UK government resigns from top 50 as Prime Minister Boris Johnson teeters on the brink

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a press conference during a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, June 30, 2022.

yves herman | Reuters

LONDON — More than 50 MPs have resigned from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government since Tuesday as the unprecedented uprising against the leader within his own party continues.

After a torrent of resignations on Wednesday, more ministers resigned early Thursday morning, including Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, Treasury Minister Helen Whately and Security Minister Damian Hinds.

A Sky News tally puts the total number of departures at 57 at 9.10am London time.

The pound hit a one-day high after several news outlets reported mid-morning on Thursday that Johnson was set to step down. CNBC and NBC News have not been able to independently verify this information.

The 50th resignation came from George Freeman, an assistant minister for science, research and innovation, at around 7.20am London time. Pensions Minister Guy Opperman resigned soon after.

In a scathing resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Freeman said that “the culmination of your lack of transparency and candor with Parliament (and your willingness to ask your ministers to mislead Parliament), your removal of key pillars of the ministerial code, your handling of your appointment of a Deputy Chief Whip who you knew had a history of sexual abuse allegations is too much.”

“It seriously damages public trust and respect for government, democracy and the law, as well as the long tradition of this great Party as a party of standards, character, conduct, justice. integrity and duty to office and country before partisan interest,” he added.

Johnson met Wednesday night with the remaining members of his cabinet, many of whom have reportedly urged him to resign. Downing Street declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. The Prime Minister has so far refused calls for the resignation, promising to “fight”.

New appointees activate PM

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, appointed on Tuesday following the resignation of Rishi Sunak, also publicly called on the prime minister to step down on Thursday morning, revealing that he and other ministers had told Johnson he should “leave with dignity “.

“I am heartbroken that he did not listen and is now undermining the incredible achievements of this government at this late hour,” Zahawi said in a public letter Thursday morning.

“But the country deserves a government that is not only stable, but acts with integrity. Prime Minister, you know in your heart what is the right thing to do, and go now.”

New education secretary Michelle Donelan, who was appointed on Tuesday to replace promoted Zahawi, then became the 54th resignation.

She told Johnson in a letter: ‘I see no way you can continue in office, but without a formal mechanism to step down, it seems the only way this is possible is for those of us who remain. the cabinet to force your hand.”

Johnson has been embroiled in a series of scandals and allegations of public deception, but the final straw for many MPs involves Tory lawmaker Chris Pincher. The former deputy chief whip was suspended last week amid accusations he groped two men while intoxicated at a private club.

Johnson apologized on Tuesday for appointing Pincher’s deputy chief whip – a senior party role – when he was aware of an investigation into his behavior in 2019.

Revelations that Johnson was aware of misconduct allegations against Pincher prior to his appointment and repeated line changes from Number 10 prompted the resignations on Tuesday night of two senior officials, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the Home Secretary. Health Sajid Javid.

In a resignation speech to parliament on Wednesday, Javid, also a former chancellor, said “walking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months”.

Johnson narrowly survived a vote of confidence from Tory MPs last month, but many who previously backed his leadership have now dropped their support.

Matt Beech, director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Hull, told CNBC on Thursday that the challenge Johnson faces this time around is different because of “the huge proportion of the government payroll vote who resigned, characterizing the situation as “quite seismic”.

This is a developing story and will be updated shortly.

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