LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his political survival after finance minister Rishi Sunak and another senior minister abruptly resigned over the latest scandal to blight his administration.
Sunak and health minister Sajid Javid sent resignation letters to the prime minister within minutes of each other in which both took aim at his ability to run an administration that adhered to standards.
The resignations came as Johnson was apologising for what he said was a mistake for not realising that a former minister in charge of pastoral care was unsuitable for a job in government after complaints of sexual misconduct were made against him, the latest embarrassment to have engulfed Johnson’s government.
So far, they are the only two ministers in the prime minister’s top cabinet team to resign, with other senior figures expressing support for Johnson. Foreign minister Liz Truss, considered a leading contender to replace him if he is forced out, said she was “100% behind the PM”.
The resignations come after months of scandals and missteps, with Johnson so far weathering criticism over a damning report into parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke strict COVID-19 lockdowns, several policy U-turns and an ill-fated defence of another lawmaker who broke lobbying rules. read more
He has also come under fire for not doing enough to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, when many Britons are struggling to keep up with soaring inflation leading to rising fuel and food prices, and economists saying the country is heading for a sharp slowdown or possibly a recession.
Both Sunak and Javid had formerly publicly supported Johnson, but in their letters they said enough was enough.
Sunak, who had reportedly clashed with the prime minister in private about spending, said: “For me to step down as Chancellor (of the Exchequer) while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.”
“The public rightly expects government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” he added. “I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Javid said many lawmakers and the public had lost confidence in Johnson’s ability to govern in the national interest. “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,” his letter said.
The pound fell on the resignation of Sunak but economists said Johnson’s removal could bring needed stability and offer a boost to sterling and the markets. read more
The resignations came just minutes after Johnson went on television to apologise for appointing lawmaker Christopher Pincher to a role involved in offering pastoral care in the Conservative Party, his latest public expression of contrition for his mistakes.
Pincher’s resignation last Thursday triggered days of a changing narrative from Downing Street over what the prime minister knew of the deputy chief whip’s behaviour and when he knew it.
Earlier on Tuesday after a former top official accused Johnson’s office of lying, the prime minister’s spokesman was forced into a quick about-turn to say the British leader had been briefed in “some form” about the case but had forgotten about that last week.
For many in the governing party, another allegation of lying and the explanation of a loss of memory only heightened their frustration with the Johnson administration, which some lawmakers say is paralysed by having to deal with scandals.