Boris Johnson announced his resignation as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom as if he were undefeated on Thursday afternoon. He regretted that he had not been able to convince his colleagues that it was “bizarre” to go now, he said, but was not entirely discouraged. He will continue until a new head of government is found. “Booooooo,” said the crowd. “I know many of you are relieved that I’m leaving,” Johnson said. “And maybe a few of them will be disappointed, too.”
Actually disappointed. “Disappointed and desperate.” Such was the mood with the British Conservative Party, Tory prominent Steve Baker told the BBC on Thursday morning outside 10 Downing Street, with the press waiting hours for Johnson to come out to announce his departure.
I know many of you are relieved that I’m leaving. And maybe a few will be disappointed too
Boris Johnson after announcing its termination
But, Baker admitted when asked that the Conservative leadership had also become “a circus”. More than 50 government officials had resigned in less than 48 hours due to dissatisfaction with the prime minister’s leadership.
And in the space of three days, an entire parade of party members had marched through the public arena to signal Johnson – either with a subtle push or a steady push – to make room.
The political outcry leading to Johnson’s resignation started on Tuesday night at 18.02 (UK time) with a tweet announcing his resignation by Health Minister Sajid Javid, followed nine minutes later by a similar tweet from his finance colleague Rishi Sunak.
Their resignation letters were prompted by Johnson’s admission that he had known about the allegations of abuse against party colleague Chris Pincher before giving him an important job – which the prime minister had previously denied.
But Javid and Sunak’s letters were about more than Pincher’s spin. Javid wrote in so many words that Johnson is dishonest and incompetent. In fact, Sunak wrote that he found out that the Prime Minister was not honest, including in his communication to the citizens about the economic situation of the country.
The end of Johnson had already begun earlier with knowledge of now. Maybe on Partygate, the scandal about the parties in the official residence during coronalockdowns and Johnson’s spin on it. Or more than a year and a half ago in Johnson’s spin around MP Owen Paterson, who had been accused of corruption. Pincher was the legendary straw.
Also read: Six scandals that weakened Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s position
And the resignation of two key ministers marked the beginning of the terminal phase that Johnson had been in since Tuesday night. But it took a while to get through to everyone. Some lesser-known party members also withdrew Tuesday night, but party leaders kept quiet, or rallied wholeheartedly behind the prime minister. He appointed two deputies that evening, in an escape forward. The respected Minister of Education, Nadhim Zahawi, was promoted to finance.
On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson appeared for the first time after the resignation of the ministers, at the weekly question time in the House of Commons. Flanked by an amused nod by Zahawi, Johnson spoke in his trademark battle tone about his daily work until he himself burst out laughing – seemingly aware of the absurdity of the situation. Fifteen government officials had already resigned before Question Time, and two more had passed within that hour. As Johnson left the House of Commons afterwards, a Member of Parliament shouted teasingly, “Bye Boris!” And then it sounded from many throats: “Bye! Goodbye!”
On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson’s agenda also included a meeting with the chairmen of all committees in the House of Commons. They fired critical questions at the Prime Minister for two hours on the most diverse issues he could barely parry. He pulled to the end.
Afterwards, a full official residence awaited him. There were confidants gathered to speak to Johnson behind the scenes. There were words of unwavering support, from Minister Nadine Dorries (Culture), for example. But a fierce delegation of ministers had also come to Downing Street to talk to Johnson about an honorable retreat.
Meanwhile, it was already leaked that Minister Michael Gove (housing), one of Johnson’s most important allies, had already visited the Prime Minister the same morning to ask him to resign. When it came out, analysts abandoned Johnson. Johnson would never get over Gove’s thump. Johnson would resign Wednesday night, they predicted.
Therefore, there was great disbelief in the Westminster when the message came from Downing Street in the evening that Johnson was still opposed to his departure. Gove got a call from Johnson that he had been fired.
Thursday: the death blow
The death blow did not come until Thursday morning, according to the new finance minister Nadhim Zahawi, who sat on Johnson’s side in parliament the day before. On Twitter at 08:43, everyone read: “Prime Minister, the situation is unsustainable and will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and above all for the country. You must now do the right thing and go. ”
Not long after, the BBC reported that Johnson gave up. But not quite. In a final convulsion, before officially announcing his resignation, he appointed six more ministers, with whom he plans to continue in office until a new leader is found. To the great dismay of many tories, who say Johnson must leave immediately.
The leadership battle has already begun. Steve Baker, who said he was so “disappointed”, had already before Johnson announced his resignation said he would like to run for new prime minister. Other conservatives with that ambition would – not entirely by chance – be politicians who had made themselves heard in recent days. Sajid Javid is mentioned, as are Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and Nadhim Zahawi. Anyone who wants a political relaunch should get their hands on Boris Johnson as soon as possible.
Brexiteer Baker, who had previously helped overthrow former Prime Minister Theresa May and publicly said in April that Johnson should resign, told the BBC on Thursday: “We must now put on a smile and put our breasts forward.”