defend themselves against Putin’s brutal war for democracy.”

At home, Mr Johnson’s signature scheme, “leveling”, aimed at enhancing the economic prospects of the north of England, was marked by a notable absence of funding or a scheme. feasible to do it.

His tough stance against migrants reaching Britain’s shores pleased his conservative loyalists but drew condemnation from libertarians and human rights groups – especially his recent plans to send refugees from Britain to Rwanda.

But it was yet another scandal that sealed Mr Johnson’s fate. His latest troubles flared up last week after a Conservative lawmaker, Chris Pincher, got drunk at an exclusive club in London where it was alleged he groped two people man. Despite earlier complaints about Mr Pincher’s inappropriate behavior, Mr Johnson appointed him in February to a senior party post.

Mr Johnson initially denied being aware of the previous complaints, but it later emerged that he was aware of them, and on Tuesday he apologized and admitted that it was wrong to appoint Mr. Pincher to a high position.

For many Conservatives, it’s been a scandal too far – especially since Downing Street has sent others, including a cabinet minister, to repeat false statements on its behalf. .

With his support in the party gone, Mr Johnson claimed that the party’s victory in 2019 gave him a popular mandate. But constitutional experts dismissed it as a deliberate misinterpretation of the British system.

Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of government at King’s College London, said: “England has a parliament, not a presidential system. “Johnson’s power comes as leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. But when the followers – the Conservative MPs – don’t follow, the leader is no longer leading.”

Despite everything against him, Mr Johnson did not leave quietly. When one of his closest allies, Michael Gove, told him Wednesday it was time to go, he responded by firing Mr Gove from his cabinet post later that evening.

However, the blows kept coming. Simon Hart, secretary of Wales, was next to resign. The Justice Secretary, Ms. Braverman, not only called for Mr Johnson’s departure, but also declared herself a candidate to succeed him.

By the end of Wednesday, numerous ministers or senior aides had resigned, and that threatened to cripple decision-making in some government agencies. Downing Street said Mr Johnson was at his desk on Thursday morning, looking to revamp his top team.

But there are too many vacant jobs and too few loyalists to fill them.

Earlier on Thursday, another cabinet minister, Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, resigned, saying things had “passed the point of no return” and adding, “I cannot sacrifice legitimacy. on duty to keep things as they are.”

Six lower-ranking ministers also followed, including the security minister, Damian Hinds, and the finance minister, Helen Whately.

Mr Johnson seems to have finally gotten the message across as even those he has recently promoted have opened up about him. Less than 48 hours after becoming prime minister, Mr Zahawi asked Mr Johnson to step aside. Subsequently, the newest member of the cabinet, Michelle Donelan, who had been appointed to replace Mr. Zahawi in his previous role of education secretary, resigned from her new position.

Shortly after, word came out from Downing Street that Mr Johnson had acknowledged what had been obvious for some time – that his time at the building was coming to an end and that he would speak to the nation on Thursday.

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