CABINET CRISIS

Johnson quits as Tory leader, stays PM till Autumn

Boris Johnson after delivery Gray speech
Defeated: Boris will step down

Boris Johnson will resign as Conservative leader today but will continue as caretaker Prime Minister until the autumn.

A Conservative leadership race will take place this summer and a new Prime Minister will be in place in time for the Tory party conference in October.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister will make a statement to the country today.”

Mr Johnson’s acceptance of defeat came after his new Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi urged him to step down.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer this morning said: “It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister. But it should have happened long ago.

“He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale. And all those who have been complicit should be utterly ashamed.”

Sir Keir’s deputy Angela Rayner asked how a government now lacking a quarter of its ministers will run the country until the autumn.

She said: “The Prime Minister has said he will stay on as caretaker. How many more months of chaos does this country have to endure?

“With dozens of ministerial posts unfilled, who on earth will join the Prime Minister’s Government now? And how will a half-empty Cabinet run the country until October?”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Wales Secretary Simon Hart this morning took the number of Cabinet resignations to four and the number of ministerial and adviser resignations to 55.

Their decision was accompanied by Guy Opperman at Pensions, Treasury Minister Helen Whately, George Freeman at Science, and Security minister Damian Hinds.

Mr Lewis told the Prime Minister that government requires “honesty, integrity and mutual respect”, while Ms Whately said there “are only so many times you can apologise and move on”.

Their departures came after Boris Johnson last night sacked his Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove for backing the rebels demanding he leave office.

Mr Gove has remained loyal to Mr Johnson since he became Prime Minister, despite running against him in the 2016 and 2019 Tory leadership races.

David Mundell, the former Scottish Secretary, resigned from his role as trade envoy to New Zealand, just weeks after making his first visit to the country following his appointment.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart became the third Cabinet minister to resign, following the resignations of Rishi Sunak as Chancellor and Sajid Javid as Health Secretary on Tuesday evening. Junior Wales minister David Davies announced that he had refused a promotion to succeed Mr Hart.

David Mundell
David Mundell: quit New Zealand role (pic: Terry Murden)

The number of ministers who have resigned was the most in a single day. The previous record was 11 in 1932.

As news of Mr Gove’s sacking spread around Westminster, it emerged that 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady and senior figures including chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris had told Mr Johnson that the “game is up”.

Tory backbenchers including Scottish leader Douglas Ross, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie, together with Craig Tracey, Anna Firth, Aaron Bell and Nickie Aiken demanded that Mr Johnson resign.

He was warned that he would likely lose another confidence vote and should agree to a ‘more dignified exit’ by setting his own timetable. 

But Mr Johnson told them he was going nowhere, effectively daring them to call another confidence vote and saying he will focus on the “hugely important issues facing the country”. There are claims he has told friends ‘if you are going to die, go down fighting’.

Following Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Javid delivered a resignation statement to MPs in which he said he had spent many months giving Mr Johnson the “benefit of the doubt”, but there was a point when “enough is enough”. Rishi Sunak has no plans to make a statement.

Earlier, the 1922 committee stopped short of changing party rules so that the leader can face another vote of confidence immediately – but made clear it would be ready to do so quickly if necessary.   

Giving evidence to the powerful Liaison Committee before returning to Downing Street, the PM insisted that “of course” he will still be in office on Thursday.

“I cannot for the life of me see how it is responsible just to walk away… particularly not when you have a mandate of the kind we won two, three years ago,’ Mr Johnson said. 

Nadhim Zahawi: tax cuts likely

The new chancellor Nadhim Zahawi this morning tweeted a message to Mr Johnson saying: “Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now.'”

Mr Zahawi is expected to push for early tax cuts, a reversal of the corporation tax rise to 25% from next April, and a further cut in fuel duty as he tackles a number of severe challenges. Inflation is running at a 40-year high, the cost of borrowing is likely to rise further and the economy is poised to enter recession.

North Sea oil and gas industry leaders are seeking an early meeting with Mr Zahawi to clarify his position on the proposed windfall tax.

The FTSE 100 rose again this morning after closing in positive mood, up 82.3 points at 7,107.77, but the political uncertainty combined with the strength of the dollar pushed sterling 0.49% lower to $1.1889. Earlier it fell to $1.877, a new low since the early days of the pandemic. It ticked up slightly this morning to $1.1957.

Comment: Zahawi to seek quick fixes, but has eye on the big prize

Departures include:

Cabinet ministers

Rishi Sunak – Chancellor

Sajid Javid – Health Secretary

Simon Hart – Wales

Brandon Lewis – Northern Ireland

Ministers

Guy Opperman – Pensions

George Freeman – Science

Helen Whately – Treasury

Damian Hinds – Security

Rachel Maclean – Home Office

Stuart Andrew – Housing

Jo Churchill – Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 

Victoria Atkins – Prisons and Probation 

John Glen – Treasury and City

Robin Walker – School standards

Will Quince – Children and families

Alex Chalk – Solicitor general

Julia Lopez – Culture .

Lee Rowley – Business

Alex Burghart – Education

Neil O’Brien – Levelling up

Kemi Badenoch – Local government

Mims Davies – Employment

Ministerial aides

Felicity Buchan – parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Business Secretary

Laura Trott – PPS to the Transport Secretary

Jonathan Gullis – PPS to the Northern Ireland Secretary

Saqib Bhatti – PPS to the Health Secretary

Nicola Richards – PPS to the Department for Transport

Virginia Crosbie – PPS at the Welsh office

David Johnston – PPS to the Department for Education

Claire Coutinho – PPS to the Treasury

Selaine Saxby – PPS to the Treasury

Duncan Baker – PPS Levelling Up

Danny Kruger – PPS Levelling Up

James Daly – PPS Work and Pensions

Montgomeryshire Craig Williams and Mark Logan

Others

Bim Afolami – vice-chair of the Conservative Party

David Mundell – trade envoy to New Zealand

Theo Clarke – trade envoy to Kenya

Andrew Murrison – trade envoy to Morocco

… more follows



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