How it happened - five hours of chaos as Boris Johnson’s government ‘collapses’

Months of rising tension within the Tory party came to a head last night as two senior ministers, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, decided they had had enough.

Boris Johnson has been plagued by ever-insentifying scandals since November when No 10 attempted to rip-up anti-sleaze rules to save veteran MP Owen Paterson.

However, questions about Mr Johnson’s premiership insentified after the Tories lost two crucial by-elections, leading to the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, and gropping allegations emerged against MP Chris Pincher.

Last night, both the chancellor and the health secretary decided that they could no longer prop up a prime minister who they felt was degrading the political office.

Their interventions - barely nine minutes apart - came after a top civil servant made a rare public intervention to question the truthfullness of the Downing Street operation.

Sir Simon McDonald, a civil servant of 40 years’ standing, had revealed that an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by Chris Pincher was carried out in 2019. The investigation upheld a complaint against the Tory MP Mr Pincher and Mr Johnson was briefed in person about “the initiation and outcome of the investigation”.

Sir McDonald pointed out that briefings by No 10 that Mr Johnson had not known about these details of Mr Pincher’s behaviour were untrue.

It was this revelation that pushed Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid over the edge.



At 6:02pm, Sajid Javid resigned as health secretary, taking a swipe at Mr Johnson’s leadership, saying that “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

In a veiled criticism, Mr Javid told Mr Johnson: “The tone you set as a leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country.”

He said that the Conservative party “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,” Mr Javid concluded.


Nine minutes later, at 6:11pm, Rishi Sunak resigned as chancellor. In his letter, Mr Sunak echoed Mr Javid’s comments, saying: “The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

He said that the government needs to be square with the public about the economic hardships that are to come. “Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true,” Mr Sunak said.

He added that in preparation for his joint speech with Mr Johnson on the economy next week “it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different”.


The next to resign was Dr Andrew Murrison MP, the PM’s trade envoy to Morocco. He directly referenced Lord McDonald’s letter questioning the honesty of the Downing Street operation.

“The last straw in the rolling chaos of the past six months has been the unavoidable implication of Lord McDonald’s letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards this morning. Others must square, as best they can, their continuing enjoyment of your patronage with their personal sense of decency, honour and integrity, but I no longer can,” Dr Murrison wrote.



At around 7:28pm, the Conservative Party’s vice chairman, Bim Afolami, resigned live on air.

Mr Afolami told Talk TV that Mr Johnson should resign from No 10 and said he “can’t serve under the prime minister” after months of turmoil. “I just don’t think the prime minister any longer has, not just my support, but he doesn’t have, I don’t think, the support of the party, or indeed the country any more,” he said.

“I think for that reason he should step down.”


Ultra-loyalist Jonathan Gullis MP was next to resign, this time from his role as parliamentary private secretary to the secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

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



Saqib Bhatti MP quit from his Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) role at 7:51pm. Like Mr Sunak and Mr Javid, Mr Bhatti referenced “standards in public life” as being of the “utmost importance”.

“The events of the past few months have undermined public trust in all of us,” he said.


Nicola Richards MP, another PPS, resigned saying that she did not want to be “skewed by poor judgement that I don’t wish to be associated with”.

“I am also loyal to the Conservative Party, of which is currently unrecognisable to me. I believe something must change,” she said.


The next resignation was particularly brutal. At 8:58pm Virginia Crosbie MP, who had been serving in the Wales Office, resigned saying that the “sheer number of allegations of impropriety and illegality” was making Mr Johnson’s premiership untenable.

In a blistering letter, Ms Crosbie said that Mr Johnson risked “irrevocably harming this government”.

She referenced the Chris Pincher scandal, saying: “The inaccurate and contradictory statements over what you knew about the former deputy chief whip’s conduct before you appointed him was the last straw.”

She continued: “I have no idea what is happening at Downing Street but it appears you are either badly advised or unable to change or reform the dysfunctional operation at the centre of the government you lead.”


Theo Clarke, the prime minister’s trade envoy to Kenya, decided she’d had enough at 10:02pm. She too referenced the Chris Pincher scandal in her resignation letter.

“I take allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously,” she said. “To learn that you chose to elevate a colleague to a position of pastoral care for MPs, whilst in full knowledge of his own wrongdoing, shows a severe lack of judgement and care for your parliamentary party.”



The resignation of solicitor general Alex Chalk brought yesterday evening’s list to 10.

He cited “the cumulative effect of the Owen Paterson debarcle, Partygate and now the handling of the former deputy chief whip’s resignation”, saying that public confidence in the government had “irretrievably broken down”.