LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected calls for his resignation from his cabinet and the entire Conservative Party, digging in his heels Thursday, even as dozens of officials quit and formerly staunch allies called for him to leave after another scandal engulfed his leadership.
A group of Johnson’s most trusted cabinet ministers visited him in his Downing Street office on Wednesday, telling him to stand down after losing the confidence of his party. But instead, Johnson chose to fight for his political career and fired one of his cabinet members, Michael Gove, British media reported.
It is rare for a prime minister to cling to office in the face of so much pressure from his cabinet colleagues. The front page of the Guardian on Thursday called him “Desperate, deluded”.
By early Thursday, four cabinet ministers had left their posts – the latest being Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who told Johnson in his resignation letter that “we … have passed the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they are now.
Around 40 junior government officials also quit amid a furor over Johnson’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against a senior official, the latest in a long line of problems that have left conservative MPs uncomfortable.
“He violated the trust that was given to him. He must admit that he no longer has the moral authority to lead. And it’s over for him,” Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told The Associated Press.
Johnson cannot continue because his government does not even have ministers to deal with the regular business of parliament after so many have resigned, Blackford added.
Johnson’s future remains extremely uncertain. So far, most cabinet officials are staying put, but a mass exodus from the cabinet could force him to force his hand if it leaves him unable to run a functioning government.
If Johnson still refuses to resign, the Conservatives could oust him, possibly triggering another no-confidence vote.
Johnson survived such a vote on June 6 — though his authority took a hit because even then 41 percent of his lawmakers voted to get rid of him. Under current party rules, a year must pass before another formal leadership challenge can take place.
But an influential group of conservative lawmakers, known as the 1922 Committee, has the power to rewrite the rules to allow another confidence vote within a shorter time frame. The commission could decide as early as Monday whether to do so.
Johnson, 58, is known for his ability to get out of tight spots. He stayed in power despite accusations that he was too close to party donors, that he shielded his supporters from allegations of harassment and corruption, and that he misled parliament and was dishonest with the public about parties in government offices that broke rules on blocking the pandemic.
But recent revelations that Johnson knew about allegations of sexual misconduct against Chris Pincher, a Conservative MP, before promoting the man to the top job have pushed the prime minister to the brink.
Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip last week after complaints he groped two men at a private club. That sparked a flurry of reports about past allegations made against Pincher — and changing explanations from the government about what Johnson knew when he tapped him for a senior job enforcing party discipline.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak resigned within minutes on Wednesday over the scandal. The two heavyweight cabinet members were responsible for tackling two of the biggest problems facing Britain – the cost of living crisis and COVID-19.
Javid captured the sentiments of many MPs when he said Johnson’s actions threatened to undermine the integrity of the Conservative Party and the British government.
“At some point we have to conclude that enough is enough,” he told fellow MPs on Wednesday. “I believe the point is now.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the resignations of about 40 junior ministers and ministerial assistants followed. A third cabinet official, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, quit late on Wednesday, saying we had “passed the point” where it was possible to “turn the ship around”, and Lewis left on Thursday morning.
Many of Johnson’s fellow conservatives were concerned that he no longer had the moral authority to govern at a time when tough decisions are needed to deal with rising food and energy prices, rising COVID-19 infections and the war in Ukraine. Others worry that he may now be a liability at the polls.
But Johnson rejected the attacks, citing the mandate voters gave him when he came to power in 2019.
“Frankly… the job of the prime minister in difficult circumstances when he’s been handed a colossal mandate is to carry on,” Johnson told detractors in parliament on Wednesday. “And that’s what I plan to do.”
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Britain’s Johnson is defiant, even though his opponents say time is up
Source link Britain’s Johnson is defiant, even though his opponents say time is up