UK Prime Minister Johnson resigns after cabinet bloodbath – Reuters
LONDON, UK — Boris Johnson resigned as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party on Thursday, sparking a protracted race to succeed the outrageous prime minister after an extraordinary exodus of ministers from his government.
Johnson acknowledged that it was “clearly the will of the Conservative Parliamentary Party that there be a new leader of that party, and therefore a new Prime Minister”.
In a six-minute speech outside 10 Downing Street, devoid of contrition for the many missteps that brought him down, he said he would stay on until his successor was found.
But there have been calls for Johnson to leave immediately and for an interim leader to run the world’s fifth-largest economy.
Tory John Major, who served as prime minister from 1990 to 1997, said Johnson’s extended term – and the sweeping powers that still come with it – were “reckless and perhaps unsustainable”.
The leadership election is expected to take place in the coming months. The winner will replace Johnson with the party’s annual conference in early October.
But polls suggest most Britons are in favor of his early exit, amid claims that Johnson is only clinging to a wedding party with his wife Carrie during his government-funded campaign retirement.
Johnson’s tumultuous three years in office have been defined by Brexit, the Covid pandemic and the relentless controversy over his reputation for lying.
– ‘Best job’ –
The 58-year-old said he was ‘sad…to give up the best job in the world’, justifying his initial refusal to surrender to his ‘herd’ of Tory critics because he had won a personal mandate in the general dominated by Brexit. December 2019 elections.
Johnson also promised to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
He reiterated his support in a subsequent appeal to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Downing Street said.
Zelensky said he and Ukraine would be sad to see Johnson go, praising his “personal leadership” and “charisma”.
Russia has expressed hope that “more professional people” will come to power in Britain.
“But at the moment there is little hope for that,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Defense Minister Ben Wallace and Rishi Sunak, whose departure as finance minister on Tuesday sparked the cabinet exodus, were early favourites, a YouGov survey of Tory members suggested.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said on Thursday evening he was launching his bid to succeed Johnson, the first candidate to announce his campaign since the prime minister announced his resignation.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, another potential candidate, said Johnson had “made the right decision” in cutting short a trip to Indonesia for a G20 meeting.
“We need calm and unity now and to continue to govern while a new leader is found,” she tweeted.
– Lame duck –
Even watching the exit, Johnson sought to stabilize the ship, making several appointments to replace deceased cabinet members.
They included Greg Clark, a ‘Remainer’ arch-opposed to Britain’s divorce from the European Union, whom Johnson had championed.
The inexperienced Shailesh Vara has been put in charge of Northern Ireland, with the government embroiled in a battle with Brussels over post-Brexit trade rules for the strained territory.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said Johnson’s exit was a chance to reset “strained and contested” relations.
Summoning the new cabinet after his resignation speech, Johnson confirmed his lame duck status by saying “major budget decisions should be left to the next prime minister”, according to Downing Street.
As late as Wednesday night, Johnson had clung defiantly to power despite a flurry of more than 50 government resignations.
But a fresh round of high-profile departures early on Thursday and warnings of a second no-confidence vote next week by Tory MPs tipped the scales.
– ‘Arrogant and delusional’ –
Johnson triumphed in 2019 with a vow to “get Brexit done” following Britain’s shock referendum decision three years before. But for many, the populist leader defying convention had overstayed his welcome.
The Tory infighting has erupted at a time when millions of Britons are grappling with the worst fall in living standards since the 1950s, fueled by soaring energy prices following the war in Ukraine.
Johnson’s popularity had already plummeted during a series of lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, which saw him become the first prime minister to be fined by the police.
“It was about time, wasn’t it?” Seriously, I mean, have you ever known someone so arrogant, ignorant, delusional? Helen Dewdney, 53, who works in consumer rights, told AFP.
While Johnson led a successful coronavirus vaccination campaign, the former journalist also oversaw one of the worst death rates in Europe and nearly died of Covid himself in April 2020.
“Boris Johnson’s legacy is the death of nearly 200,000 Britons under his watch,” said Lobby Akinnola, of the Covid-19 campaign group Bereaved Families for Justice.
– After-dinner speech –
“As Johnson moves on to a life of writing newspaper columns and being paid exorbitant sums to deliver after-dinner speeches, there will be no change for families like mine who have been torn apart by his actions,” he said. .
Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid began the ministerial exodus when they resigned on Tuesday night, after Johnson apologized for his February appointment of a senior Tory MP to a top role in Parliament .
Chris Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip last week following accusations he groped two drunk men.
Downing Street officials eventually admitted Johnson was aware of other allegations against Pincher in 2019, and many ministers balked at having to defend the leader again.
Tony Travers, director of think tank LSE London, said the party had once again shown a propensity to turn against unpopular leaders after previously ditching prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.
“The truth is that the reason the Conservative Party is so enduring is that it will get rid of its leaders if it thinks they are hurting the party,” he told AFP.
“And it allows the party to start over with a new leader and say ‘look, we’re a completely different company’.”
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