Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak, two senior members of the UK Cabinet, resigned on Tuesday, piling more pressure on embattled Prime Minster Boris Johnson to step down.
Both men had been appointed by Mr Johnson to powerful posts after he took power in 2019. After a period on the backbenches, Mr Javid was brought back as health secretary but on Tuesday led the walkout from Mr Johnson's government.
"I have spoken to the Prime Minister to tender my resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care," Mr Javid announced. "It has been an enormous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience."
Mr Sunak said he was resigning as chancellor, writing that he recognised his decision was a high-stakes gambit.
“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,” he said.
The finance minister told Mr Johnson the public deserved the truth about where the country was headed, and said “our approaches are fundamentally too different”.
“The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously," he said. “On those occasions where I disagreed with you privately, I have supported you publicly.
“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.”
Boris Johnson has responded to Rishi Sunak’s departure as chancellor, saying he was “sorry” to have received Mr Sunak’s resignation letter and praising his “outstanding service”.
In a letter, the Prime Minister wrote: “Dear Rishi, I was sorry to receive your letter resigning from the Government.
“You have provided outstanding service to the country through the most challenging period for our economy in peacetime history”.
He noted the furlough scheme, Mr Sunak’s work on post-pandemic economic recovery and to repair public finances, as well as tax cuts.
Close ally of Mr Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that the differences with Mr Sunak contributed to the breach even as dissent in the ruling Conservative Party grows over Mr Johnson's many scandals.
"Actually, you need a prime minister and a chancellor with the same vision for the country. That's very important, it's very beneficial. And I think there were signs for some time that the relationship wasn't really working," he said.
"I saw the prime minister this evening and he is in a businesslike mood. It's the prime minister who has a mandate from the British people and then he appoints a Cabinet — some people don't want to serve in it any more but they are eminently replaceable."
The resignations of Mr Javid — a former leadership contender — and Mr Sunak, viewed as a potential successor to the prime minister, mean Mr Johnson’s position is now perilous.
His authority had already been damaged by a confidence vote in which 41 per cent of his MPs voted against him on June 6.
The loss of crunch by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton, and Wakefield in June triggered the resignation of Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden.
Mr Javid said many politicians as well as the public had lost confidence in Mr Johnson's ability to govern in the national interest.
"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," Mr Javid said in a letter to Johnson.
"We [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.
In response to the resignations, Mr Johnson appointed chief of staff Steve Barclay as the new health secretary.
Nadhim Zahawi was promoted to be the new Chancellor, with universities minister Michelle Donelan taking his place as Education Secretary.
Cabinet ministers including Dominic Raab, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, Therese Coffey and Ben Wallace indicated they would be staying in the Government.
However, Bim Afolami quit as Tory vice-chair live on TV, Andrew Murrison resigned as a trade envoy to Morocco and ministerial aides Jonathan Gullis and Saqib Bhatti left their roles.
Sir Bob Neill, a Conservative MP who rebelled against Mr Johnson, said the opposition would build and cost the prime minister his job.
"Unfortunately, the prime minister has run out of road because he has lost credibility, and once you lose credibility that erodes trust and that cannot be replaced, and that is a matter of character not policy," he said.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer had earlier on Tuesday called on members of the Cabinet to resign in response to Mr Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher scandal.
Mr Starmer said those remain in the Cabinet would be “nodding dogs” if they did not quit. He was speaking to journalists shortly before news of Mr Sunak’s resignation broke.
“Should his Cabinet members make sure he leaves office? Yes they should. It’s their responsibility, in the national interest, to remove him from office," he said.
Rebels in the Conservative Party had been calling on senior ministers to take matters into their own hands after narrowly failing to oust Mr Johnson in a confidence vote just last month. That, in theory, had left him safe from a leadership challenge for 12 months.
Sir Roger Gale, another MP who has sought to bring down Mr Johnson, said a forthcoming reshuffle at the top of the backbench 1922 Committee should a proxy battle on the leadership.
“If the prime minister still refuses to go without the confidence of the back bench of his party, without the confidence, clearly, of significant members of his Cabinet, if that is not enough to persuade him that the time has come for him to step aside, then the 1922 Committee, the back bench, is going to have to do it for him,” he said.
More Cabinet ministers will resign and will be shown the door, according to Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen. “I guess they (Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid) finally got where much of the party got weeks if not months ago, that we just can’t carry on like this," he said. "What a shambles. It has been a shambles.”