It’s official now: Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of Great Britain, is stepping down as leader of his Conservative Party. But the head of government does not want to vacate Downing Street yet.
Withdrawal in installments: After unprecedented pressure from his Conservative Party, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has resigned as party leader, but remains head of government for the time being. He will continue until his party has chosen a successor, Johnson said in London on Thursday. He himself was elected to office by his Tories almost three years ago. However, many party friends demanded that the 58-year-old step down as head of government immediately. The opposition is demanding a new election.
In front of his office at 10 Downing Street, Johnson addressed the British population with his usual self-confidence: “I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world.” As he approached a lectern, boos could be heard from outside Downing Street, but staff applauded.
Boris Johnson calls resignation calls ‘eccentric’
Johnson showed no remorse. Instead, in his six-minute statement, he criticized his party’s demands for his resignation as “eccentric.” “It is now clearly the will of the conservative parliamentary group that there should be a new party leader and thus a new prime minister,” said Johnson. He agreed that the selection process for a new party leader should now begin.
At the same time, Johnson emphasized that he was still trying to convince his party to stay. “I regret that I did not succeed with these arguments and of course it is painful not to be able to complete so many ideas and projects myself,” he said.
Shortly before, Johnson appointed new ministers with whom he intends to lead the country until a new prime minister is in office. Analysts warned of an impending power struggle within the Conservative Party.
Consequence of mass resignations
Johnson had come under massive pressure in the past few days. Several cabinet members and dozens of parliamentary government officials resigned. On Wednesday evening, Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi, who had been in office just the day before, even called on the prime minister to resign.
Like Secretary of State Liz Truss and Secretary of Commerce Penny Mordaunt, Zahawi is considered a possible successor. Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace leads in polls. So far, only Attorney General Suella Braverman has officially announced her candidacy.
Labor leader Keir Starmer welcomed the resignation. However, he demanded that a “fresh start” was now necessary. “We need a Labor government,” Starmer said. “We are ready.”
The most recent government crisis in Westminster was triggered by an affair involving Johnson’s party colleague Chris Pincher, who is accused of sexual harassment. It emerged that Johnson knew of previous, similar allegations against Pincher, but still hoisted him to an important faction office. His spokesman had previously denied this several times.
Numerous scandals in a short tenure
Johnson has been at the center of scandals since taking office on July 24, 2019. He was accused of having underestimated the corona pandemic at first. Johnson became seriously ill with the virus himself. Later there were affairs about the luxury renovation of his official residence and a luxury vacation in the Caribbean, each of which was at least partially financed by patrons, as well as corrupt party friends.
Johnson also survived the “Partygate” affair about illegal lockdown celebrations in Downing Street, although he received a penalty notice from the police for attending a party. Just a few weeks ago, he narrowly won an internal party vote of no confidence. The father of at least seven children was the first prime minister to marry while in office in almost 200 years.
Until recently, Johnson still had supporters. They praised the prime minister for making the right decisions on the “big questions” such as the corona vaccination campaign and completing Brexit. Johnson was also widely praised for his clear support of Ukraine with arms deliveries in the war against Russia. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak thanked Johnson for his help. Russia, on the other hand, cheered the withdrawal on Thursday with malice. The Greens in the European Parliament emphasized that Johnson’s exit offers an opportunity for a new start between the UK and the EU.