London — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fought for his political survival on Wednesday after a number of high-profile resignations shook the foundations of his government and raised doubts about whether he will be able to hold out as leader of his party and the country. †
The resignation came in response to the latest in a long string of scandals to engulf Johnson, the one involving former government minister Chris Pincher. Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of groping two men, was appointed as a deputy head whip by Johnson, who initially claimed he was unaware of previous, specific allegations of misconduct against Pincher. Johnson’s office changed the official record of what the prime minister knew twice in the past week as new information came to light.
On Tuesday, two of Johnson’s top ministers, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, resigned and published scathing letters online.
“The public rightly expects the government to be run correctly, competently and seriously…I believe these standards are worth fighting for, which is why I am resigning,” Sunak wrote. “In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”
“The tone you set as a leader and the values you represent reflect your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country,” said former health minister Sajid Javid. “I have loyally served you as a friend, but we all serve the country first. If we have to choose between those loyalties, there can only be one answer.’
Johnson quickly replaced ministers, but a string of other resignations – at least 38 in total, according to the BBC – showed the threat to his government was not over.
Crisis after crisis
In recent months, Johnson has narrowlyby his party and was for violating COVID-19 restrictions during Britain’s pandemic lockdown, when he attended parties at his official residence.
But for those who recently resigned, the Pincher scandal and the questions it raised about Johnson’s credibility as leader seemed like the final straw.
Media reports contradicted the original story from Johnson’s office, which stated that he knew nothing about specific allegations against Pincher. The prime minister then changed his mind and said he was aware of some of the allegations, but they were not formal complaints.
That was followed by a former senior official who publicly claimed that Johnson had been informed “personally” about a previous formal complaint against Pincher, leading to allegations that Johnson had lied. Johnson responded by saying that he did not remember that particular briefing and that he regretted not acting on the information.
During a weekly meeting of parliament on Wednesday, Johnson was repeatedly criticized and urged to resign by some opposition party ministers. He replied by saying that he believed the government should not run away in difficult times.
“It has become impossible in recent months to tread the tightrope between loyalty and integrity, and Mr Chairman, I will never risk losing my integrity,” Javid, the former health minister, said in his resignation statement. made during the meeting. Javid said he had given the prime minister the benefit of the doubt for the last time.
“The problem starts at the top and I don’t think that will change,” said Javid.
As the meeting drew to a close, lawmakers were heard shouting, “Hello, Boris!”