May 26, 2024

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces resignation: ‘Them’s the breaks’

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday, after dozens of ministers quit his cabinet and urged him to go.

In a statement delivered outside his office at no. 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson said he has agreed to resign as leader of the ruling Conservative Party, which would result in his departure as prime minister once the party selects a successor through a leadership election, possibly in the fall. He said that process “should begin now” and the timetable will be announced next week. He also noted that he has appointed a new cabinet of ministers who, along with him, will serve “until a new leader is in place.”

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and, therefore, a new prime minister,” Johnson said.

“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world,” he added. “But them’s the breaks.”

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labour Party, released a statement earlier Thursday, saying: “It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister. But it should have happened long ago.”

Boris Johnson delivers his resignation speech outside No.10 Downing Street in London, July 7, 2022.

The embattled, 58-year-old British premier had initially vowed to cling on to power, quickly appointing two replacements for U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid after they announced their resignations on Tuesday. But dozens more departures — a growing mutiny among his cabinet — ultimately made Johnson’s position untenable, with some lawmakers in his own Conservative Party even suggesting that the rules would have to be changed in order to remove him from office.

It was unclear Thursday whether Johnson’s party would force him out before a successor is appointed, amid fears that he could remain in office until the fall. If they do not, the opposition has threatened to push for a parliamentary vote of no confidence to oust him.

Controversy has long followed Johnson since he became prime minister of the United Kingdom in 2019. In recent months, he faced immense criticism over the number of illegal gatherings held at government offices and residences while the country was under a strict pandemic-related lockdown in 2020 — a scandal the British media quickly dubbed “Partygate.”

Johnson himself was issued a fine by London’s Metropolitan Police Service for attending a birthday party held in his honour at no. 10 Downing Street, when indoor mixing was barred to stem the spread of COVID-19 — making him the first prime minister in U.K. history to have been found guilty of breaking the law while in office. He then survived a vote of confidence brought forward by disgruntled lawmakers in his party, which left him wounded politically but still in charge. Surviving the vote meant he was immune from facing a similar challenge for at least a year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures after receiving the first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine administered by a nurse at St.Thomas’ Hospital in London, March 19, 2021.

But it was a very different crisis which ultimately forced Johnson’s resignation on Thursday — one that concerned the personal conduct of a minister in his cabinet, one of his appointees, Conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher.

Last week, Pincher offered his resignation from the Conservative whips’ office, after he was accused of drunkenness and sexual misconduct while at a bar in the presence of colleagues. Then reports emerged in the British media that Pincher had previously faced complaints, which were upheld, about similar conduct; but Downing Street denied that Johnson was aware of such complaints.

This, however, turned out to be false, as further information later revealed that Johnson had been briefed about Pincher’s conduct prior to rehiring him in 2019.

In a raucous session of the U.K. House of Commons on Wednesday, Johnson defended his record in government as he faced mounting pressure to step down.

“He knew the accused minister had previously committed predatory behaviour, but he promoted him to a position of power anyway,” Starmer, who has repeatedly called for Johnson’s resignation, told lawmakers Wednesday.

ABC News.

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