London – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his political survival on Wednesday after a number of high-profile resignations shook the foundations of his government and raised doubts about whether he will be able to hold on as leader of his party and the country. .
The resignations came in response to the latest in a long line of scandals that toppled Johnson, which included Chris Pincher, a former cabinet minister. Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of harassing two men, has been appointed vice-chair of the whip by Johnson, who initially claimed he was unaware of any previous, specific allegations of misconduct against Pincher. Johnson’s office has changed the official version of what the prime minister has learned twice over the past week, with new information emerging.
On Tuesday, two of Johnson’s most important cabinet ministers, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid, resigned, posting scathing messages online.
“The public rightly expects the government to be properly, competently and earnestly run… I think these standards are worth fighting for, which is why I’m resigning,” Sunak wrote. “In preparation for our proposed joint address on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally different.”
“The tone you set as a leader and the values you represent are reflected in your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country,” former Health Minister Sajid Javid said. “I have served you faithfully as a friend, but we all serve the country first. When a choice is made between those loyalties, there can only be one answer.”
Johnson quickly replaced ministers, but a series of other resignations – totaling at least 29, according to Britain’s Sky News – showed that the threat to his government was far from over.
Crisis after crisis
The past few months, Johnson narrowlyby his party was For breaching COVID-19 restrictions during the pandemic lockdown in Britain, when he attended parties at his official residence.
But to those who have recently resigned, the Pincher scandal and the questions it has raised about Johnson’s credibility as a leader seemed like the last straw.
Media reports contradicted the initial story relayed by Johnson’s office, which stated that he did not know anything about specific allegations against Pincher. Then the prime minister changed his line and said he was aware of some of the allegations, but they do not rise to the level of official complaints.
This was followed by a former senior government employee who publicly claimed that Johnson had been briefed “in person” about an earlier formal complaint against Pincher, leading to accusations that Johnson had lied. Johnson responded by saying that he failed to recall that specific briefing, and that he regretted not acting on the information.
On Wednesday, during a weekly meeting of Parliament, Johnson was repeatedly criticized, with several opposition party ministers urging him to step down. He responded by saying that he believed the government should not leave when times were tough.
“Tucking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months, and Mr. Speaker, I will never risk losing my integrity,” former Health Minister Javid said in his resignation statement delivered at the meeting. Javid said he gave the prime minister the benefit of the doubt one last time.
“The problem starts at the top and I think that will not change,” Javid said.
As the meeting concluded, lawmakers could be heard chanting: “Goodbye, Boris!”