Two of Britain’s top cabinet ministers have resigned, in a move that could spell the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership after months of scandals.
Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other. “I can no longer go on in good conscience,” Javid said.
Johnson has been subject to allegations that he failed to disclose a lawmaker who had been appointed to a senior position despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
“The public rightly expects the government to be run properly, efficiently and seriously,” Sunak said.
“I realize this may be my last ministerial job, but I think these standards are worth striving for and that’s why I’m resigning.”
The resignations came after a former senior British civil servant said on Tuesday that Johnson’s office was not telling the truth about allegations of sexual misconduct against a senior member of the prime minister’s cabinet.
Johnson has faced pressure to explain what he knows about past allegations of misconduct against Representative Chris Pincher Resigned as vice president of whip Thursday, amid complaints that he groped two men in a private club.
The government’s interpretation has changed repeatedly over the past five days. Ministers initially said Johnson was unaware of any allegations when he promoted Pincher to the position in February.
On Monday, a spokesman for Johnson said Johnson was aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct that had either “resolved or not lodged a formal complaint”.
That reckoning did not sit well with Simon MacDonald, the UK’s top civil servant from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, he said on Tuesday that the Prime Minister’s Office was still not telling the truth.
MacDonald said in a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became Secretary of State. MacDonald said the investigation supported the complaint, and Pincher apologized for his actions.
MacDonald doubted that Johnson was unaware of the allegations or that the complaints were dismissed because they were either resolved or not formally filed.
“Original line 10 is not correct, and the amendment is still inaccurate,” MacDonald wrote, referring to the Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street. “Mr. Johnson has been personally informed of the initiation and results of the investigation.
There was a ‘formal complaint’. ‘The allegations have been resolved only in the sense that the investigation has been completed; Mr. Pincher has not been acquitted. Hence to describe the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is wrong.’
Hours after McDonald’s comments came out, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the prime minister had forgotten he had been told Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.
The office confirmed that Johnson was made aware of the complaint by State Department officials in 2019, “several months” after it occurred. His office said it took some time to hold the briefing.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Ellis told lawmakers in the House of Commons that when Johnson was informed of the matter in late 2019, he was told that the permanent secretary had taken the necessary measures, and so there was no doubt about Pincher remaining as minister.
“Last week, when new allegations surfaced, the Prime Minister did not immediately recall the conversation in late 2019 about this incident,” Ellis said. “As soon as he was reminded, Press Office 10 corrected their broad lines.”
The latest revelations are fueling discontent within Johnson’s government after ministers were forced to publicly offer the prime minister’s denials, only to change the interpretation the next day.
On Tuesday, The Times of London published an analysis of the situation under the headline “Allegation of lying puts Boris Johnson at risk”.
A month ago, Johnson survived a no-confidence vote in which more than 40% of Conservative Party MPs voted to remove him from office. Prime Minister variable responses Months of allegations about party collapses in government offices that eventually resulted in 126 fines, including one imposed against Johnson, have raised concerns about his leadership.
Two weeks later, Conservative candidates were badly beaten in two special elections to fill vacant seats in Parliament, Add to indignation Inside Johnson’s party.
When Pincher resigned last week as Vice President Whip, a key position in enforcing party discipline, he told the prime minister he had “drank too much” the night before and “embarrassed myself and others”.
Johnson initially refused to suspend Pincher from the Conservative Party, but acquiesced after filing a formal complaint about the harassment allegations to parliamentary authorities.
Critics suggested that Johnson was slow to respond because he did not want to be in a position to force Pincher to resign his seat in Parliament and appoint the Conservative Party for another special electoral defeat.
Even before the Pincher scandal, there were suggestions that Johnson might soon face another vote of no confidence.
In the next few weeks, Conservative lawmakers will elect new members to the committee that sets the party’s parliamentary rules. Several candidates indicated that they would support changing the rules to allow for another vote of no-confidence. Current rules require 12 months between these votes.
Conservative top legislator Roger Gill, a longtime critic of Johnson, said he would support changing the 1922 Conservative Committee rules.
“Mr. Three days ago, Johnson has been sending ministers – in one case a cabinet minister – to defend the indefensible, effectively lying on its behalf. This prime minister has tarnished the reputation of a proud and honorable party for honesty and decency,” Gill told the BBC. This is unacceptable