London — After defiant, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that he was stepping down as leader of his party, eventually removing him from the country’s top post. Addressing the nation outside his office at 10 Downing Street, Johnson thanked Brits for the “immense privilege” they had bestowed on him, but said he agreed it was time for his Conservative Party to find a new leader to have.
“It is now clearly the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said. “I appointed a cabinet today to serve as long as I wish until a new leader is in place.”
The BBC reported earlier on Thursday that Johnson plans to continue as prime minister until the autumn. This plan was quickly questioned by other conservatives.
BBC News quoted Conservative lawmaker and former national business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as saying the country, not just the party, needs a new leader “as soon as possible”, and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said in a tweet that it “No way” he can stay until October. It’s utter nonsense to think he can.”
Former Prime Minister John Major wrote to a group of Conservative MPs deciding the timeline for electing a new party leader to say Johnson cannot remain in office until the autumn.
“For the general good of the country Mr Johnson should not remain at Downing Street any longer than necessary – unless he can win the confidence of the House of Commons,” Major wrote.
Opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer said Johnson “must go. He can’t hold on” as interim prime minister. Should Johnson not resign as Prime Minister, Starmer warned: “Labour will bring a vote of no confidence in the national interest. Because things can’t go on like this.”
Johnson’s announcement came after a torrent ofby members of his government earlier this week and is calling for his resignation from members of his party.
In his statement, Johnson thanked voters for what he called an “incredible mandate,” saying: “The reason I’ve fought so hard over the past few days to continue to personally fulfill this mandate wasn’t just because I wanted to do it, but I felt it my duty, duty, obligation to you to continue to do what we promised.”
He said Britain’s “brilliant and Darwinian” system would produce a new leader who was just as committed as he was, but “as we saw at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves. And my friends, nobody is remotely indispensable in politics.”
Johnson said he would support whoever is elected the new leader of the Conservative Party and, over booing from a crowd gathered on a nearby street, told the British public directly that he knew “there were a lot of people there will be those who are relieved and perhaps not a few who will also be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to be leaving the best job in the world. But those are the breaks.”
As early Thursday morning reports emerged of Johnson’s decision to step down, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told the BBC he was glad Johnson “recognized the damage being done not only to the party brand but also to our international stocks. ‘ and decided to resign.
A long string of scandals has engulfed Johnson, most recently former Government Secretary Chris Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of groping two men. Pincher was appointed Deputy Chief Whip by Johnson, and the Prime Minister initially claimed he was unaware of the misconduct allegations 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.
Just last month, Johnson just underfrom his own party. In April he was fined by police for breaching COVID-19 restrictions during the UK pandemic lockdown when he .
On Wednesday, even after dozens of members of his government resigned, Johnson appeared to remain defiant.
“Honestly … it is the prime minister’s job to carry on in difficult circumstances, when he has been given a colossal mandate,” he told the House of Commons in Britain on Wednesday afternoon. “I will do that.”
During this meeting, Johnson was repeatedly criticized by a number of ministers from the opposition parties and asked to resign. As the meeting drew to a close, lawmakers could be heard shouting, “Bye, Boris!”
For the members of the government who resigned on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Pincher scandal seemed to have been the last straw.
“Walking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months, and Mr Speaker, I will never risk losing my integrity,” Sajid Javid, the former health minister, said in his resignation statement during a parliamentary session on Wednesday.
Javid said he agreed with the prime minister for the last time when in doubt.
Johnson’s nearly 3-year tenure as Prime Minister is likely to be remembered most for having led Britain’s tenurea cause he had championed and championed for the past few months in his previous job as Mayor of London.
Immediately after the 2016 referendum in which British voters narrowly approved leaving the EU, Johnson was appointed British Foreign Secretary by then Prime Minister Theresa May.
However, he resigned from that post in 2018 because May was reportedly unable to negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU.
About a year later, May herself was forced to resign after members of her own Conservative Party rejected several of her proposed Brexit deals. Johnson. It was only in December 2019 that Johnson’s exit agreement from the EU was finally approved by the British Parliament and Great Britain the European Union the following month.