UPDATE: As of Wednesday evening (July 6) Boris Johnson is holed up at No. 10 Downing Street – the prime ministerial residence in London – with a group of senior Conservative figures including Graham Brady (head of the 1922 committee, made up of backbench MPs), chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris, Nadhim Zahawi, who was yesterday appointed chancellor following Rishi Sunak’s resignation, and transport secretary Grant Shapps.
Local reports suggest the group are trying to persuade Johnson to resign following the wave of resignations, with 38 members of government having now resigned. He still has the support of loyalists Jacob Rees-Mogg, minister for Brexit and efficiency, and culture secretary Nadine Dorries.
The government has had so many resignations that it is reportedly having to cancel bill committees set for tomorrow because “they now don’t have enough ministers to attend,” Labour MP Conor McGuinn told BBC News.
UPDATE: In less than 24 hours, Boris Johnson has lost more than 10 ministers and ministerial aides who have stepped down in protest of the U.K. prime minister’s conduct amid numerous scandals.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid — both of whom, historically, have been close to the prime minister — resigned from their roles on Tuesday evening in the span of 30 minutes. Their resignations follow revelations that Johnson appointed disgraced Member of Parliament Chris Pincher as his deputy chief whip despite being aware of previous allegations of sexual misconduct against Pincher.
Pincher was accused of groping two men at a Tory event at London’s Carlton Club and resigned last week. A wave of prior misconduct allegations about the MP have since followed. Johnson denied for days that he was aware of the allegations, but admitted on Tuesday evening that he knew three years ago of a complaint made against Pincher in the Foreign Office. Sunak and Javid’s resignations followed in short order.
Since then, numerous others ministers have resigned, including Will Quince, minister for children and families; Alex Chalk, solicitor general; Victoria Atkins, justice minister; and John Glen, treasury minister. A number of ministerial aides have also stepped down, including Laura Trott, parliamentary private secretary to the transport secretary, and Saqib Bhatti, PPS to the health secretary.
Despite the revolt within his government, Johnson is clinging on to power. Citing sources, BBC reported on Wednesday early afternoon, local time, that Johnson is “insisting” he won’t leave No. 10. The PM is due to face MPs in the House of Commons within the hour.
Javid in his resignation letter said: “I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government. The tone you set as a leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country. Conservatives at their best are seen as hard-headed decision makers, guided by strong values. We may not have always been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest.”
Continued Javid: “Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are now neither. The vote of confidence last month showed that a large number of our colleagues agree. It was a moment for humility, grip and a new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership — and you have therefore lost my confidence too.”
Meanwhile, Sunak — who as Chancellor of the Exchequer oversees public spending as the government’s finance minister — in his letter echoed some of Javid’s concerns.
“The publicly rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning,” said Sunak.
Sunak, who was once a potential candidate for the PM job, was also engulfed in scandal earlier this year, when it was revealed that his wife, the daughter of an Indian millionaire, hadn’t been paying taxes on her overseas income thanks to her non-domicile tax status. It also came out that Sunak had held on to his U.S. green card almost two years into his role as chancellor.
Sunak has since been replaced by former Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi.
The Pincher brouhaha comes on the heels of the Partygate scandal, which involved a series of parties held at 10 Downing Street — Johnson’s office as well as his private home — and attended by top government officials during the strictest period of the U.K.’s lockdown. A number of photographs have shown the British prime minister in attendance at these gatherings.
Johnson — the subject of a Michael Winterbottom drama series for Sky, starring Kenneth Branagh as the PM — faced a no-confidence vote last month, and emerged victorious though only by a narrow margin. In the final June 5 vote, 211 Conservative MPs voted for Johnson while 148 voted against. He needed 180 votes for him to remain in office.
It’s as yet unclear which of Johnson’s other ministers will remain in place by the end of the week — or, indeed, whether his government will survive this latest tumult. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, who is leading the charge to privatize U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, has pledged to support Johnson. “I’m not sure anyone actually doubted this, however, I am [100 emoji] behind @BorisJohnson the PM who consistently gets all the big decisions right,” Dorries tweeted.