So he’s gone. What was being anticipated for a long time has just happened. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who won in 2019 on the leverage of Brexit has announced his resignation from office as the PM of the UK and also the leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday. A series of political scandals led to Johnson losing the support of numerous government ministers and members of his Conservative Party.
Well, to say the least the Tories were in hot waters due to Boris Johnson’s mismanagement as the PM of the United Kingdom and this is why all of a sudden, he had to resign as the pressure kept on mounting on him. The supporters are also in no mood to back the messy-haired leader. The latest opinion poll for the Observer finds that 56% of all voters, including 32% of 2019 Tory voters, believe Johnson should resign. So, his support is going down and this is what has bothered Tory party.
Johnson said he will remain in office until his replacement is found. But his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party is immediate, Johnson said;
“Today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place. I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed.
“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”
The 58-year-old Johnson came to power almost three years ago. At the time, he promised voters he would effectively guide Britain through its withdrawal from the European Union, a process known as “Brexit.” Britain voted to leave the EU in a special election in 2016.
How Do We Get in Here?
Boris Johnson was all set to become the first PM in the history of the UK who had to resign even after getting a historic mandate in 2019 when Tories had won 365 seats out of 650. However, recently more and more MPs were constantly revolting against him, stating that Boris’ actions are plunging the Conservative party into an acute identity crisis as a result of the Partygate scandal and U-turns over tax policy.
But how all of a sudden he had to resign? Let’s have a blast from the past that how exactly Tories cracked a tough nut.
1. Survival of No-Confidence Motion
Make no mistake, Johnson has been known for his ability to brush off crises, he had already passed through allegations that he and his staff held several drinking parties that violated the COVID-19 limitations they placed on others. Tories had started to call the leader more of a liability than an asset. So, many MPs of Tories decided to bring a no-confidence motion in a bid to oust him from office.
We call Boris Johnson a tough nut to crack because he has proven it that was almost a quest to oust Boris as the PM of the UK. During the no-confidence vote, Boris Johnson won the support of 211 out of 359 Conservative lawmakers, i.e, more than the simple majority needed to remain in power. Still, there was a significant rebellion from 148 MPs.
2. Breaking the Ministerial Code
Reportedly, Boris Johnson has removed instruction to ministers to ‘uphold the very highest standards of propriety in the new Ministerial Code foreword’. By slashing this code, Boris Johnson has watered down the power of his own governmental advisor, currently Christopher Geidt, to investigate him for the party gate scandals where the UK Prime Minister was in breach of his own COVID-19 lockdown during the devastating wave in 2020.
Furthermore, his decision would allow him to continue as Prime Minister even if charges against him are proven. The new code now implies that Boris and his ministers will no longer have to resign from their positions and can simply apologize or temporarily lose pay for breaking the code of conduct.
Not only this, Geidt will now have to go through an “enhanced process” to initiate investigations. The investigation is at risk of getting faulty as every investigation will be done under Boris’s consent, and the final decision will be left to him. This indeed is an emergency type rule.
The updated version of the Ministerial Code has triggered anguish among the British lawmakers, both Labor, and Tories. With the next general election not until 2024 and Johnson holding a large majority in parliament, only his own Conservative MPs have the ability to make him step down and Tory’s regular ambush against Boris is indicating that it is quite likely.
3. Tory Losing Momentum
Boris Johnson when won and fulfilled his promise of the Brexit Deal, he was seen as a new major force in the European continent that held power outside the EU. But, in just 2 years the charisma has turned into fear and the man who was considered influential in the continent is now being tagged as a dumb politician.
It is an undeniable fact that the Coronavirus pandemic was a major test for every leader across the globe. But, you shouldn’t have fun while your country is in fear and quarantine. Boris Johnson and his ministers were partying back in 2020 when the whole United Kingdom was in lockdown.
Then came the Russia-Ukraine war, Boris Johnson blindly followed whatever was the narrative by the NATO and USA and it backfired badly. Firstly, the inflation peaked at 40 years high sending shockwaves to essential commodities, fuel shortages, and the cost of living made the matter worse.
Boris Johnson instead of providing any solution embraced the consequences. As a result, Boris and Tory lost municipal elections. The Tory leaders blamed it on Boris Johnson saying that his idiotic acts in recent times have made the Tories pay in their strongholds. As a result Johnson was sitting on a powder keg filled with his own irrational decisions. The Conservatives, as well as the opposition and the media, are continuously pressuring Boris to resign, but he refuses. But how long will he last?
Believe it or not, he has a good probability of stepping down before the 2024 elections. The conservatives will never allow him to return to mainstream politics once he resigns. His political career may abruptly come to a dead end. Moreover, Tories are discussing possibilities of Rishi Sunak succeeding Johnson as he fits the spot much better. He has public conduct and a calm demeanor coupled with his regular engagements with Tory MPs, so he is much more influential than Boris on many fronts
In recent days, about 50 cabinet secretaries, ministers and lower-level officials resigned from their positions. Some spoke out in public about the prime minister’s lack of integrity. Johnson had remained in power as he defended himself against a series of political accusations. He had been accused of being too close to party donors and of protecting supporters from bullying and corruption complaints. He also faced accusations that he misled parliament about government office parties that violated COVID-19 restrictions.
Most recently, it became public that Johnson knew about reports of sexual wrongdoing by a Conservative lawmaker before he appointed him to a high position in government. After the latest scandal, Johnson held on to power for days. He told lawmakers on Wednesday that he had a “mandate” from voters and planned to get on with the business of governing.
