“Bye Boris”? Cabinet members have left British leader Boris Johnson after changing the story about the official accused of sexual misconduct

London – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggled for political survival on Wednesday after a string of high-profile resignations shook the foundations of his government and stoked doubts over his ability to persist as leader of his party and the country.

The resignations came in response to the latest in a long line of scandals involving Johnson, in this case Chris Pincher, the former government minister. Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of groping two men, was appointed Deputy Chief Whip by Johnson, who initially claimed he was unaware of previous, specific allegations of misconduct against Pincher. Johnson’s office changed the official account of what the prime minister knew twice in the last week as new information came to light.

Sinking ship?

On Tuesday, two of Johnson’s key cabinet ministers, Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, resigned and posted scathing letters online.

“The public has a right to expect government to be properly, competently and honestly run… I believe these standards are worth fighting for, and that’s why I’m resigning,” Sunak wrote. “In preparation for our planned joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”

“The tone you set as a leader and the values ​​you hold are a reflection of your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country,” said former health minister Sajid Javid. “I have served you faithfully as a friend, but we all serve the country first. When faced with a choice between these allegiances, there can only be one answer.”

Johnson quickly replaced ministers, but a string of other resignations – at least 36 in total, according to the BBC – showed the threat to his government was not over.

Crisis upon crisis

In recent months, just under Johnson survived a vote of no confidence from his party and was punished by the police for breaching COVID-19 restrictions during the UK pandemic lockdown while attending parties at his official residence.

But for those who have recently resigned, the Pincher scandal and the attendant questions about Johnson’s credibility as leader seemed to be the last straw.

Media reports contradicted the story originally provided by Johnson’s office that he was unaware of any specific allegations against Pincher. The prime minister then changed stance, saying he was aware of some allegations but they had not amounted to formal complaints.

It followed a former senior official who publicly claimed Johnson was “personally informed” of an earlier formal complaint against Pincher, prompting allegations that Johnson lied. Johnson responded that he did not remember that particular briefing and regretted not acting on the information.

On Wednesday, during a weekly session of parliament, Johnson was repeatedly criticized and urged to resign by a number of ministers from opposition parties. He responded by saying that he believes the government should not walk away when times are tough.

“Walking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months and Mr Speaker, I will never risk losing my integrity,” said Javid, the former health secretary, in his resignation statement he delivered at the gathering. Javid said he agreed with the prime minister for the last time when in doubt.

“The problem starts at the top and I don’t think that’s going to change,” Javid said.

As the meeting drew to a close, lawmakers could be heard shouting, “Bye, Boris!”