U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday and will step down as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister following multiple scandals and significant loss of support from members of his party. Johnson indicated that he would remain as prime minister until the Tories can elect a new leader.
In a short address delivered from the prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson said it was “clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader … and therefore a new prime minister.”
He thanked voters for handing Conservatives “the biggest Conservative majority since 1987” in the landslide election of 2019 and said he was grateful for the accomplishments of his government, which include Brexit, managing the COVID-19 pandemic, and “standing up to Putin” after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson said he would have preferred to remain prime minister, but that “the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.”
He was referring to the fact that dozens of Conservative ministers had resigned from his government this week, following revelations that Johnson had named Conservative MP Chris Pincher to his government even though he was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Pincher resigned from Parliament last week amid new allegations that he sexually assaulted two men at a club.
Conservative lawmakers were already on the verge of breaking from Johnson after the so-called “Partygate” scandal — allegations that Johnson had hosted parties and other intimate gatherings at his residence during the pandemic in violation of the U.K.’s lockdown rules. Last month, Johnson faced a vote of no confidence in Parliament, but survived by winning simple majority support from Conservative lawmakers.
However, the new Pincher scandal was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Beginning with Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s resignations Wednesday morning, at least 59 of Johnson’s ministers exited his government, leaving him scrambling to find enough new ministers to continue governing.
When it became clear he could not fill his government, Johnson resigned.
“In the last few days I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much, and when we have such a vast mandate, and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls even in midterm after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging,” Johnson said.
“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and, of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself,” he continued.
Adding that no politician is indispensable, Johnson said, “our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader,” to whom he will pledge his full support.
Full speech: Boris Johnson resigns as Prime Minister