But he was forced to accept defeat Thursday morning after one of his closest allies, newly appointed Treasury chief Nadhim Zahawi, publicly told him to resign for the good of the country.
The Conservative Party will now have to elect a new leader in a process that could take weeks or months. Among the possible candidates to succeed him are former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Here is How Sunak Outsmarts a Stubborn Johnson
Boris Johnson thought that he had survived the worst possible crisis. But, the top leadership under Tories was not ready at all to accept their defeat. Tories tried every trick in their book to oust Johnson at the earliest. From setting up committees to running up campaigns within the party, he tried everything. But, nothing worked out for the Tories.
As tensions continue to mount over Tories due to decreasing support within their strongholds, Tories pulled out their best card of the deck. This card was ‘rebellion of Rishi Sunak’.
As a result prime minister resigned, triggering a search for a new British leader. And here is a summary of some of those who could be in the frame to replace him. However, there is no clear favourite and they are not listed in order of likely prospects.
1. Rishi Sunak
The Rishi Sunak card helped Tories to finally defeat Boris Johnson. Day by day Sunak is becoming more famous among the Tories in the UK. More than one-third of Britons believe that Rishi Sunak should be Boris Johnson’s replacement.
Sunak, who resigned as finance minister on Tuesday saying the British public “rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, was until last year the favourite to succeed Johnson. He was praised for a COVID-19 economic rescue package, including a costly jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment.
But Sunak later faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households. Revelations about his wealthy wife’s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking COVID lockdown rules have damaged his standing. His tax-and-spend budget last year put Britain on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favour lower taxes.
2. Liz Truss
The foreign secretary is the darling of the ruling Conservative Party’s grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home. Truss has a carefully cultivated public image and was photographed in a tank last year, echoing a famous 1986 photo of Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.
The 46-year-old spent the first two years of Johnson’s premiership as international trade secretary, championing Brexit, and last year was appointed as Britain’s lead negotiator with the European Union. Truss said on Monday that Johnson had her “100% backing” and she urged colleagues to support him.
3. Jeremy Hunt
The former foreign secretary, 55, finished second to Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. He would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Johnson’s premiership. Over the last two years, Hunt has used his experience as a former health secretary to chair parliament’s health select committee and has not been tarnished by having served in the current government.
Earlier this year, he said his ambition to become prime minister “hasn’t completely vanished”. Hunt said he voted to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month that the prime minister narrowly won.
4. Ben Wallace
Defence minister Ben Wallace, 52, has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, according to Conservative Home, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis. A former soldier, he was mentioned in dispatches in 1992 for an incident in which the patrol he was commanding captured an Irish Republican Army guerrilla unit suspected of trying to carry out a bomb attack on British troops.
He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005. He was security minister from 2016 until taking on his current role three years later, winning plaudits as his department evacuated British nationals and allies from Afghanistan last year, and for sending weapons to Kyiv.
5. Sajid Javid
Javid was the first cabinet minister to resign in protest over accusations that Johnson misled the public over what he knew about sexual harassment allegations against a Conservative lawmaker. A former banker and a champion of free markets, Javid has served in a number of cabinet roles, most recently as health minister. He resigned as Johnson’s finance minister in 2020.
The son of Pakistani Muslim immigrant parents, he is a Thatcher admirer and finished fourth in the 2019 leadership contest to replace former Prime Minister Theresa May.
6. Nadhim Zahawi
The newly appointed finance minister impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the world’s fastest rollouts of COVID jabs. Zahawi’s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other contenders.
He co-founded polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. His last job was as education secretary. Zahawi said last week that it would be a “privilege” to be prime minister at some stage.
7, Penny Mordaunt
The former defence secretary was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she endorsed his rival Hunt during the last leadership contest. Mordaunt was a passionate supporter of leaving the European Union and made national headlines by taking part in a now-defunct reality TV diving show.
Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She had previously expressed loyalty to Johnson.
8. Tom Tugendhat
The chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and a former soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, has already indicated he would run in any leadership contest.
He has been a regular critic of Johnson and would offer his party a clean break with previous governments. However, he is relatively untested because he has never served in cabinet.
9. Priti Patel
Home Secretary Priti Patel is a wildcard candidate to replace Johnson, with odds of 40/1. Patel has established a reputation for her hardline stance on immigration, having secured the roundly criticized deal to send refugees entering the U.K. to Rwanda.
The daughter of Indian migrants from Uganda, Patel famously admitted in 2020 that her own parents wouldn’t have been allowed into the U.K. if they had been subjected to her points-based immigration policy.
The two most prominent ministers of Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javed resigned from Boris’ cabinet. This move exaggerated the rising rebellion. Behind Sunak’s rebellion, 40 ministers and aides also resigned sending a major shockwave to Boris Johnson. Moreover, they kept a very simple demand in front of Boris Johnson i.e. to ‘Resign’.
Everyone eyed Preeti Patel to see whether she would resign or not. She didn’t resign but she insisted Boris to leave the office with all due respect. Boris had no other option, at last, but to eventually succumb to the rising pressure and resign. What we anticipated a month ago has happened and Boris Johnson is finished. He failed to save his face in front of Rishi Sunak other candidates who were waiting for bide time to open up his front against the UK PM.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Priti Patel, two prominent Cabinet members of Indian descent, are widely expected to win the position and surprisingly both of them rebelled at the very last moment, which may cost them dearly at the end.