In huge coup, 2 key ministers resigned from Boris Johnson’s government


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson clings to power after two of his most senior cabinet ministers resigned on Tuesday, saying they had lost confidence in Johnson’s leadership amid shifting explanations over his handling of a scandal. of sexual misconduct.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other, costing Johnson the support of the men responsible for tackling two of the biggest problems facing Britain: the crisis. of the cost of living and the increase in COVID-19 infections.

Both men cited Johnson’s credibility after a day in which the prime minister was forced to backtrack on earlier remarks about a sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked his government for the past six days.

The debacle is just the latest to hit Johnson, who last month narrowly survived a no-confidence vote sparked by similarly shifting stories about lockdown-breaking parties in government offices.

In his resignation letter, Javid said the vote of confidence showed that a large number of Conservative Party lawmakers had lost confidence in Johnson.

“It was a moment of humility, grip and a new direction,” said Javid. “However, I am sorry to say that it is clear that this situation will not change under his leadership and therefore he has also lost my confidence.”

A few minutes later, Sunak echoed those sentiments.

“The public rightly expects the government to conduct itself properly, competently and seriously,” Sunak said in his resignation letter. “I realize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Both Sunak and Javid are seen as possible contenders to replace Johnson if he is forced to retire.

While the resignations have increased pressure on the prime minister, Johnson has in the past shown himself to be a savvy politician, fighting back against criticism to prolong his career.

Loyalist Steve Barclay quickly landed Javid’s old job, and speculation abounded as to who would get the job of head of the Treasury.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was quick to endorse Johnson. British media reported that other cabinet members, including Culture Secretary Nadine Dories, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel, were also siding with her.

But Scott Lucas, a professor emeritus at the University of Birmingham and a longtime political observer, said it would be difficult for Johnson to ultimately survive the departure of two such senior members of his cabinet.

“He’s not going to go without a fight,” Lucas said. “I just don’t know how many people are left to fight alongside him.”

The latest scandal began on Thursday, when Chris Pincher resigned as deputy chief of whipping amid allegations that he groped two men at a private club. That set off a series of reports about past allegations leveled against Pincher and questions about why Johnson promoted him to a high-level position to enforce party discipline.

Pincher denies the accusations.

Johnson’s office initially said it was unaware of the earlier allegations when he promoted Pincher in February. By Monday, a spokesman said Johnson was aware of the allegations that “were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.”

That account did not sit well with Simon McDonald, the most senior civil servant at the UK Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, McDonald went public with claims that the prime minister’s office was not telling the truth.

McDonald said in a letter to the parliamentary standards commissioner that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became a minister in the Foreign Office. An investigation confirmed the allegation, and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.

“Mr. Johnson was briefed in person on the initiation and outcome of the investigation,” McDonald wrote.

Hours after the McDonald’s comments were published, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the prime minister had forgotten that Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.

Then, minutes before Javid and Sunak announced their resignations, Johnson told reporters that Pincher should have been fired from the government after an earlier incident from 2019.

Asked if it was a mistake to appoint Pincher to the government, Johnson said: “I think it was a mistake, and I apologize for it. In retrospect, it was the wrong thing to do.”

Johnson’s changing explanation fueled discontent within the cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly deliver the prime minister’s denials, only for the explanation to change the next day.

Johnson’s authority had already been shaken by last month’s confidence vote. Although he survived, 41% of Conservatives voted to remove him from office. But until Tuesday, his cabinet had remained largely loyal.

Concerns about Johnson’s leadership were fueled by his responses to months of accusations about lockdown parties at government offices that ultimately resulted in 126 fines, including one imposed on Johnson.

Two weeks later, the Conservative candidates were soundly defeated in two special elections to fill the vacant seats in Parliament, increasing discontent within Johnson’s party and suggesting that the ongoing accusations were finding a foothold with the public.

When Pincher resigned last week as deputy whip chief, he told Johnson he “drank too much” the night before and had “embarrassed me and other people.”

Johnson initially refused to suspend Pincher from the Conservative Party, but relented after a formal complaint about the groping allegations was lodged with parliamentary authorities.

Critics suggested that Johnson was slow to react because he did not want Pincher to be forced to give up his seat in Parliament, setting the Conservatives up for another possible defeat in the special election.

Even before the Pincher scandal, suggestions arose that Johnson could soon face another no-confidence vote.

Existing rules require 12 months between such votes, but several Conservative lawmakers have suggested they support changing the rules in an upcoming vote on the issue.

Top Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale, a longtime critic of Johnson, said he would support a rule change.

“Mr Johnson has been sending ministers for three days, in one case a cabinet minister, to defend the indefensible, effectively to lie on his behalf. That cannot be allowed to continue,” Gale told the BBC. “This PM has shattered the reputation of a proud and honorable party by his honesty and decency, and that is not acceptable.

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