Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid both announced they would stop in letters posted on Twitter within minutes of each other on Tuesday night.
“The public rightly expects the government to be run correctly, competently and seriously,” Sunak said in his resignation letter. “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.”
“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,” Sunak added in the letter. “I am sorry to have to leave the government, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot go on like this.”
Javid wrote that “It has been a tremendous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience.” Javid added that last month’s vote of confidence in the prime minister was “a moment for humility, grip and new direction.”
“I am sorry to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – which is why you have lost my trust,” Javid wrote.
Scandal after scandal
The most immediate controversy Johnson has faced is the way Downing Street handled last week’s resignation of deputy head whip Chris Pincher, who resigned last Thursday after groping two guests at a private dinner the night before.
Although he did not immediately admit the allegations, Pincher said in a letter to Johnson that “I drank way too much last night” and “embarrassed myself and other people”.
Downing Street has struggled to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place amid a spate of revelations about his past alleged behavior, denying Johnson knew anything specific about the allegations.
On Tuesday, it emerged that a complaint had been filed against Pincher at the State Department about three years ago, and Johnson was being informed of what had happened.
Minutes before Sunak and Javid announced their resignations, Johnson acknowledged it was “a mistake” to appoint Pincher to his administration.
“I got this complaint. It was something that came to my mind only very briefly, but I wish we had acted on it and he hadn’t been left sitting in government, because then he continued, I’m afraid, to behave like as far as we can tell — according to the allegations we have — very, very much,” Johnson said in a broadcast interview.
British opposition leader Keir Starmer said it was “clear” that the government was “collapsing”.
“The Tory cabinet ministers have known all along who this prime minister is. They have been his cheerleaders in this sad saga. They supported him when he broke the law. They supported him when he repeatedly lied. the sacrifices of the British people,” the Labor Party leader said in a statement released after the two stepped down.
For months, Johnson has faced a barrage of criticism of his behavior and that of his government, including illegal, lockdown-breaking parties thrown into his Downing Street offices for which he and others were fined.
Johnson has faced a host of other scandals that have hit his position in the polls — despite his crushing 80-seat victory just two and a half years ago. These include allegations of improper use of donor money to pay for the renovation of his Downing Street home and whipping MPs to protect a colleague who had broken lobbying rules.
According to an Ipsos UK survey conducted between June 22 and 29, Johnson’s Conservative Party is at its lowest level in more than a decade when it comes to being perceived as “fit to govern”. Just 21% of respondents said it is fit to rule – the lowest number for both Conservatives and Labor since Ipsos began tracking this stat in 2011.
The chaos in Westminster had ripple effects in the financial markets, pushing the value of the British pound against the dollar to its lowest point in more than two years.
Downing Street did not hesitate to fill the vacant positions. Nadhim Zahawi, formerly the Education Secretary, was appointed chancellor, while Downing Street chief of staff Steve Barclay became the new health minister on Tuesday evening.
Michelle Donelan replaced Zahawi as education secretary.
Javid and Sunak weren’t the only ones going on Tuesday. Shortly after the two quit their jobs, Conservative Party Vice-President Bim Afolami announced live television that he too would be resigning. During an interview with Tom Newton Dunn of The News Desk, Afolami said: “I just don’t think the Prime Minister has my support anymore… the support of the party or even the country.”
Afolami called on Johnson to resign, then said he would also resign his own. “I think you should resign because I cannot serve under the Prime Minister.”
Alex Chalk, who served as Britain’s Solicitor General, a ministerial role in the Attorney General’s office, also resigned on Tuesday, saying in his resignation letter it was time “for new leadership”.
“To sit in government is to accept the duty to advocate for difficult or even unpopular policy positions where it serves the wider national interest. But it cannot extend to defending the indefensible,” Chalk said.
The prime minister’s trade envoy to Morocco, Andrew Murrison, also resigned, citing the “rolling chaos of the past six months” and saying that Boris Johnson’s “position has become irreparable”.
At least half a dozen other lower government officials also announced their resignations later on Tuesday.
CNN’s Luke McGee, Sarah Dean, Luke Henderson, Lauren Kent, Dan Wright, Jorge Engels and Maija Ehlinger reported.