British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a fatal political blow on Tuesday when two of his top ministers resigned in an apparently coordinated rebellion against his scandal-tainted leadership.
The two ministers – Treasurer Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid – submitted their resignations after Mr Johnson apologized for the recent scandal that has rocked his government, involving allegations of sexual misconduct and excessive drinking by someone. Conservative Party legislator.
The surprise departure opened another rift in Mr Johnson’s government at a time when he is already waging a rebellion among lawmakers in his party, who are outraged after months of embarrassing reports of social gatherings in Downing Street that violated the government’s coronavirus lockdown rules.
Mr Johnson moved quickly to announce the replacement of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid, in a sign that he plans to try to stabilize the government and fight for his job. But by all accounts, the prime minister was in greater political danger than at any other time during his turbulent three-year tenure in Downing Street.
Analysts and some senior Conservative lawmakers said the impact of the resignations could shatter any support Mr Johnson had left in the party, and in the hours that followed Alex Chalke, the attorney general, and several small government incumbents resigned. Even analysts who refrained from writing the prime minister’s political obituary said he faces a forbidden path to avoid being ousted.
“I can’t see the way he’s going through this – it really does feel like the end of the road this time,” said Tim Bell, professor of political science at Queen Mary University of London. “Javed and Sonak working together punch a much bigger hole in the closet than it would have been if it had been one or the other.”
Mr Johnson, a freelance journalist turned politician, appears to have defied the laws of political attraction, escaping multiple investigations, a criminal fine by the police and a vote of no-confidence between lawmakers in his Conservative party just last month – all related to the Downing Street partying during Closures due to the Corona virus.
Because he survived the vote of confidence, he could not face another year’s vote unless the party’s rules were changed. This means that government resignations can be the only effective way to pressure him to resign. High-profile resignations have paralyzed some of Mr. Johnson’s predecessors, including Margaret Thatcher.
Part of Mr Johnson’s strength has been the consolidated support of his government, despite the unrelenting tide of negative headlines.
Hours after the resignations of Mr. Sunak and Mr. Javid, Mr Johnson appointed Nazim Zahawi, the education minister best known for his aggressive rollout of coronavirus vaccines, as Treasury Secretary, and Steve Barclay, Downing Street’s chief of staff. as Minister of Health.
But a quick cabinet reshuffle raises its own problems. Mr. Barclay was only recruited in February to clean up Downing Street after the bipartisan scandal. Johnson has yet to replace Oliver Dowden, the head of the Conservative Party who resigned after two devastating defeats in parliamentary elections last month.
These losses crystallized the fears of many Conservatives that Mr Johnson has lost his touch as a vote-winning hero, a reputation he cemented in a landslide party victory in 2019 that helped him weather all manner of scandals.
However, it was the recent outcry over Mr Johnson’s promotion to Conservative MP, Chris Pincher, who appeared to be leaning towards Mr Sunak and Mr Javid.
Last week, Mr Pincher resigned as the party’s vice-chairman after admitting he was drunk at a private members’ club in London where he was said to have groped two men. He was dismissed from party membership while the accusations were investigated, but he did not resign as a member of Parliament.
On Tuesday, Downing Street admitted that Mr Johnson had been told of the earlier charges against Mr Pincher in 2019 – something Johnson’s office initially denied. In what has become a customary ritual in British politics, the prime minister has made an apology to the BBC for promoting Mr Pincher.
“In hindsight, this is the wrong thing to do, and I apologize to everyone who has been so deeply affected,” Johnson said.
If the prime minister estimated that an act of remorse would be enough to keep restive ministers and legislators in line, he is wrong. Mr Sunak, who held the position of chancellor in a position traditionally seen as the second most powerful position in the government, submitted a highly critical resignation letter.
“The public rightly expects the government to be properly, efficiently and seriously run,” Mr. Sunak wrote. “I realize this might be my last ministerial job, but I think these standards are worth striving for, which is why I’m resigning.”
Mr Javid, who preceded Mr. Sunak as chancellor before being forced out and then appointed by Mr. Johnson as Minister of Health, wrote: “It is with great regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue to serve in this government. I am instinctively a team player, but The British people also expect integrity from their government.”
Both men are key figures in the party, and have potential leadership aspirations, although Mr Sunak’s star has been dimmed in recent months by questions about his wealthy wife’s tax status in Britain.
One reason the Cabinet’s support for Mr Johnson is so important is that it has prevented a key figure from emerging as his rival. Whether Mr. Sunak or Mr. Javid will attempt to take on this role is an open question – as is the question of whether other ambitious ministers will follow them out the door.
On Tuesday evening, it appeared that several high-profile ministers were staying in office, including Secretary of State Liz Truss. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace; and Michael Gove, a former rival to Mr Johnson who holds a key cabinet minister who oversees the economic policy of “upgrading” troubled regions.
Mr Johnson successfully avoided a vote of no-confidence largely because there were no clear successors to him, but he made his weakness starkly clear: More than 40 per cent of his party’s lawmakers voted to oust him. The collapsing treasury instantly puts several potential successors on stage. Party officials are already debating whether to change the rules to call for another confidence vote before next June.
The outrage over the circumstances of Mr. Pincher’s appointment – and Downing Street’s changing account of it – is just the latest in a string of scandals surrounding Mr Johnson. Earlier this year, he was fined by police for breaching lockdown rules in Downing Street, as members of his staff were found to have thrown several boisterous parties in violation of the pandemic ban.
Questions have also been raised about Mr Johnson’s costly renovation of his Downing Street apartment, which was initially funded by a Tory donor. The prime minister also vigorously defended Conservative lawmaker Owen Patterson for violating lobbying rules, only to later reverse course and apologize.
As the latest drama was revealed on Tuesday night, some Conservative lawmakers made it clear that they believed there should be no return for Mr Johnson.
“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 cabinet 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.”
Mark Harper, a former whip boss, also discussed in his Twitter post, the resignations of Mr. Sunak and Mr. Javid. He said, “Honorable decisions are made by honest people.” “The Conservative Party still has a lot to offer our country. It’s time for a fresh start.”
Julian Knight, another Conservative Member of Parliament, wrote in a Twitter post that with politicians like Mr. Javid and Mr. Sunak “he said enough is enough, then I fear he is going to die. It is time for the party to take a new direction.”
Megan SpeciaContribute to the preparation of reports.