Calls for Johnson to go now amid caretaker plan

Boris Johnson announcing his resignation outside Number Ten

Boris Johnson intends to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister until October despite resigning as Conservative party leader and calls for him to leave Downing Street immediately.

Mr Johnson appeared outside Number Ten to confirm his decision to resign as Conservative party leader and said he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world”.

He said he had tried and failed to explain to his colleagues how it would be wrong to change course and pointed to the “herd” instinct in the party that led to his downfall.

He said he resisted stepping down because he felt it was his duty to continue with the work he had been elected to do. But he acknowledged that “no one is remotely indispensable”. He said he will give the new leader as much support as he can.

Watched by his wife Carrie, baby Romy and close aides, Mr Johnson highlighted his government’s achievements, such as the vaccine rollout, the escape from lockdown and pulling off Britain’s exit from the EU.

He confirmed that the timetable to find his successor will be announced next week.

Before his Downing Street statement, Mr Johnson began filling gaps in his ministerial team, with one of those who resigned yesterday accepting a role back in government. Will Quince has returned as an education minister under new Education Secretary James Cleverly, the third to hold the post in two days.

He replaces Michelle Donelan, who succeeded Nadhim Zahawi after he was promoted to replace Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has been appointed as Welsh Secretary, replacing Simon Hart. No Conservatives from Welsh seats were prepared to accept the role.

Greg Clark replaces Michael Gove as Levelling Up Secretary, while Kit Malthouse becomes Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, the most senior minister in the Cabinet Office after the prime minister.

Pressure was mounting from opposition parties and from Tory backbenchers for a fresh start. Former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings said deputy prime minister Dominic Raab should be installed as interim PM tonight.

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.

Sir Keir Starmer iin Edinburgh
Sir Keir Starmer: Tory MPs should be utterly ashamed (pic: Terry Murden)

“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?”

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A substantial number of potential candidates will throw their hat into the ring to become Conservative leader.

The process will take place this summer and a new Prime Minister will be in place in time for the Tory party conference in October.

Mr Zahawi, who urged Mr Johnson to step down, is expected to be among the contenders for Number Ten.

Bookmakers make Rishi Sunak – who quit as Chancellor only two days ago – and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab joint favourites at 4/1. Penny Mordaunt and Ben Wallace who are both at 5/1.

Others include Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at 7/1. Mr Zahawi is 8/1 and Jeremy Hunt at 10/1. 

A YouGov survey of Tory members puts Mr Wallace at the head of the field, followed by Ms Mordaunt.

Markets react calmly

Investors took the Prime Minister’s resignation in their stride, perhaps with some sense of inevitability and hope that there will be some immediate action from the new Chancellor to tackle rising business costs.

The FTSE 100 closed 81.31 points higher at 7,189.08. Sterling was up 0.58% at $1.1989.

However, business groups called for the power vaccuum to be filled to ensure stability and avoid the economy running off track.

Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, said: “The Prime Minister backed UK business throughout COVID and has been steadfast in his support for Ukraine. He will leave office with our best wishes. 

“But we now need the political vacuum to be filled at speed to protect people’s living standards, through action on business confidence, investment and growth.

“Getting the economy growing again has got to be the number one focus for all politicians, and I look forward to working with the government on a plan for a better, brighter economic future for people right across the United Kingdom.”

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