Two of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s most senior cabinet advisors have quit following accusations of the government lying about the PM’s knowledge of sexual improprieties on the part of former Tory MP Christopher Pincher, whom Johnson promoted to deputy chief whip despite being aware of such allegations.
UPDATE 19:50 — Conservative MP and vice-chairman of the Tory Party Bim Afolami announced during a live interview with TalkTV that he would also be resigning from his position, adding that after losing the support of Javid and Sunak, the “time has come for [Johnson] to stand down.”
UPDATE 20:00 — The government’s trade envoy to Morrocco and longtime supporter of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Conservative MP Andrew Murrison has also announced his resignation, telling Nigel Farage on GB News that the prime minister’s position is “irrecoverable” and therefore he “strongly urged” Johnson to “go now”.
UPDATE 20:40 — The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer has called for a general election in the wake of the resignations of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, saying: “We need a fresh start for Britain. We need a change of government.”
UPDATE 20:50 — Steve Barclay, who has served as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Chief of Staff and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2022, has reportedly been tapped to replace Sajid Javid as the next Health Secretary.
UPDATE 21:45 — Education Secretary Nadhim Zawahi has been chosen by Prime Minister Boris Jonson to replace Rishi Sunak as the government’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, the top position in the government for matters concerning the economy. Michelle Donelan will reportedly now serve as Education Secretary. Prior to his election as a Tory MP, Zawahi, an immigrant from Iraq, was one of the founders of the YouGov polling firm. The move to quickly replace both Javid and Sunak may signal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to battle it out and try to remain in power.
Potentially spelling the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak have both submitted letters of resignation following the growing scandal involving former deputy chief whip Christopher Pincher — who has been accused of sexually inappropriate behaviour against two men — and Johnson’s decision to promote the MP despite having knowledge of similar accusations in 2019.
Mr Javid, who previously stood against Boris Johnson in the Conservative Party leadership contest in 2019 following the downfall of former PM Theresa May, said that he had lost confidence in Mr Johnson as the head of the government.
“It was a privilege to have been asked to come back into government to serve as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care at such a critical time for our country,” Mr Javid wrote.
“We [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.
“The vote of confidence last month showed that a large number of our colleagues agree.
“I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership and you have therefore lost my confidence too.”
I have spoken to the Prime Minister to tender my resignation as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience. pic.twitter.com/d5RBFGPqXp
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) July 5, 2022
Quickly following Javid’s announcement, Rishi Sunak, who succeeded Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer, released a resignation letter of his own.
The former hedge fund banker said in his letter that “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.
“I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning”.
“I publicly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one.
“In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”
“I am sad to be leaving government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”
The resignations come after Downing Street admitted that the Prime Minister had been briefed on sexually inappropriate behaviour by Christopher Pincher MP, despite earlier denials from the government. Number 10 claimed that Mr Johnson had forgotten about the allegations against Mr Pincher.
The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.
I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.
My letter to the Prime Minister below. pic.twitter.com/vZ1APB1ik1
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 5, 2022
On Tuesday afternoon, Mr Johnson apologised for elevating Pincher to the role of deputy chief whip, saying: “In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do and I apologise to everyone who has been badly affected by it.”
“I just want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or abuses their position of power,” he added.
While Mr Johnson survived a vote of confidence from within his own party last month, which under the rules of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs would prevent another vote on his leadership for one year, some MPs have called for the rules to be changed to allow another attempt to oust the PM.
It is possible, however, with the resignations of both Javid and Sunak that the Prime Minister will be forced to resign from his position without such a battle within the Commons.
Commenting on the resignations of the two senior cabinet members, Nigel Farage said: At last, we have someone in the cabinet who believes in decency.
The Brexit leader, who earlier in the day called on the Conservative Party to ditch Johnson to save their political future, reiterated his point that “the whole government, under this leader, is built on lies.
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka