Boris Johnson decides to step down

Boris Johnson decides to step down

Worn out by scandals, weakened by an unprecedented series of resignations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally resolved on Thursday to leave power, announcing his resignation as leader of the Conservative party.

“It is clearly the will of the Conservative Party that there is a new leader and therefore a new Prime Minister,” he said during a six-minute speech outside Downing Street, saying he was “sad” to leave “the best job in the world”.

But if he resigned, Mr Johnson said he would remain Prime Minister until his successor was chosen, with the timetable for the election of a new Tory leader to be made clear next week.

After three years in power, marked by Brexit, the pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and record inflation, Boris Johnson has been pushed out by his own scandal-weary Conservative camp, after around 60 cascading resignations since tuesday.

Acknowledging his failure, Mr. Johnson nevertheless considered “crazy” that his government wanted to get rid of him.

But voices are already being heard for him to leave Downing Street without waiting for the appointment of a new leader.

A majority of Britons (56%) share this opinion according to a YouGov poll.

“For the welfare of the country, Mr Johnson must not remain in Downing Street… any longer than necessary,” wrote John Major, Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997.

“We don’t need a change at the head of the Tories. We need a real change of government,” opposition leader Keir Starmer had argued shortly before.

Nobody can “look at Boris Johnson and conclude that he is capable of behaving as caretaker Prime Minister,” said Scottish independence leader Nicola Sturgeon. It “will inevitably cause even more chaos”.

Mr Johnson’s departure is “an opportunity to return to the true spirit of partnership and mutual respect that we need”, said Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin at a time when relations between Dublin and London are strained over Northern Ireland.

For its part, the Ukrainian presidency thanked Boris Johnson for his support “in the most difficult times”. Head of State Volodymyr Zelensky called him on the phone to tell him of his “sadness”.

– “It was time !” –

Of a once stainless popularity, Boris Johnson had sunk in the opinion polls and 77% of the British estimated Thursday that he had been right to resign (YouGov poll).

Last month, he had escaped a vote of no confidence, however 40% of Conservative MPs refused to give him their confidence.

“It was about time! Seriously, had we ever seen someone so arrogant, ignorant, delusional,” said Helen Dewdney, 53, an employee interviewed by AFP in London.

“This is what happens when you have a Prime Minister who has no scruples,” reacted Cletus Morraies, 51. “Lies after lies (…) for me, he betrayed the country”.

Resignations and calls for departure had continued until its announcement on Thursday, as Downing Street announced a series of appointments to replace resigning ministers and secretaries of state.

Again on Wednesday evening, several ministers went to Downing Street to try, in vain, to convince Boris Johnson that, having lost the confidence of the Conservative Party, he should resign.

– “Bye Boris” –

But the 58-year-old Prime Minister hung on, saying he had a “colossal mandate” to accomplish. He even went so far as to dismiss by telephone Wednesday evening the minister who had been the first to advise him to resign, Michael Gove.

Discontent had been simmering for months, fueled in particular by the scandal of illegal parties in Downing Street during the anti-Covid confinement, when the British had to respect very strict rules.

Boris Johnson, known for not being close to a lie, had varied in his explanations, provoking frustration and then anger among elected Conservatives, in a country faced with record inflation of 9% and social movements.

The resignation on Tuesday evening of Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, and Health Minister Sajid Javid, had sounded the hallali for the Prime Minister, after yet another sex scandal involving the “whip” deputy responsible for the discipline of Conservative MPs, whom Mr Johnson had named in February, ‘forgetting’ past similar charges.

A YouGov poll of Conservative Party members gives Defense Minister Ben Wallace the favorite to succeed him.

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