Former UK health secretary Sajid Javid has called on Boris Johnson to step down as prime minister for failing to maintain the honesty and integrity of politics in the face of a series of scandals that have beset the British government.
Mr Johnson suffered an avalanche of resignations from the Cabinet and ministerial team that was continuing on Wednesday following Mr Javid's departure the evening before.
Late on Wednesday, Mr Johnson was meeting a delegation of his remaining Cabinet and it was reported that the lieutenants, including some of his key loyalists, were ready to to tell Boris Johnson to leave Downing Street. Loyalist Priti Patel was reported to have spoken with the prime minister and "conveyed to him the views of the party", putting the home secretary on the side of those telling him to go.
Mr Johnson gave a spirited defence of his position on the floor of parliament on Wednesday after losing dozens more colleagues, including Mr Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. By Wednesday evening the tally had reached 38. “This week again, we have reason to question the truth and integrity of what we've all been told and that at some point we have to conclude that enough is enough,” Mr Javid said. “I believe that point is now.”
The UK leader had already replaced Mr Sunak with Nadhim Zahawi and vowed to fight on despite being assailed by a drip by drip set of ministerial departures.
In a particularly brutal swipe, Mr Javid accused Mr Johnson of sending ministers out to publicly lie for the leader. “I also believe a team is as good as its team captain and a captain is as good as his or her team,” he said. “It’s not fair on ministerial colleagues to go out every morning defending lines that don’t stand up and don’t hold up.”
Mr Javid stuck the knife into Mr Johnson as he struggles to hang on in Downing Street amid growing calls for his resignation, suggesting he had been disturbed by what was going in Number 10 in recent months.
“Effective governance inevitably requires loyalty and collective responsibility, of course it does, and I am instinctively a team player and I have completely focused on governing effectively over the last year,” he said. “But treading the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months.”
He added: "I will never risk losing my integrity.”
Mr Javid served as home secretary under former prime minister Theresa May before being promoted to chancellor by Mr Johnson after his victory in the Tory leadership race in 2019.
In February 2020 he quit the top post after Mr Johnson gave him an ultimatum to sack his own team of advisers or risk being ousted. Mr Javid resigned from the role, saying “no self-respecting minister” could accept such conditions.
In June 2021 he was brought back into the fold for a second time when Mr Johnson asked him to serve as health secretary following the resignation of Matt Hancock, who was caught breaking Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Javid delivered his no-holds-barred speech shortly after a Conservative MP took to his feet in the House of Commons to call for the prime minister to resign, citing an example of him constantly trying to deflect blame to others for his mistakes.
Gary Sambrook, Birmingham Northfield MP and executive secretary of the 1922 Committee, told MPs that in an “attempt to boost morale in the tea room”, the prime minister said that “there were seven people, MPs, in the Carlton Club last week and one of them should have tried to intervene to stop Chris [Pincher] from drinking so much”.
Mr Pincher last week resigned as Tory deputy chief whip amid claims he had drunkenly groped two men in a private members' club. The prime minister caved into pressure to suspend him from the Conservative Party pending an investigation. He now sits in the Commons an an independent MP.
He added: “As if that wasn’t insulting enough to the people who did try to intervene that night. And then also to the victims that drink was the problem.
“Isn’t it the example that the prime minister constantly tries to deflect from the issue, always tries to blame other people for mistakes and that at least nothing left for him to do other than to take responsibility and resign?”
His comment was met with an applause by the opposition benches, which immediately prompted a scolding by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
Mr Johnson replied: “There is a very simple reason why they want me out, and that is because they know that otherwise we are going to get on and deliver our mandate and win another general election. And that is the reality.”
The prime minister said he is not going to “trivialise what happened” when asked by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer if he ever used the phrase “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature” to describe the Mr Pincher.
The Labour leader asked him: “None of that explains why he promoted him in the first place. And we have heard it all before. We know who he really is. Before he was found out, he has reported to have said he is handsy. That’s the problem. Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.
“Now, has the prime minister ever said words to that effect? And I’m not asking for bluster and half-truth. We’ve all had enough of that. Yes or no?”
The prime minister replied: “I am not going to trivialise what happened. Yes, because the very serious complaints have been raised against the member for Tamworth, and they’re now being investigated. It is true. It is true that the complaint was raised when he was in the Foreign Office and the matter was resolved. It is absolutely true."
Mr Johnson vowed to "keep going" as prime minister despite growing opposition among his own MPs.
‘We cannot continue like this,’ Sunak tells Johnson
Of all the departures to hit Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak’s was a particularly harsh blow as the government grapples with addressing the cost-of-living crisis.
