Boris Johnson’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Health Secretary have both quit, along with several junior ministers, in what is being seen as signs that his government is collapsing.
The resignations follow revelations by the former Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord McDonald, that Boris Johnson’s claim that he was never informed of an investigation into improper behaviour by Chris Pincher was false.
The major Cabinet resignations are Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, but MPs who are Parliamentary aides to Cabinet ministers have also gone: Jonathan Gullis, Saqib Bhatti, Nicola Richards, and Virginia Crosbie. Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami is also out.
Andrew Murrison resigned as Johnson’s trade emissary to Morocco, as did Theodora Clarke, trade emissary to Kenya.
In his resignation letter, Javid stated: “I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government.
“We may not always have been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are neither. The vote of confidence last month showed that a large number of our colleagues agree. It was a moment for humility, grip and new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – and you have therefore lost my confidence too.”
Sunak’s letter stated: “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.
“It has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different. I am sad to be leaving Government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”
Former Brexit Minister Lord David Frost said Javid and Sunak had done the right thing. In a statement on Twitter, he said: “The developments of the last week show there is no chance of the prime minister either putting in place the necessary change of approach to running a government or of establishing a new policy direction.”
According to Nick Watt, political editor of the BBC’s Newsnight, one of Johnson’s closest allies has told him the resignations mean Boris Johnson’s premiership will be over by the evening of Wednesday, July 6: “No PM can survive the resignation of two senior cabinet ministers like that.”
In his letter, Murrison said, “the last straw in the rolling chaos of the past six months has been the unavoidable implications of Lord McDonald’s letter”.
Afolami quit on TalkTV’s The News Desk show;
— The News Desk (@TheNewsDesk) July 5, 2022
Saqib Bhatti said: “The Conservative party has always been the party of integrity and honour but recent events have undermined trust and standards in public life.”
Jonathan Gullis said for too long “we have been focused on dealing with our reputational damage rather than delivering for the people”.
Nicola Richards described the Conservative Party under Johnson as “currently unrecognisable”.
And Virginia Crosbie said in her resignation letter that if Boris Johnson continues as PM he risks “irrevocably harming this government, and the Conservative party”.
Theodora Clarke went a little further in hers: “To learn that you chose to elevate a colleague to a position of pastoral care for MPs, whilst in full knowledge of his own wrongdoing, shows a severe lack of judgement and care for your Parliamentary party.
“I was shocked to see colleagues defending the Government with assurances that have turned out to be false. This is not the way that any responsible Government should act.”
Johnson has already moved to replace his resigning Cabinet ministers – with nonentities. Nadhim Zahawi, who will forever be remembered as the MP who used public money to heat his stables, becomes Chancellor.
Steve Barclay becomes Health Secretary. When he was appointed Brexit Secretary in 2018, he was given no power to conduct negotiations, prompting journalist Owen Jones to tweet: “They’re just putting random people off the street into ministerial positions now and hoping we don’t notice.” It seems they are still doing that.
But the damage is done and it seems all but the most staunch Johnson toadies are agitating for him to be removed.
Andrew Bridgen told the BBC the PM “should do what he should have done some time ago, and resign”.
“If he doesn’t do that, the party will have to force him out.”
It seems the Tories are on the march. To add snap to their step, YouGov has conducted a lightning poll showing more than two-thirds of UK voters – and a majority of Tories – want Boris Johnson to quit as prime minister:
SNAP POLL: Most Tory voters – and two thirds of Britons – say Boris Johnson should resign as PM
All Britons: Resign 69% / Remain 18%
2019 Con voters: Resign 54% / Remain 33%
— YouGov (@YouGov) July 5, 2022
One thing is certain: Johnson is unlikely to go willingly.
If he is to leave 10 Downing Street, he’ll have to be forced out. But how soon can it happen?
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