Boris Johnson's leadership left on a knife edge following Sunak and Javid resignations

Boris Johnson’s leadership was left on a knife edge last night after the resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid.

The Prime Minister faced renewed calls from his own MPs to step aside as the Chancellor and Health Secretary quit in quick succession after he had apologised for his handling of the Chris Pincher row.

A string of more junior members of the Government payroll followed them out the door, including a number of the 2019 intake who had helped propel Mr Johnson to his majority just two and a half years ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Following a slew of recent scandals, both Mr Sunak and Mr Javid pointed to their expectations of service in public life in their letters to the Prime Minister, published within minutes of one another yesterday evening.

File photo dated 07/09/21 of (left to right) former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak,File photo dated 07/09/21 of (left to right) former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak,
File photo dated 07/09/21 of (left to right) former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak,

Richmond MP Mr Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding: “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Mr Sunak had previously been tipped as a future leader of the party, but said last night; “To leave ministerial office is a serious matter at any time. For me to step down as Chancellor while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.”

Moments earlier, Mr Javid had said ``British people [...] rightly expect integrity from their Government.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Former leadership candidate Mr Javid said: “The tone you set as a leder and the values you represent reflect on your colleagues, your party, and ultimately the country.

Conservatives at their best are seen as hard-headed decision makers, guided by strong values. We may not have always been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest.

“Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are now neither.”

The twin resignations of Mr Javid and Mr Sunak mean Mr Johnson’s position is now perilous, but Cabinet ministers including Dominic Raab, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, Therese Coffey and Ben Wallace indicated they would be staying in the Government.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, there were more departures including from previously loyal Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke on Trent North, who had been a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

“ I feel for too long we have been more focused on dealing with our reputational damage rather than delivering for the people of this country and spreading opportunity for all, which is why I came into politics.

“It is for this reason I can no longer serve as part of your government,” he said.

Bim Afolami quit as Tory vice-chair live on TV, Andrew Murrison resigned as a trade envoy to Morocco and ministerial aides Saqib Bhatti also left his role.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their resignations come less than a fortnight after party co-chair Oliver Dowden quit his position following the Conservative’s twin by-election losses in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton in Devon.

The Prime Minister’s fate may ultimately lie with backbench MPs if the Tory 1922 Committee’s rules are changed to allow another confidence vote within 12 months.

Earlier in the evening, Mr Johnson had been forced into a humiliating apology over his handling of the Chris Pincher row after it emerged he had forgotten about being told of previous allegations of “inappropriate” conduct.

Mr Pincher quit as deputy chief whip last week following claims that he groped two men at a private members’ club, but Mr Johnson was told about allegations against him as far back as 2019.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a hastily arranged interview from his office, the Prime Minister acknowledged he should have sacked Mr Pincher when he was told about the claims against him when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019, but instead Mr Johnson went on to appoint him to other government roles.

Asked if that was an error, Mr Johnson said: “I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it.

“In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.

“I apologise to everybody who has been badly affected by it. I want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this Government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power.”

MPs were told yesterday that Mr Johnson had not recalled being told about the earlier 2019 allegations.No 10 had initially claimed Mr Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations”, after Mr Pincher’s dramatic resignation.