Boris Johnson has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party in the UK, saying that ‘no-one is indispensable’ after a series of cabinet ministers told him he had lost the support of the party.
In a statement delivered outside Downing Street on Thursday, Johnson said he was stepping down as party leader but planned to stay on as prime minister until the party picked his successor.
The statement brings an end to an extraordinary stand-off between Johnson and cabinet ministers, including his new chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, who were urging him to quit amid anger over the Chris Pincher affair and other scandals.
Joined by his wife, Carrie, and a number of Tory supporters, Johnson said he was ‘sad to be giving up the best job in the world’ and he blamed the Conservative parliamentary party for pushing him out of office.
‘When the herd moves, it moves,’ he said in a reference to the cabinet and MPs moving against him, while paying tribute to the ‘brilliant Darwinian system’ that caused his downfall. ‘Them’s the breaks,’ he added.
Johnson said he had ‘appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place’, pointing to a sense of duty and obligation to the public.
He said he had waited to make the decision to resign as he had been keen to deliver on the voters’ mandate in person, saying he felt it was his duty and obligation to do what he had promised.
Johnson said he was immensely proud of his achievements, including getting Brexit done, getting the UK through the pandemic and leading the West in standing up to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
He said the UK must keep ‘levelling up’, adding that doing so would make the country the most prosperous in Europe.
Johnson said that he had tried to persuade colleagues it would be ‘eccentric’ to change government ‘when we have such a mandate’, but regretted that he was not successful in those arguments.
He thanked his wife Carrie, his children, the NHS, armed forces and Downing Street staff. The prime minister finished his statement by saying that until his replacement is found, the public’s interests will be served.
‘Being prime minister is an education in itself – I’ve travelled to every part of the UK and I’ve found so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways. Even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden,’ Johnson said.
Senior Conservative MPs are already pushing back against the idea that Johnson should be allowed to stay in office for any longer, however, and many want to see an interim leader in place such as Dominic Raab.
Support drained away from Johnson as more than 50 ministers and government aides resigned in a rolling walkout, while many once supportive backbenchers declared no confidence in his leadership.
The revolt began on Tuesday evening with the resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak as health secretary and chancellor respectively.
Johnson faced the prospect of a second vote of no confidence as soon as next week, with elections to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee due to be held on Monday and likely to result in a change to the rules.
His exit follows three years of scandals, including fury over his handling of harassment allegations against Pincher, the deputy chief whip; a police fine over lockdown parties in Downing Street, attempts to change the standards system, and accusations of breaking international law.
Johnson became prime minister in 2019, taking over from Theresa May with a promise to ‘get Brexit done’. After winning an 80-seat majority in a general election in December 2019, and taking the UK out of the EU, the prime minister had his eye on multiple terms in No 10.
However, his leadership toppled under a wave of sleaze allegations and failure to tell the truth, contributing to the resignation of two of his ethics advisers, Sir Alex Allan and Lord Geidt.
"Them's the breaks"— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 7, 2022
Boris Johnson announces his resignation as Tory leader, describing being UK prime minister as the "best job in the world"
He says he will continue to serve in office until a new leader is electedhttps://t.co/qiq4yHpPpB pic.twitter.com/5wgyTpa7aN