In his resignation letter, Mr Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously” and added: “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Mr Sunak touched on differing views between him and the prime minister when it comes to how best to tackle issues affecting British households.
“That is the nature of the collective government upon which our system relies and it is particularly important that the prime minister and chancellor remain united in hard times such as those we are experiencing today,” he wrote. “Our country is facing immense challenges. We both want a low-tax, high-growth economy, and world class public services, but this can only be responsibly delivered if we are prepared to work hard, make sacrifices and take difficult decisions.
“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,” he added.
“I am sad to be leaving government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”
Douglas Ross, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, called on Mr Johnson to quit, saying he "needs to realise he’s lost the support of many colleagues and he has to stand down as prime minister." Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, a key Johnson ally, privately told the prime minister to time has come for him to step down, according to reports.
Former cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox joined the growing chorus of Tory voices calling for a resignation, telling the prime minister: “I am today withdrawing my support for you.”
Johnson loyalists continued to offer the embattled leader support on Wednesday even as his top team crumbled.
Other cabinet members, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace — two likely contenders for the leadership — continue to back Mr Johnson, aides said.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a doggedly loyal cabinet ally, dismissed the resignations as “little local difficulties”.
The 1922 Committee – made up of Conservative backbench MPs who are not ministers or ministerial aides – is expected to meet at 4pm on Wednesday to discuss possible rule changes. Under current rules a leader cannot be subjected to more than one vote of confidence in the space of 12 moths.
Mr Johnson survived such a vote in June, but 41 per cent of his MPs voted against him.
At 5pm the committee will hold a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.
In a colossal blow to Mr Johnson's authority, five ministers resigned in one go on Wednesday afternoon. Kemi Badenoch, minister for both levelling up communities and for equalities, posted a letter on Twitter announcing she was stepping down "with great regret" .
Resignations at a glance — 38
Among the resignations are two Cabinet ministers, 15 ministers, 17 parliamentary private secretaries, three trade envoys and one vice-chair.
Sajid Javid, Health Secretary
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor
Andrew Murrison, trade envoy
BIM Afolami, vice chairman
Jonathan Gullis, aide
Saqib Bhatti, aide
Nicola Richards, aide
Virginia Crosbie, aide
Theo Clarke, trade envoy
Alex Chalk, solicitor general
Will Quince, Children’s Minister
Laura Trott, aide
Robin Walker, Schools Minister
John Glen, Treasury Minister
Victoria Atkins, Home Office Minister
Felicity Buchan, aide
Jo Churchill, Environment Minister
Stuart Andrew, Housing Minister
Claire Coutinho, parliamentary private secretary to the Treasury
Selaine Saxby, aide
David Johnson, parliamentary private secretary to the Department for Education
Kemi Badenoch, minister for levelling up communities and for equalities
Julia Lopez, data minister
Mims Davies, employment minister
Lee Rowley, industry minister
Neil O’Brien, levelling up minister
Alex Burghart, skills minister
Craig Williams, parliamentary private secretary to the Treasury
Fay Jones, parliamentary private secretary to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Mark Logan, parliamentary private secretary to the Northern Ireland Office
Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state for safeguarding at the Home Office
Mike Freer, parliamentary under-secretary of state for exports at the Department for International Trade
Mark Fletcher, parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Sara Britcliffe, parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Education
Ruth Edwards, parliamentary private secretary at the Scottish Office
Peter Gibson, parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Trade
David Duguid, trade envoy
James Sunderland, parliamentary private secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Integrity and honesty have been the main themes touched on by disaffected ministers and aides in their resignation letters to Mr Johnson.
Sajid Javid: Mr Javid said: “Treading the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months. I will never risk losing my integrity.”
Mims Davies: “Conservatives needs a fresh start and I can see no other way forward than this.”
David Johnston: “I cannot defend what has taken place these past few days – or indeed these past few months.”
Selaine Saxby: “Trust, truth and integrity are vital in our work as politicians and public servants, and I had hoped that the reset earlier in the year might have given us the chance for a different direction, however the events of this week have shown that not to be the case.”
Stuart Andrew: “Loyalty and unity are traits that I have always endeavoured to provide for our great party. However, I fear I have let these override my judgement recently.”
Victoria Atkins: “Values such as integrity, decency, respect and professionalism should matter to us all. I have watched with growing concern as those values have fractured under your leadership, through Paterson, partygate and Pincher.”
Felicity Buchan: “The current situation is untenable”.
Laura Trott: “Trust in politics is – and must always be – of the upmost importance, but sadly in recent months this has been lost."
Bim Afolami: “I think the behaviour of Downing Street over the Chris Pincher affair was really appalling. And I, personally, just couldn’t think I could defend that sort of behaviour any longer.”