Two senior Boris Johnson ministers have resigned over his handling of a sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked British politics.
It comes after Mr Johnson survived a vote of no confidence, a report that blamed ruling parties during the COVID lockdown and a string of scandals involving MPs and staff in his party.
So there is quite a bit to unpack.
What happened this time?
Last week, deputy head of the Conservative Party whip Chris Pincher resigned from his position and was suspended by the party for a drunken incident in which he allegedly groped two men.
He apologized, saying he was “drinking way too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people, which is the last thing I want to do, and for that I apologize to you and those involved”.
But that sparked a series of reports of past allegations against Pincher.
This raised questions about why Mr. Johnson promoted him to the senior position, which was to enforce party discipline.
Pincher denies the past allegations.
Initially, Mr Johnson’s office said he was not aware of the previous allegations when he promoted Mr Pincher in February.
A spokesman said Johnson was aware of allegations that were “either resolved or did not lead to a formal complaint”.
This prompted a senior official to say that Mr Johnson was aware of Mr Pincher’s conduct in the summer of 2019.
Mr Johnson then said: “I think it was a mistake and I apologize for that. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”
Who resigned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet?
Shortly after the apology from Mr Johnson, the head of the Treasury Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other.
Mr Javid said he could “no longer carry on in good conscience”, while Mr Sunak said government standards are “worth fighting for”.
Both men had assisted Mr Johnson in previous scandals, including parties at his Downing Street office during COVID lockdowns.
The two resignations were followed later on Tuesday evening by four deputy ministers and a trade envoy who resigned from their jobs.
Wasn’t there just a big mood to get rid of Johnson?
Yes. It happened about a month ago and was prompted by the ruling parties during the lockdown.
The Conservative Party has successfully requested a no-confidence vote against Mr Johnson, which would have required a simple majority to remove him.
Johnson survived and won the vote 211 to 148.
The result means he cannot face another vote of no confidence for a year.
“I think it’s a convincing result,” Mr Johnson said at the time, despite 148 colleagues seeking to fire him from the top job.
“A decisive result and what it means is that as a government we can move forward and focus on the things that I think really matter to people.”
What other scandals has he faced?
For starters, there’s the so-called “Partygate” scandal.
A report in the parties was led by senior official Sue Graywho said the “senior leadership team … must bear responsibility” for a culture in which events can take place.
The review examined 16 meetings held at Mr Johnson’s official residence during the lockdown between 2020 and 2021.
In December, the Conservative Party was fined $32,920 by the election watchdog for failing to accurately report a donation of about $200,000 that helped renovate Mr Johnson’s flat in Downing Street.
Earlier health secretary Matt Hancock resigned after violating COVID social distancing guidelines after photos surfaced of him kissing his top assistant Gina Coladangelo†
And then there are all the accusations from Mr Johnson’s former right-hand man, Dominic Cummings†
What’s next for Boris Johnson?
Needless to say, Mr Johnson has a track record of surviving scandal.
And Mr Johnson’s victory over his confidence means he won’t be able to get another confidence vote for a year, but some Conservative backbenchers want to change the rules to allow a new vote even earlier, possibly before parliament goes into summer recess on July 21. .
The only way to do this is through an age-old parliamentary backbenchers’ group historically described as “the men in gray suits.”
The 1922 Parliamentary Committee, formally known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, represents ordinary party members and regulates party rules.
The committee’s six officers will all be re-elected next Wednesday, July 13, and any backbencher can run for office.
The vote is seen as a proxy contest over whether the prime minister has yet to undergo a vote of no confidence.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told Sky News he will stand for one of those positions and will push for changes to the 1922 committee rules that would allow the party to hold another no-confidence vote.
It’s not clear how long it would take for a rule change to take place after the election, with some insiders suggesting the timeline could extend beyond the summer break.
Could he resign?
Johnson could also decide to step down, perhaps because he feels his position is too precarious to continue.
Johnson has repeatedly ruled out resignation in the past.
But if several of his party members resign and express their displeasure with Mr Johnson’s leadership, that could leave Mr Johnson no choice but to resign.
So far, reports suggest he has the backing of senior cabinet members, including Secretary of State Liz Truss, Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace and Secretary of Leveling Up Michael Gove.
And while former chef whip Andrew Mitchell said “it’s over” for Mr Johnson, he compared Mr Johnson to a Russian mystic Grigori Rasputinwhose enemies reportedly struggled to kill him.
“It’s a bit like Rasputin’s death. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, shot, his body dumped in an icy river and he’s still alive,” Mitchell told the BBC.
Former Conservative MP Michael Heseltine said, “I don’t think there is any recovery for Boris Johnson.”
Former Secretary of Scotland Sir Malcolm Rifkind was scathing: “Virtually the whole country thinks he’s a loser.”
Who’s in line to replace him?
There are a few contenders:
- British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is the darling of the Conservative grassroots and regularly tops party member polls conducted by the Conservative Home website.
- Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeremy Hunt finished second in the 2019 leadership contest and is said to offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership following the turmoil of Mr Johnson’s tenure.
- Minister of Defence Ben Wallace has become the most popular member of government among Conservative Party members in recent months, thanks to his handling of the crisis in Ukraine.
- Former Minister of Finance Rishi Sunak was the favorite to succeed Mr Johnson last year. Mr Sunak was praised for an economic bailout during the coronavirus pandemic, including a job-preservation program that prevented mass unemployment.
- Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi impressed as vaccine minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollout of COVID-19 shots in the world.
- Former Minister of Defence Penny Mordaunt was fired by Mr Johnson when he became Prime Minister after she supported Mr Hunt in the leadership contest.
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