Boris Johnson clings to power after dozens of British lawmakers resign and urge him to resign

The UK woke up on Thursday morning with more than 50 members of the government leaving office, including five cabinet ministers.

The day before, Johnson began by promising to continue fighting, despite the shocking resignations of his finance minister, his health secretary and dozens of other lawmakers furious over the latest saga that engulfed Downing Street: the mismanagement of a resignation by Johnson’s former deputy coup. , Chris Pincher, who was accused of touching two men last week.

Johnson suffered mistreatment of the prime minister’s questions and a blunt appearance before a parliamentary committee of senior lawmakers in Parliament, before a delegation of cabinet members arrived in Downing Street to demand Johnson’s resignation.

But Johnson refused to fall without a fight. On Wednesday night, he fired close ally and chief cabinet minister Michael Gove, whom sources told CNN had urged Johnson before that day to accept that his time was up.

Another key ally, Home Secretary Priti Patel, told Johnson that the Conservative Party’s overall vision was that it had to go, a source close to Patel told CNN.

When news of Gove’s dismissal surfaced, a Johnson spokesman insisted the prime minister was in “very good humor.”

Speaking to CNN, Johnson’s private parliamentary secretary, James Duddridge, said Johnson “was fighting because he thinks he can win.”

Asked about Gove, Duddridge said, “I like Michael, Michael has been a great secretary of state in many ways, he helps the prime minister in many ways,” and added that “he will be replaced, we will move on.”

But the avalanche of resignations raised the question of how a prime minister with so much support could fill all the positions that had just been dropped. Five ministers resigned all at once on Wednesday afternoon, and by the end of the working day, Johnson had lost more than three dozen members of his government. On Thursday morning, that number had risen to more than 50.

Among the last to resign were Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Education Minister Michelle Donelan, who became the fourth and fifth cabinet members to step down.

The dramatic disintegration of Johnson’s political career could take hours after completion; while so far he has refused to give in, conservative lawmakers were discussing reformulating his party’s rules and voting to oust him if necessary.

“At some point, we have to conclude that enough is enough,” former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, the first of many ministers to resign in the last 24 hours, told Johnson in Parliament on Wednesday. “I have concluded that the problem starts at the top, that will not change.”

An endless series of scandals

Numerous prime ministers have been ousted for sudden and deadly rebellions within their own parties, and leaders often choose to resign once the writing is on the wall. But the speed with which the Johnson administration has fallen to the precipice echoes a few episodes in British political history.

Less than three years ago, Johnson won a landslide election victory and then enacted Brexit, a political revolution that many of his party had claimed for decades. Even late last year, Johnson was in a healthy position in opinion polls. While the UK has the highest number of deaths from Covid-19 in Europe, Johnson was encouraged by a popular vaccine launch. But then scandal after scandal damaged his reputation among the public. It sought to revoke the suspension of an ally accused of misconduct; he was fined by police for attending one of the many parties that took place on Downing Street during the confinement; he lost two deputies due to sex scandals, and then was unable to regain his seats in the by-elections; and this week, he admitted that he had been informed of a complaint against Pincher before promoting him to deputy chief of staff, although his ministers and aides initially claimed otherwise.

The Pincher saga was the last straw for many of its allies. Johnson narrowly survived a censure vote in early June, but the rebels have threatened to change party rules and allow another vote in the near future if Johnson does not resign, and would now be expected to lose.

Duddridge said Johnson understands lawmakers who protest against him could change the rules and call for another vote of confidence, but said a majority against him “is not a fact.”

A sullen-faced Johnson struggled with the prime minister’s questions in Parliament and then answered questions from lawmakers at a parliamentary committee meeting, during which even more of his allies garnered his support.

Johnson’s efforts to cling to power were branded “pathetic” by opposition leader Keir Starmer, who also directed his attack at the few allies in his cabinet who still supported him. “In the midst of a crisis, doesn’t the country deserve better than a Z-list of dogs with their heads?” Starmer asked Parliament.

Should Johnson resign, a Conservative leadership campaign would begin and the winner would also serve as prime minister.

This person would have to navigate internal issues, such as a cost-of-living crisis that has affected British households, and inherit a lot of foreign pressure. Johnson has developed a good relationship with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and has been a prominent player in Europe’s response to Russia’s invasion.

CNN’s Luke McGee contributed to the report.

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