Boris Johnson finally announced he is stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party after the resignation of more than 50 government ministers, including a Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, whose successor Nadhim Zahawi, then called for his boss to “do the right thing and go.” He will, however, carry on as prime minister until autumn and he has begun appointing new ministers to replace the ones that quit in protest at his leadership.
Johnson, standing at a podium in Downing Street with his wife Carrie and his baby daughter Romy behind him, said, “It’s clearly the will of the Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of the party and a new prime minister.”
He thanked those who voted for the Tories in December 2019 and he said the reason he had held on for so long to the job was because of the mandate he received in that election.
Johnson said it was “painful” to give up the job of prime minister but he said nobody was “indispensible.”
On Wednesday Johnson, 58, had vowed to soldier on, after admitting it was a “mistake” to keep Chris Pincher on as a government whip despite sexual misconduct allegations against him.
After receiving a hostile grilling at Prime Minister’s Question Time, and then before the House of Commons Liaison Committee, he was lobbied by Michael Gove and several other Cabinet ministers who urged him to resign.
But Johnson then sacked Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up and appeared determined to carry on, having told MPs earlier he had a “mandate” from the general election victory of December 2019 and would continue to deliver on the Conservative Party’s manifesto promises.
On Thursday morning Nadhim Zahawi, who had been appointed chancellor less than 48 hours before following Sunak’s resignation, turned on Johnson, writing on Twitter: “This is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now.”
Then, at lunchtime on Thursday, Johnson finally confirmed he would be resigning, triggering a leadership contest in the Conservative Party.