Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid both announced they would quit within minutes in letters on Twitter on Tuesday night.
“The public rightly expects the government to be properly, competently and reputably run,” Sunak said in his resignation letter. “I realize this could be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that’s why I’m resigning.”
“In preparation for our planned joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different,” Sunak added in the letter. “I am sad to be leaving the government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot go on like this.”
Javid wrote, “It has been a tremendous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience.” Javid added that last month’s vote of confidence in the prime minister was “a moment of humility, of… Griffs and the reorientation was”.
“I regret to say that I realize this situation will not change under your leadership – and you have lost my confidence as a result,” Javid wrote.
Scandal after scandal
The most immediate controversy Johnson faces is Downing Street’s handling of the resignation of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who resigned from his post last Thursday amid allegations that he groped two guests at a private dinner the night before .
Though he didn’t directly admit to the allegations, Pincher said in a letter to Johnson that “I drank way too much last night” and “embarrassed myself and other people.”
Downing Street has struggled to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place amid a spate of revelations about his past alleged conduct, and denied Johnson knew anything specific about the allegations.
On Tuesday it emerged that a complaint against Pincher had been filed with the Foreign Office around three years ago and that Johnson had been informed of what was happening.
Minutes before Sunak and Javid announced their resignations, Johnson acknowledged that appointing Pincher to his government was “a mistake”.
“I received this complaint. It was something that was only raised very superficially with me, but I wish we had acted on it and he hadn’t continued to govern because then I’m afraid he behaved as far as we can see – after the allegations that we have – very, very badly,” Johnson said in a radio interview.
British opposition leader Keir Starmer said it was “clear” the government was “collapsing”.
“The Tory Cabinet ministers have known who this Prime Minister is all along. They were his cheerleaders throughout this sad saga. You supported him when he broke the law. They supported him when he repeatedly lied. They supported him when he poked fun at the sacrifices made by the British people,” the Labor Party leader said in a statement released after the two resignations.
For months, Johnson has faced a barrage of criticism of his conduct and that of his government, including illegal lockdown-breaking parties at his Downing Street offices, for which he and others have been fined.
Johnson has faced numerous other scandals that have tarnished his standing in the polls — despite his landslide 80-seat victory just two and a half years ago. These include allegations of improperly using donor money to pay for the renovation of his Downing Street home and flogging MPs to protect a colleague who broke lobbying rules.
He survived a confidence vote last month, but the final number of his MPs rebelling against him was more than his supporters expected: 41% of his own parliamentary group refused to back him.
According to an Ipsos UK poll conducted between June 22-29, Johnson’s Conservative Party is at its lowest level in more than a decade when it comes to being considered “fit to govern”. Just 21% of respondents said they were fit to govern – the lowest number for both Conservatives and Labor since Ipsos started tracking the metric in 2011.
The chaos in Westminster impacted financial markets, pushing sterling to its lowest level against the dollar in more than two years.
Downing Street did not hesitate to fill the vacant roles. Nadhim Zahawi, who was previously Secretary of State for Education, has been appointed Chancellor, while Downing Street Chief of Staff Steve Barclay became the new Health Secretary on Tuesday night.
Michelle Donelan replaced Zahawi as Secretary of Education.
Javid and Sunak weren’t the only ones walking Tuesday. Shortly after the two left their jobs, Conservative Party Deputy Leader Bim Afolami announced on live television that he too would be stepping down. During an interview with The News Desk’s Tom Newton Dunn, Afolami said, “I just don’t think the Prime Minister has my support anymore … the support of the party or even the country.”
Afolami asked Johnson to resign and then said he would resign himself. “I think you must resign because I cannot serve under the Prime Minister.”
Alex Chalk, who was Britain’s Attorney General in a ministerial capacity in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, also resigned on Tuesday, saying in his resignation letter it was time “for new leadership”.
“Being in government means accepting a duty to champion difficult or even unpopular political positions when doing so serves the broader national interest. But it cannot extend to defending the untenable,” Chalk said.
The Prime Minister’s trade envoy for Morocco, Andrew Murrison, also resigned, blowing up the “rolling chaos of the past six months” and saying that Boris Johnson’s “position is no longer recoverable”.
At least half a dozen other lower-ranking government officials also announced their resignations later Tuesday.
CNN’s Luke McGee, Sarah Dean, Luke Henderson, Lauren Kent, Dan Wright, Jorge Engels and Maija Ehlinger contributed coverage.