Boris Johnson is teetering on the brink tonight after Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both dramatically quit his Cabinet in a seemingly coordinated attack.
The Chancellor and Health Secretary dropped their bombshells on the PM within minutes of each other, shortly after he issued a grovelling apology over his appointment of shamed MP Chris Pincher.
In his resignation letter, Mr Sunak told the PM that ‘we cannot continue like this’.
Acknowledging that he might be waving goodbye to his ministerial career for good, he added: ‘The public rightly expect Government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.’
Meanwhile, Mr Javid publicly questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest.
Keir Starmer immediately demanded a snap general election, saying ‘let’s have a fresh start for Britain’. The double-pronged assault leaves the PM struggling desperately to cling on – and waiting anxiously to see if any of his other senior ministers will follow suit.
Deputy PM Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey have declared they will not be resigning. Notably Michael Gove, who notoriously stabbed Mr Johnson in the back to end his leadership hopes in 2016, does not appear to be jumping ship.
However, there has been an ominous silence so far from others such as Nadhim Zahawi. And a series of ministerial aides and other junior posts have announced they are going. Tory vice-chair Bim Afolami announced his exit live on TV, while former loyalist Jonathan Gullis and Saqib Bhatti said they had stepped down from PPS roles.
Lord Frost, previously Mr Johnson’s key Brexit envoy, said Mr Sunak and Mr Javid had done the ‘right thing’ and the premier could not change.
Even Cabinet ministers staying in place sounded a gloomy tone privately, with one telling MailOnline that some of their closest colleagues had ‘run out of sympathy with the PM’.
Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg was sent out to bat in broadcast studios tonight, insisting there is no ‘constitutional’ reason for the PM to go.
Asked whether he would really survive a fresh Tory confidence vote, Mr Rees-Mogg told Sky News: ‘He might very well win another.’
Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Johnson’s mood after the resignations was ‘business as usual’ and he still hoped he would beat Robert Walpole’s record of 21 years in No10.
In other breakneck developments as the government descends into chaos tonight:
- Bim Afolami quit as Tory vice-chair and Andrew Murrison quit as trade envoy in other departures to hit the PM;
- Mr Johnson holed up in Downing Street with close ally Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and his Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris to consider his next move after the news broke;
- Keir Starmer gloated that the government is collapsing and urged more to walk out;
- Bookies have made Mr Johnson odds-on to be out of No10 this year.
Boris Johnson is teetering on the brink tonight as Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both dramatically quit his Cabinet within minutes of each other
Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street tonight as he struggles to find a way to survive in office
In his resignation letter (left), Mr Sunak told the PM that ‘we cannot continue like this’. Meanwhile, Mr Javid (right) publicly questioned Mr Johnson’s integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest
Who’s staying and who’s going in Cabinet?
It appeared Mr Sunak and Mr Javid had heeded calls from Tory rebel MPs – who had been demanding action from Cabinet ministers over the latest sleaze scandal battering Mr Johnson’s Government.
Mr Javid told the PM: ‘It is with enormous regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this Government.
‘I am instinctively a team player but the British people also rightly expect integrity from their Government.’
It was the second time Mr Sajid has resigned from a Johnson government, having quit as Chancellor on principle in 2020 when he was told he could not choose his own special advisers.
The double resignation sparked feverish speculation that other members of the Cabinet might soon follow suit in quitting Mr Johnson’s Government.
But Mr Raab, Mr Wallace, Ms Patel and Ms Truss have all indicated they are not walking out.
Environment Secretary George Eustice and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey have yet to break their silence.
Tory MP for Hastings and Rye Sally-Ann Hart, who previously backed Boris Johnson in June’s confidence vote, has said she is no longer able to support the Prime Minister.
She tweeted: ‘Considering the further revelations that have come to light, and given that the integrity of Parliament must be upheld, on behalf of my constituents of Hastings and Rye I am no longer able to support Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister.’
Just moments before tonight’s drama unfolded, the PM acknowledged he should have sacked Mr Pincher when he was told about the claims against him when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019, but instead Mr Johnson went on to appoint him to other government roles.
Asked if that was an error, the PM said: ‘I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.
‘I apologise to everybody who has been badly affected by it. I want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this Government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power.’
Sir Keir Starmer seized on Mr Johnson’s misery and called for a snap election.
‘He is unfit to be Prime Minister. He is not fit to govern the country,’ he said.
‘That is dawning on many people across the Conservative party, but they have to reflect on that, that they have backed him for months and months and months.
‘Resigning today means nothing against their complicity for all those months when they should have seen him for what he was, they knew who he was.
‘We need a change of government.’
Asked if he would support an election if one were called in the next few weeks, Sir Keir said: ‘Yes. We need a fresh start for Britain. We need a change of government.’
The Labour leader also suggested a change of government would help to address the ‘big issues’ like the cost-of-living crisis and could provide ‘political stability’.
The Labour leader said those remain in the Cabinet would be ‘nodding dogs’ if they did not quit. Sir Keir spoke to journalists shortly before news of Rishi Sunak’s resignation broke. Asked if Mr Johnson was a ‘pathological liar,’ he said: ‘Yes, he’s a liar.
‘What we’re seeing this week is a repeat of what we’ve seen so many times, which is Government ministers going out onto the airwaves, giving answers to questions, and no sooner have they finished the media round that the answers they’ve given aren’t accurate because the Prime Minister and Number 10 haven’t been straight with them.
‘That is not this week’s story, although it is this week’s story, it’s every week’s story. It’s on repeat, which is why you see the Conservative Party tearing itself apart today. Should his Cabinet members make sure he leaves office, yes they should. It’s their responsibility, in the national interest, to remove him from office.
‘They know what he’s like, he’s said that he’s psychologically incapable of changing, and therefore they have to do what’s in the national interest and remove him.’
Lord McDonald of Salford gave critics of Mr Johnson further ammunition today when he penned a bombshell letter to a parliamentary watchdog