LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was struggling to stay in power on Wednesday after his government was shaken by the resignations of two top ministers who said they could no longer serve under his scandal-ridden leadership.
His first challenge is getting through Wednesday, as he faces tough questions in Parliament’s weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, and a long-scheduled questioning by a panel of top lawmakers.
Months of discontent with Johnson’s rule and morals erupted within the ruling Conservative Party with the resignations of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid within minutes of each other on Tuesday night. “The public rightly expects the government to be run properly, efficiently and seriously,” Sunak said in a scathing resignation letter. “…I think these standards are worth fighting for and that’s why I’m resigning.”
Javid said the party needed “humility, a grip and a new direction” but “it is clear that this situation will not change under your leadership.”
Johnson quickly replaced the two ministers, promoting Nadim al-Zahawi from Education to Treasury and appointing his chief of staff, Steve Barclay, as health minister.
But a string of resignations late Tuesday from more junior ministers – from the Liberal and right-wing branches of the Conservative Party – showed that the danger to Johnson was far from over.
In the past few months, Johnson has been fined by police and criticized by an investigative report on parties that have violated the government’s shutdown during the pandemic; He survived a no-confidence vote by his own party in which 41% of Conservative MPs voted to oust him; He witnessed loyal aides urging him to resign.
Through it all, he has vowed to continue ruling – even indicating his desire to stay in office until 2030.
The straw that broke the back
The final straw for Sunak and Juweed was the prime minister’s shifting interpretations of his handling of the sexual misconduct scandal.
The latest scandal began last week when lawmaker Chris Pincher resigned as Tory vice-chairman amid complaints that he groped two men at a private club. This sparked a series of reports about previous allegations against Pincher and questions about why Johnson had been promoted to a senior position enforcing party discipline.