Boris Johnson has formally announced his resignation as Conservative party leader and Prime Minister, telling a crowd of supporters and press outside Downing Street that he was “sad … to be giving up the best job in the world”.
Johnson was defiant until the end and blamed today’s resignation on Wesminster’s “herd” mentality, instead of any of his own failings in the past year, but that “them’s the breaks”.
Johnson is planning on continuing on in Number 10 until a new Tory leader is chosen by the party, however a growing number of Conservative MPs are calling for him to leave Number 10 immediately after yesterday’s day of chaos.
The Prime Minister refused to resign yesterday even as the government collapsed around him and dozens of ministers quit in anger of his handling of the Chris Pincher sexual misconduct scandal – the latest in a long list of scandals engulfing Number 10.
Johnson last night was preparing to fight on and force the party to kick him out through a no-confidence vote, however public statements this morning from chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and defence secretary Ben Wallace finally forced his hand.
Standing outside Number 10, Johnson said “in politics, no one is remotely indispensable … Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking our country forward through tough times”.
“To that new leader, whoever he or she may be, I will give you as much support as you can,” he said.
“In the last few days I have tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we are actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.
“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it is painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself. As we’ve seen in Westminster the herd instinct is powerful when the herd moves, it moves.”
A Number 10 source said the speech was “typically Boris until the end”.
It comes after a total collapse of his government over the past 36 hours, which saw more than 50 members of government resign and the most senior cabinet ministers tell Johnson that his time was up.
He had also completely lost the confidence of the Tory backbenches, with The Telegraph reporting last night that he only commanded the loyalty of around 65 of 358 Tory MPs.
Johnson has begun to appoint new people to his cabinet after a mass walkout, with James Cleverly named as education secretary, Kit Malthouse named as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Robert Buckland named as Welsh secretary.
One London Tory MP told City A.M. that there will now be a “big push” to get Johnson to leave Downing Street immediately and to install deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab as an interim PM, after yesterday’s events.
Tory MP Aaron Bell said it would “not be tenable” to have Johnson as an interim PM, while former Johnson loyalist Jonathan Gullis also told Sky News that he should leave office immediately.
A long list of candidates will line up to be the next leader of the Tory party and Prime Minister, with Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Penny Mordaunt, Ben Wallace, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Tom Tugendhat and Steve Baker expected to run.
Sunak is currently the bookies’ favourite, however recent polls put Wallace, the defence secretary, as the Tory members’ favourite to win.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has already called for a snap General Election and plans to bring a motion of no confidence in the government to parliament if Johnson tries to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister.
“We don’t need to change the Tory at the top – we need a proper change of government,” he said.
“We need a fresh start for Britain.”