British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting for his political survival after Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid abruptly resigned on Tuesday over the latest scandal to destroy his government.
Mr Sunak and Mr Javid sent letters of resignation to Mr Johnson within minutes of each other, both targeting his ability to run an administration that held up to standards.
Mr Johnson signaled his intention to remain in power for as long as possible and quickly appointed the former businessman and current education minister, Nadhim Zahawi, as his new finance minister. Steve Barclay, who was appointed in February to discipline Mr Johnson’s administration, was moved to the health portfolio.
Mr Johnson will face questions in parliament, followed by a whim from senior lawmakers on Wednesday. He will appear for his weekly Q&A session, before later facing the parliamentary committee chairmen for a scheduled two-hour barbecue.
The resignation came as Mr Johnson apologized for appointing a legislator to a role involved in providing pastoral care to his party, even after being informed that the politician had been the subject of complaints of sexual misconduct.
So far, they are the only two ministers in the prime minister’s top cabinet to resign, with other senior figures showing their support for Mr Johnson. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, considered one of the top candidates to replace him, said she was “100 percent behind the Prime Minister”.
Four other lawmakers stepped down from junior government positions, while a trade envoy resigned and a Conservative Party vice-chairman stepped down from his post on live television.
The resignation comes after months of scandal and missteps, with Mr Johnson so far endured criticism over a scathing report of parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke strict COVID-19 lockdowns and gave him a fine imposed by the police.
There have been other policy changes, an ill-fated defense of another lawmaker who has broken lobbying rules and he has also come under fire for not doing enough to address a cost of living crisis with many Britons struggling. with rising fuel and food prices.
Economists say the country is now heading for a sharp slowdown or possibly a recession. Both Mr Sunak and Mr Javid had previously publicly supported Mr Johnson, but in their letters they said enough was enough.
Mr Sunak, who is said to have clashed privately with the Prime Minister over the expenses, said: “For me to step down as Chancellor [of the Exchequer] While the world suffers from the economic impact of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision I did not take lightly.”
“The public rightly expects government to be run correctly, competently and seriously,” he added. “I recognize that this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Mr Sunak had been praised for a steadfast response to the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, but was badly damaged by revelations that his wife had avoided paying certain taxes in Britain.
Mr Javid said many lawmakers and the public have lost faith in Mr Johnson’s ability to govern in the national interest.
“It is clear to me that under your leadership this situation will not change – and you have lost my confidence as a result,” his letter said.
The pound fell on Mr Sunak’s resignation, but economists said an impeachment of Mr Johnson could bring stability and boost sterling and markets in the medium term.
The resignation came just minutes after Mr Johnson came on television to apologize for appointing lawmaker Christopher Pincher to a role in providing pastoral care in the Conservative Party, his latest public expression of remorse for his mistakes.
“My apologies to everyone who was badly affected,” Johnson told broadcasters. “I want to make it absolutely clear that there is no place in this government for someone who is predatory or abusive of his position of power.”
Mr Pincher’s resignation last Thursday sparked days of changing stories from Downing Street about what the Prime Minister knew about the deputy head whip’s behavior 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 to turn around quickly to say the British leader had been briefed in “some form” about the matter, but that last was forgotten week.
For many in the ruling party, a new charge of lying and the statement of amnesia only fueled further frustration with Mr Johnson’s government, which some lawmakers say is paralyzed by dealing with scandal.
Some Conservative lawmakers are trying to renew efforts to topple him just a month after the prime minister survived a confidence vote, while others have previously called on his ministers to oppose Johnson.
“He’s ready,” said a formerly loyal conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity. “He shouldn’t prolong the pain. It is disrespectful to his colleagues, his party and his country.”
Another formerly loyal lawmaker agreed: “It’s all over. I’d be surprised if he lasts until the summer now.”
But some party veterans said Mr Johnson, who his close associates say likes a fight, could stay on and hope to reset his government again.
Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer said those who had supported Mr Johnson were complicit in the way he had carried out his work.
“After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failures, it is clear that this government is now collapsing,” he said.
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