He said he would remain prime minister until a new leader is elected, with a timetable for the conservative leadership struggle to be announced next week.
Johnson gave a short speech outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday, admitting that it was “clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and thus a new prime minister”.
“I know there will be a lot of people who will be relieved and a lot of them will be disappointed too. And I want you to know how sad I am to give up the best job in the world. But those are the breaks.”
Johnson said it was “painful” to lose the job and promised to support the party’s next leader as much as possible, but offered no apologies to his colleagues or an immediate acknowledgment of their criticism.
“As we’ve seen in Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful,” he said.
“When the herd moves, it moves.
“And my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensable, and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce a new leader equally committed to moving this country forward.”
Johnson also lamented his failure to convince his colleagues to keep him with the party “just a handful of points behind in the polls”.
“I know there will be a lot of people who will be relieved and a lot of people will be disappointed too,” he said.
“And I want you to know how sad I am to give up the best job in the world.
Johnson must leave ‘the sooner the better’
Johnson’s decision to remain prime minister until a new Tory leader could be elected was immediately criticized by these political opponents.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer said the country needed a “change of government and a fresh start for Britain”, not just a change of Tory leadership.
“He has to go all the way,” he said.
Clinging to none of this nonsense in a few months. He has inflicted lies, fraud and chaos in the country.
And, you know, we’re stuck with a government that’s not functioning amid a cost of living crisis.
“And all those who have supported him should be ashamed of themselves.”
Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Johnson was a premiership marked by “chaos and lack of integrity” before descending into “utter farce” in recent days.
I think first of all there will be an overwhelming and very widespread sense of relief that Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister, which probably should never have happened, is coming to an end,” she said.
“However, I think it is rather incredible to suggest that he will remain prime minister for another three to four months.
“The sooner he is out of number 10, and preferably today, the better.”
Even among conservatives, Johnson’s speech and his decision to stay on as leader of the country has been criticized for months.
“I’m afraid Boris Johnson can’t stay until the (Northern Hemisphere) fall,” West Dorset Tory member Chris Loder said on Twitter.
“The government cannot function without ministers and I expect the Deputy Prime Minister to take over shortly while leadership elections are underway.”
Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major said it was “unwise and perhaps untenable” for Johnson to remain prime minister.
“In such circumstances, the Prime Minister retains the power of patronage and, even more worryingly, the power to make decisions affecting the lives of those in all four nations of the United Kingdom and beyond,” Major said in a statement. . a letter to the head of the powerful 1922 committee, which sets the rules under which a leader can be challenged.
“Some will argue that his new cabinet will stop him. I just note that his previous cabinet couldn’t – or couldn’t.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine said it was “unthinkable” that Johnson would stay until August.
“It is absolutely clear that we need a Deputy Prime Minister to act in the interregnum before the new Prime Minister is elected,” he told Sky.
“It’s pretty clear that if Boris Johnson were really allowed to stay, he will try to implement a series of policies that will strengthen his position, presumably for another try or something like that.”
Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s controversial former right-hand man who has been fiercely critical of his former boss since his resignation, warned there would be “bloodbath” if MPs let Johnson in his position.
“I know that man and I’m telling you – he doesn’t think it’s over,” Cummings tweeted.
“He thinks ‘there is a war, strange things happen in a war, play for time, play for time, I can still get out of this, I have a mandate, members love me, go to September…'”
Secretary of State Liz Truss said Johnson had made “the right decision”.
Crises that rocked Boris Johnson’s government
‘Desperate, deluded’, but buried in his heels
Earlier on Thursday, Treasury chief Nadhim Zahawi had called on Johnson to resign just 36 hours after Johnson hired him.
Zahawi said Johnson knew “the right thing to do” was to “go now”.
Zahawi was appointed late Tuesday to replace Rishi Sunak, who resigned after he could no longer support Johnson after a string of ethics scandals.
Education Secretary Michelle Donelan, who was also appointed on Tuesday after the resignation of her predecessor, announced her resignation on Thursday morning.
This followed the resignation of some 40 state secretaries and ministerial assistants on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Johnson has previously rejected calls for his resignation as he chased after dozens of officials resigned and formerly loyal allies urged him to leave after yet another scandal swept his leadership.
In a dramatic move on Wednesday, a group of Johnson’s most trusted ministers visited him in his Downing Street office and told him to resign after losing his party’s confidence. Even then, Johnson had chosen to fight for his political career and fired one of the cabinet officials, Michael Gove.
It is rare for a prime minister to cling to office despite so much pressure from his cabinet colleagues. the guardThursday’s front page headline called him “Desperate, Deceived”.
Johnson, 58, is known for his talent for getting out of tight spots. He had remained in power despite accusations of being too close to party donors, protecting supporters from allegations of bullying and corruption, and misleading parliament and being unfair to the public about ruling parties violating pandemic lockdown rules.
It was the most recent revelations — that Johnson was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker, before promoting the man to a senior position — that pushed the prime minister to the brink.
Last week, Pincher resigned as deputy head whip after complaining that he had groped two men at a private club. That led to a series of reports of past allegations against Pincher — and shifting government statements about what Johnson knew when he offered him a senior position to enforce party discipline.
Outgoing health minister Sajid Javid stepped down at the same time as Sunak earlier this week, fueling the political crisis.
Javid captured the mood of many lawmakers when he said Johnson’s actions threaten to undermine the integrity of the Conservative Party and the British government.
“At some point we have to conclude that enough is enough,” he told fellow lawmakers on Wednesday.
“I believe that point is now.”
A third cabinet official, Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, resigned late on Wednesday, saying “we have passed the point” where it is possible to “turn the ship” and Lewis left Thursday morning.