LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was struggling for his political survival on Tuesday when two senior ministers unexpectedly resigned.
Rishi Sunak, the Treasury secretary, and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, have resigned over a series of scandals that have raised questions about Mr Johnson’s judgment and veracity.
The resignations have pushed Mr Johnson into the most dangerous position of his three-year tenure as prime minister, following a series of crises that forced him to survive a vote of no-confidence last month.
Last month, Mr Johnson narrowly escaped a confidence vote among his deputies, and unless the party’s rules were changed, he would not be able to face another contest for a year. This means that resignations from the government could be the only effective way to pressure Mr Johnson to resign.
“The public rightly expects the government to be properly, efficiently and seriously run,” Mr. Sunak said in a statement. “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.”
On Tuesday, Downing Street admitted that Mr Johnson had been told about earlier allegations against Mr Pincher in 2019 – something Johnson’s office initially denied.
But protesting the circumstances of Mr. Pincher’s appointment to the position of Vice President is the whip – and Downing Street’s account of it – It is only the latest in a string of scandals surrounding Mr. Johnson. Earlier this year, he was fined by the police for breaching his lockdown rules Downing Street where employees have been found to have held a number of alcohol-fuelled parties in violation of the rules.
In his resignation statement, Mr. Javid said he “can no longer, in good conscience, continue to serve in this government”. He added that the public expects “the government to proceed correctly, efficiently and seriously.”
The reaction of fellow Tory MPs in the moments after their resignations was a serious threat to Mr Johnson’s leadership.
“I voted against Boris Johnson in the last confidence vote and earlier today reiterated my concerns,” Lawrence Robertson, a veteran Conservative MP, wrote in a Twitter post. The resignations of government ministers show that others agree that issues over the past months have become a distraction from the challenges facing the country. The prime minister must resign now.”
The resignations of two such senior ministers are unprecedented in recent years and have echoes of the drama that led to Margaret Thatcher’s ouster as prime minister in 1990.
This is an evolving story.