Resignations continue as Boris Johnson told he is ‘past the point of no return’

·5-min read
Resignations continue as Boris Johnson told he is ‘past the point of no return’

Boris Johnson was hit with a string of resignations before 7.30am on Thursday, with Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis being the first to quit.

He was swiftly followed by Treasury minister Helen Whately, Security minister Damian Hinds, Science minister George Freeman and Pensions Minister Guy Opperman.

In a letter of resignation posted on Twitter at 6.47am, Mr Lewis said that he “cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now”.

He told Mr Johnson: “I have given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt. I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately. We are, however, now past the point of no return.”

Mr Freeman tweeted: “The chaos in No10, the breakdown of Cabinet collective responsibility, the abandonment of the Ministerial code, the defence of impropriety & defiance of Parliament are all insults to the Conservatism I believe in and stand for.”

He added that it “has been a great honour to serve my country, crown and the Conservative party in Government”.

It comes after Mr Johnson dramatically sacked Michael Gove as he battled to stay in No10 in the face of a major revolt by Tory MPs.

The Prime Minister axed the Levelling-Up Secretary as several Cabinet ministers urged him to stand down and choose a “more dignified exit” than being forced out by a second confidence vote.

Mr Gove famously torpedoed Mr Johnson’s leadership bid in 2016 by withdrawing support for him at the eleventh hour, and himself throwing his hat into the leadership race.

Danny Kruger, Private Parliamentary Secretary for Mr Gove’s department, resigned out of solidarity with Mr Gove.

He said in his resignation tweet: “Very sorry indeed to hear Michael Gove has been fired by the PM. As I told No 10 earlier today it should be the PM leaving office.”

Minutes later Simon Hart became the third minister to resign from Boris Johnson’s Government, stepping down from his position as Welsh Secretary.

He wrote in his resignation letter: “I have never been a massive fan of Ministerial resignations being the best means of forcing change.

“Colleagues have done their upmost in private and public to help you turn the ship around, but it is with sadness that I feel we have passed the point where this is possible”.

Edward Argar, considered a Boris super-loyalist, joined Mr Hart soon after resigning from his post as minister of state for health.

Amid the chaos at the heart of Government on Wednesday night, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted: “The PM’s priority is to stabilise the government, set a clear direction for the country and continue to deliver on the promises he made and the British public voted for.”

Wednesday evening Mr Johnson defiantly rejected calls from Cabinet colleagues to choose a “more dignified exit” from No10 after a major revolt by Tory MPs.

A delegation of Cabinet ministers went to Downing Street to encourage the Prime Minister to quit rather than be forced out in a second confidence vote.

But in a day of extraordinary drama, Mr Johnson rejected their pleas on Wednesday night and vowed to carry on governing.

However, more than 30 ministers, parliamentary aides and Government envoys quit in just 24 hours after the Prime Minister’s integrity came under fresh scrutiny in his handling of the scandal over ex-deputy chief whip Chris Pincher accused of “groping” two men in a private members’ club.

As Mr Johnson’s premiership was rocked by a second storm so soon after the partygate scandal, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Mr Johnson on Wednesday evening that he stands “little chance of commanding a majority of the parliamentary party” in a second showdown ballot.

He advised the PM that “a more dignified exit would be for him to set his own timetable for an early but orderly departure”.

One of Mr Johnson’s closest allies, Home Secretary Priti Patel, also spoke to him on Wednesday evening and conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party which has moved strongly against him in the last 24 hours.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng were said to be among Cabinet ministers voicing that Mr Johnson should stand down.

But Culture Secretary Dorries confirmed that she was continuing to support the PM, as she arrived at No10, as did Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mr Johnson, himself, told his colleagues there would be “chaos” if he quit and the party would almost certainly lose the next election, according to a source close to the PM.

He added that Mr Johnson was “continuing to focus on delivering for the public” and addressing the “hugely important issues facing the country”.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab also remained loyal to Mr Johnson and defended him at a session of the backbench 1922 Committee.

However, Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful Conservative 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, was thought to have visited Downing Street to communicate the views of the party, following the meeting in Parliament dominated by MPs calling for Mr Johnson to go.

If Mr Johnson refuses to go then his fate will ultimately lie with Tory MPs, if the 1922 Committee’s rules are changed to allow another confidence vote within 12 months, possibly within weeks or even days.

The committee’s executive did not make any immediate changes to the rules on Wednesday, but has scheduled elections for its executive committee to take place on Monday, before a result later that evening.

The new executive could decide to alter the rules, with Mr Johnson then facing a fresh battle to remain in office.