Five ministers quit en masse as Boris Johnson's leadership hangs in the balance

Five ministers have resigned en masse in a letter to the Prime Minister and asked him to “step aside” for “the good of the party and the country”  following a slew of scandals.

Kemi Badenoch, Alex Burghard, Julia Lopez, Neil O’Brien and Lee Rowley quit together this afternoon and told Boris Johnson he had “the most difficult task in a generation”.

“We hugely admire your fortitude, stamina and enduring optimism,” they said.

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“You can be rightly proud of the significant decisions which you have, by common acclamation, got right.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London.Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London.

“However, it has become increasingly clear that the Government cannot function given the issues that have come to light and the way in which they have been handled. In good faith, we must ask that, for the good of the Party and the country, you step aside.”

Mr O’Brien was one of the ministers responsible for Mr Johnson’s flagship levelling up policy, a promise that featured heavily in the 2019 election campaign which won him swathes of seats across the north of England and Midlands.

They are the latest in an increasingly long line of resignations in the last 24 hours, triggered by Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid stepping aside last night.

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Children's Minister Will Quince and Schools Minister Robin Walker both quit on Wednesday morning, and were followed shortly after by Treasury minister John Glen.

Victoria Atkins then quit as a Justice minister, Yorkshire MP Stuart Andrew did the same and left his Housing minister position, and a cohort of more junior Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) have also handed letters to the Prime Minister.

Mr Quince said on Wednesday morning that he "had no choice but to tender my resignation" after repeating inaccurate information given to him by Downing Street about the issue to the media on Monday.

Mr Walker's letter pointed to the departures of his colleagues Mr Javid and Mr Sunak, as he said that the loss of "two of our brightest talents from the top team" signals a "worrying narrowing of the broad church that I believe any Conservative government should seek to achieve."

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He went on: "I have publicly supported you as leader of our party and Prime Minister but I am afraid I feel I can do so no longer."

Meanwhile, Mr Glen said that "the country deserves better" and told Mr Johnson that "recent events concerning the handling of the appointment of the former Deputy Chief Whip, and the poor judgement you have shown, have made it impossible for me to square continued service with me conscience."

Ms Atkins said that "I can no longer pirouette around our fractured values".

"We can and must be better than this".

The resignations of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid last night signalled a steady stream of departures from the Conservative top team

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Bim Afolami quit as Tory vice-chair live on TV, Theo Clarke and Andrew Murrison resigned as trade envoys and ministerial aides Jonathan Gullis, Saqib Bhatti, Nicola Richards and Virginia Crosbie left their roles.

Solicitor General Alex Chalk also quit on Tuesday night.

The controversy stemming from the resignation of former Deputy Chief Whip Pincher had engulfed Downing Street in recent days, as the Prime Minister faced questions about how much he knew of the allegations and rumours surrounding the Tory MP before he was appointed as deputy chief whip.

Mr Pincher quit last week following claims that he groped two men at the upmarket Carlton Club, but Mr Johnson knew about allegations against him as far back as 2019.

It emerged on Tuesday that Mr Johnson had been aware Mr Pincher had been found to have behaved inappropriately when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019 after days of Downing Street claiming that the Prime Minister had not known about specific concerns.

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MPs were told that Mr Johnson had not recalled being told about the earlier 2019 allegations.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, the then foreign secretary, gave Mr Pincher a dressing down over his “inappropriate” conduct “in no uncertain terms” at the time and the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team was also involved.

No 10 had initially claimed Mr Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations”, after Mr Pincher’s dramatic resignation.

By Monday that line had evolved to acknowledge the Prime Minister was aware of “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”.

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This latest row followed closely on a number of other setbacks for the Prime Minister.

His authority had already been damaged by a confidence vote which saw 41 per cent of his own MPs withdraw their support.

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