Boris Johnson resigns as Conservative leader, to stay on until new PM elected

To serve as PM until a successor is elected in autumn



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement at Downing Street in London, Britain, July 7, 2022. Photo: Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement at Downing Street in London, Britain, July 7, 2022. Photo: Reuters

By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Thu 7 Jul 2022, 3:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Jul 2022, 4:17 PM

After resisting days of pressure from inside and outside the Conservative party, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced his resignation as party leader, clearing the way for the process to begin the election of a new leader and a new prime minister.

A new row was sparked by his decision to stay on until the new leader is elected, a process that usually takes two or three months but can be quickened. Many of his MPs and former ministers want him to leave Downing Street immediately and install deputy prime minister Dominic Raab as the caretaker prime minister during the election process.

Several individuals are expected to bid to be the next leader and prime minister, including Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, Tom Tugendhat, Steve Baker and Suella Braverman. The timetable for the election is due to be announced early next week by the 1922 Committee, a Conservative party panel that organises such elections.

Until Wednesday night, Johnson remained defiant to stay in office in the face of a barrage of resignations but agreed to step down on Thursday when more resignations came in, besides public advice to him from the newly appointed chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, to resign.

The development came at the end of a series of events over the last two years that raised serious questions about his integrity, character and honesty, reflected in rows such as those over parties in Downing Street and making controversial appointments.

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer demanded that Johnson stand down as the prime minister immediately, saying it is not fair on the country for him to stay on as caretaker prime minister: "He needs to go, he can't cling on. His own party has decided it's time - so they can't inflict him on the country for the next few months."

Insisting that Labour will take matters into its own hands if necessary, Starmer warns the Conservative MPs that if they did not force Johnson to leave immediately, "Labour will, in the national interest, bring a no confidence vote - because this can't go on. The change we need is not just at the top, we need a change of government. We need a Labour government."

Making his statement outside Number 10 in front of a large media contingent, Johnson admitted that “no one is remotely indispensable” in politics, and began by saying that it was now clear that the will of the Conservative parliamentary party was that there should be a new leader of the party and therefore a new prime minister.

Watched by his wife Carrie Johnson and Downing Street staff, Johnson recalled that he was elected with the biggest majority since 1987 in the 2019 election, and noted some of his successes in office, including delivering Brexit and the Covid-vaccination rollout.

He regretted not being able to continue the development and other programmes outlined in the 2019 manifesto, and added that he was sad that he was giving up the “best job in the world”.

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Johnson made some appointments to the cabinet before making the statement, so that key offices of the state can continue functioning. They included appointing Indian-origin Shailesh Vara as the Northern Ireland secretary.

According to Johnson, the criticism he faced in recent weeks and months during various controversies amounted to “sledging”, but admitted that “when the herd moves, it moves”. A new leader will emerge from the “brilliant Darwinian system” the party has to choose its leader, he added.

Johnson became prime minister in 2019, taking over from Theresa May with a promise to “get Brexit done”, and won a large majority in the general election in December 2019. He recently hoped he would continue in office until the 2030s.


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