Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid both announced their resignations in letters sent to each other on Twitter on Tuesday evening.
“The public expects the government to be run properly, efficiently and seriously,” Sunak said in his resignation letter. “I recognize that this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for, and that is why I am resigning.”
“In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it is clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally different,” Sunak added in the letter. “I am sad to leave the government, but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that this cannot continue.”
Javid wrote, “It has been a great privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience.” Mr Javid added that last month’s confidence vote in the prime minister was “a moment of humility, grip and new direction”.
“However, it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – so you have lost my confidence as well,” Javid wrote.
Corruption after corruption
The most immediate controversy facing Johnson is Downing Street’s handling of last week’s resignation of deputy chief whip Chris Fincher, who stepped down last Thursday after meeting two guests at a private party the night before.
While he did not directly admit to the allegations, Pincher said in a letter to Johnson that “I drank too much last night” and “embarrassed myself and others.”
Downing Street has struggled to explain why Fincher was in government in the first place, amid a wave of revelations about his previous conduct, denying Johnson had any specific knowledge of the allegations.
On Tuesday, a complaint against Fincher was made at the Foreign Office three years ago and Johnson was briefed on what had happened.
Minutes before Sunak and Javid announced their resignations, Johnson admitted it was a “mistake” to appoint Pincher to his government.
“I received this complaint. It was raised with me very arrogantly, but I wish we had done it, he did not continue in the government because he continued, I’m afraid, to behave, as far as we can see — according to the allegations we have — very, very bad,” he said. Johnson said in a broadcast interview.
UK opposition leader Keir Starmer said it was “clear” the government was “collapsing”.
“Tory cabinet ministers know very well who this Prime Minister is. They have cheered him on throughout this sorry saga. They supported him when he broke the law. They supported him when he repeatedly lied. They supported him when he mocked the sacrifices of the British people,” the two resigned. The Labor leader said in the statement.
Johnson has faced a barrage of criticism over his behavior and the conduct of his government for months, including illegal, lockdown-breaking parties in his Downing Street offices and fines for him and others.
Despite Johnson’s landslide 80-seat victory two-and-a-half years ago, he faced several scandals that affected his standing in the election. These include allegations that he inappropriately used donor money to renovate his Downing Street home and flogging MPs to protect a colleague who broke lobbying rules.
Last month, he survived a confidence vote, but the final number of his legislators who rebelled against him was higher than his supporters expected: 41% of his own parliamentary party refused to support him.
According to an Ipsos UK survey conducted between June 22-29, Johnson’s Conservative Party is at its lowest level recorded for being deemed “fit to govern” in more than a decade. Just 21% of respondents said it was acceptable to govern — the lowest number for the Conservatives or Labor since Ipsos began tracking the measure in 2011.
The chaos at Westminster had ripple effects on financial markets, sending the British pound to its lowest level against the dollar in more than two years.
Downing Street has not hesitated to fill vacant roles. Nadim Zahavi, previously secretary of state for education, was appointed chancellor, while Downing Street chief Steve Barclay became the new health secretary on Tuesday evening.
Zahavi was replaced by Michael Donnellan as Education Secretary.
Javid and Sunak were not the only ones to go on Tuesday. Shortly after both resigned their jobs, Conservative Party Deputy Leader Bim Afolami announced his resignation live on television. During an interview with The News Desk’s Tom Newton Dunn, Afolami said: “I don’t think the prime minister has my support anymore… the party or indeed the country.”
Afolami called on Johnson to step down and later said he would tender his own resignation as well. “I think you should resign because I cannot serve under the Prime Minister.”
Alex Sack, who served as UK solicitor general and minister in the attorney general’s office, resigned on Tuesday, saying in his resignation letter that it was “time for new leadership”.
“Being in government means agreeing to advocate for difficult or unpopular policy positions that serve the broader national interest, but that doesn’t extend to protecting the insecure,” Sack said.
Andrew Murison, the prime minister’s trade envoy to Morocco, also resigned, blasting the “unruly chaos of the last six months” and saying Boris Johnson’s “position cannot be restored”.
At least half a dozen other junior-ranking government officials also announced their resignations later on Tuesday.
CNN’s Luke McGee, Sarah Dean, Luke Henderson, Lauren Kent, Dan Wright, Jorge Engels and Maija Ehlinger contributed reporting.