Defiant Boris Johnson rejects calls for resignation and vows to ‘carry on’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson fought to remain in office on Wednesday and rejected calls for his resignation after two senior ministers and a crowd of junior officials said they could no longer serve under his scandal-plagued leadership.
Johnson rejected calls to resign during a stormy session of the House of Commons amid an uproar over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official. Later in the day, a delegation of some of his most trusted allies in Cabinet visited the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street to urge him to leave, but he remained unmoved, the British Press Association reported.
The prime minister dismissed suggestions he was seeking a “dignified exit” and instead opted to fight for his political career, citing “hugely important issues facing the country,” according to the news outlet. It quoted a source close to Johnson as saying he had told colleagues there would be “chaos” if he quit.
The 58-year-old leader, who pulled Britain out of the European Union and guided Britain through the COVID-19 outbreak, is known for his ability to wriggle out of sticky situations and has managed, despite accusations he is too partisan the power to remain a donor, that he protected supporters from allegations of bullying and corruption, and that he misled Parliament about government parties breaching the pandemic’s lockdown rules.
He persevered even when 41% of Conservative lawmakers voted to oust him in a vote of no confidence Last month.
But recent revelations that Johnson knew of sexual misconduct allegations against a lawmaker before promoting the man to a senior position brought him to the brink of collapse.
Many of his conservatives were concerned that Johnson no longer had the moral authority to govern at a time when tough decisions will be needed to address soaring food and energy prices, rising COVID-19 infections and the war in Ukraine . Others fear that he could now become a burden at the ballot box.
On Wednesday, opposition Labor Party members showered Johnson with “Go! Go!” during the weekly ritual of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. Go!” shouts.
Labor Party leader Keir Starmer sneered at the resignations surrounding Johnson: “Isn’t it the first recorded case of the sinking ship fleeing the rat?”
Worse still, members of Johnson’s own Conservative Party – tired of the many scandals he has faced – also challenged their leader, with one asking if there was anything that could prompt him to resign.
“Honestly… it’s the Prime Minister’s job, in difficult circumstances, when he’s been given a colossal mandate, to carry on,” Johnson replied with the din he’s used to fend off critics during his nearly three-year tenure. And I will do that.”
Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who helped spark the current crisis when he resigned on Tuesday night, hit the mood of many lawmakers when he said Johnson’s actions threatened to undermine the integrity of the Conservative Party and the UK government.
“At some point we have to come to the conclusion that enough is enough,” he told MPs. “I think that point is now.”
Under party rules, no further no-confidence vote can be held for another 11 months, but party members can change this rule.
Months of dissatisfaction with Johnson’s judgment and ethics erupted when Javid and chief financial officer Rishi Sunak resigned within minutes on Tuesday night. The two Cabinet heavyweights were responsible for tackling two of the biggest issues facing Britain: the cost of living crisis and COVID-19.
In a scathing letter, Sunak said: “The public has a right to expect the government to be properly, competently and honestly run. … I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that’s why I’m resigning.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 30 ministerial directors and ministerial assistants resigned.
When Johnson intervened, critics accused him of not accepting the inevitable and acting more like a president than a prime minister, citing his “mandate”. In Britain, voters elect a party to govern, not the Prime Minister directly.
Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said late Tuesday that Johnson’s time was finally up.
“It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin: he was poisoned, he was stabbed, he was shot, his body was thrown into a freezing river and he’s still alive,” Mitchell told the BBC. “But this is an abnormal Prime Minister, a brilliantly charismatic, very funny, very amusing, big, big character. But I’m afraid he doesn’t have the character or temperament to be our prime minister.”
The final straw for Sunak and Javid was the Prime Minister’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher.
Last week, Pincher resigned as Deputy Chief Whip after he complained of groping two men at a private club. That sparked a flurry of reports of previous allegations against Pincher – and alternating government statements about what Johnson knew when he used the man for a senior job enforcing party discipline.
It was all too much for ministers, who were sent out to defend the government’s position in radio and television interviews, only to find that history had changed.
Paul Drechsler, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in the UK, said a change at the top is needed if the government is to deal with a deepening economic crisis.
“I would say the most important thing is to feed hungry people,” he told the BBC. “The poorest in our society will starve to death in the second half of this year. That needs to be addressed.”