Johnson sacks Gove in bid to cling on to power

Michael Gove
Sacked: Michael Gove

Boris Johnson has sacked his Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove for backing the rebels demanding he leave office.

The embattled Prime Minister’s shock move indicated the extent to which he is determined to cling on to his job.

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.

This evening he joined a group of ministers and former ministers urging Mr Johnson to leave Downing Street as the list of resignations edged over 40.

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.

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

The 15 ministers who have resigned is 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 have 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 is 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 is 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 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.

The FTSE 100 closed in positive mood, up 82.3 points at 7,107.77, but the political uncertainty combined with the strength of the dollar has pushed sterling 0.4934% lower to $1.1889. Earlier it fell to $1.877, new low since the early days of the pandemic.

However, talk of a summer emergency budget is running alongside speculation of an early general election.

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


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


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

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