Former London Mayor, Brexit Leader Boris Johnson Won’t Be Next Prime Minister

LONDON — Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who led the campaign to withdraw Britain from the European Union and who many had thought would be the next prime minister, has taken himself out of the running for the top job.

It was a surprise move on Thursday for the former mayor, who was largely expected to stand for Conservative Party leader after Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week that he would step down.

Johnson, 52, gathered the media in Central London on Thursday afternoon for what was expected to be his campaign launch for party leader. But instead, he announced that he was not the right person to unify the party and the country after last week’s referendum to pull Britain out of the E.U., which the “Leave” side, led by Johnson, won by 52% to 48%.

“I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech, that, having consulted colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me,” Johnson said. “My role will be to give every possible support to the next Conservative administration to make sure that we properly fulfill the mandate of the people that was delivered in the referendum, and to champion the agenda I believe in — to stick up for the forgotten people in this country.”

The announcement came a few hours after Johnson’s campaign was dealt a fatal blow this morning after his fellow Leave campaigner Michael Gove announced that he would stand for leader of the Conservative Party.

“I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future,” said Gove in a statement. “But I have come reluctantly to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

Gove’s announcement sank Johnson’s prospects for leading the Conservatives, with reports suggesting that many members of the Conservative Party believed Johnson had become chaotic and opportunistic.

Prior to Gove’s bid for Tory leadership, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Cameron’s closest deputy, had also ruled himself out of the race to become prime minister. The contest will now see Gove standing against current Home Secretary Theresa May, who backed staying in the E.U., and three lesser-known candidates.

British politics has been thrown into chaos since the referendum. Cameron, who led the “Remain” campaign and originally offered up a U.K. referendum on the E.U. during last year’s general election in a bid to secure a second term as prime minister, resigned shortly after the result last week, indicating a new leader would be appointed by the autumn.

As Conservatives spent the last six days battling it out for the leadership contest, the Labour party has been tearing itself apart with leader Jeremy Corbyn defying calls from fellow MPs to stand down in national interest. More than 30 members of the shadow cabinet resigned earlier this week and Corbyn lost a vote of no confidence from his party on June 29 in a 172 to 40 vote. Labour MP Angela Eagle is expected to launch her Labour leadership bid shortly.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Weinstein Can Get a Fair Trial in Manhattan, Says D.A.

    The Manhattan District Attorney’s office argued on Friday that Harvey Weinstein can get a fair trial in Manhattan, and blamed the producer’s defense team for much of the pre-trial publicity in the case. Weinstein’s attorneys have asked an appellate court to transfer the case — which is set to begin on Sept. 9 — to [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Madonna

    Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna Call for Action on Amazon Wildfires

    As wildfires rage at an alarming rate in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, celebrities are using their platforms to bring awareness to the deforestation’s impact and to call for action. In the past week, stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna, Cara Delevingne and Ariana Grande have taken to Instagram to express their frustration with the lack of [...]

  • 'The Durrells' TV Show

    Greece Sweetens Production Incentives as Struggling Country's Economy Rebounds

    It’s taken the better part of a decade for Greece to show signs of recovery from the crippling crisis that almost pushed it out of the Eurozone. Now, with the economy slowly on the mend, the government is doubling down on efforts to jump-start the local film industry, giving a dramatic overhaul to the incentive [...]

  • Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group Partners With Audiomack

    Warner Music Group announced it has entered a partnership with the music streaming and discovery service Audiomack, marking the platform’s first licensing deal with a major label. According to the announcement, the two companies will work together on content concepts and explore ways to break emerging artists, connecting music fans with rising talent before they [...]

  • Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on

    Scooter Braun Congratulates Taylor Swift on ‘Brilliant’ Album and Campaign

    Two days after Taylor Swift fired off the latest salvo in her battle with Scooter Braun, the manager congratulated the singer on the campaign around her “brilliant” new album, “Lover,” which arrived last night. The message came after Swift said she will be re-recording songs from her first six albums, which are now owned by [...]

  • David Koch Obit

    David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

    David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79. According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, [...]

  • Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing

    Beverly Hills Realtor Accused of Stealing From Usher, Adam Lambert

    A Beverly Hills real estate agent has been arrested on charges of stealing from the homes of celebrities, including Usher, Adam Lambert and “Real Housewives” star Dorit Kemsley. Jason Emil Yaselli, 32, is accused of encouraging an accomplice, Benjamin Ackerman, to enter homes during open houses in order to steal from them. Ackerman allegedly sold [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content