Johnson’s efforts to move quickly into senior positions have not stemmed the tide of new resignations – albeit more junior ones. Over a 24-hour period, at least 21 Conservative politicians resigned from their posts in protest at Johnson’s leadership.
The resignations, which followed a series of scandals, prompted many questions: How long can Johnson survive? Is this the endgame for Johnson? Is there a way to oust him?
During a fiery session of the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson sacked those who were calling for his resignation.
Asked by a fellow Tory if there were any circumstances in which he should resign, Johnson said he would resign if the government could not continue. “Frankly, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been given a colossal mandate is to carry on, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
In a sign of the session’s mood, at one point a group of opposition Labor Party lawmakers waved at Johnson, shouting “Bye.”
Javid, the former health secretary whose resignation led to the exodus, delivered a scathing criticism of the prime minister, telling parliament that “walking the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months”. He said late last year he was told by high-ranking figures that no parties had been held in Downing Street during the pandemic lockdowns. A police investigation into “Partygate” resulted in 126 fines, including one for Johnson.
UK ‘Partygate’ investigation ends with 126 fines, no further citations for Boris Johnson
Javid added that “again this week we have reason to question the truth and integrity of what we have all been told,” he said, referring to a separate scandal involving Chris Pincher , who had recently resigned as deputy chief whip following accusations that he assaulted two men while intoxicated. Downing Street initially said Johnson was unaware of any previous allegations of misconduct when the Prime Minister handed Pincher a key government post, but later backtracked to acknowledge that Johnson was aware of a investigation that confirmed similar complaints in 2019.
“The problem starts at the top,” Javid said.
As Javid spoke, another minister resigned.
Latest Boris Johnson scandal leads to top ministers resigning
The majority of the British public think Johnson should throw in the towel. A YouGov poll published on Tuesday found that 69% of Britons said Johnson should quit, including a majority of Tory voters (54%).
Only 18% of the British public say Johnson should stay.
Johnson has made it clear that – if it were up to him – he would stay where he is. And under current Conservative Party rules, there is no formal way for Johnson’s critics to get rid of him quickly. Since Johnson – narrowly – survived a no-confidence vote from his party last month, he has been officially shielded from further party challenges for a year.
Rob Ford, a political expert at the University of Manchester, drew a parallel to 2016 when, following the Brexit vote, there were mass resignations from the opposition Labor Party’s shadow cabinet aimed at putting pressure on Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn. While some leaders may have read the room and decided to shut it down, Ford said, Corbyn didn’t and remained a leader through the spring of 2020.
“Similarly, with Johnson, there is widespread opposition to his leadership. You have a leader who does not give in to informal pressure to leave, and the only formal mechanism you have is not available. So you are in a state of uncertainty,” Ford said.
Boris Johnson survives but is weakened by a vote of no confidence
Much has been said in recent days about how party rules could be changed. And in the coming days, Tory lawmakers will elect new members of the powerful 1922 Committee, which sets the rules. Some of those campaigning for roles have suggested they would support allowing another vote of no confidence.
Meanwhile, the number of resignations, including former loyalists, continues to climb. Analysts say Johnson is lucky in that the reasons given for losing faith appear to be varied – his critics don’t coalesce around a single issue, as those who helped get rid of Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor, when they left her. .
Ford said if Johnson could limp until another vote of confidence is staged, the chances of him leading the Conservative Party in the next general election, scheduled for 2025, looked slim.
“At the very least, another vote of confidence becomes possible in 11 months. What exactly will change by then to regain confidence in Johnson? Ford asked. “At this point, I think it would take something close to a biblical miracle. Nothing can be ruled out with the luckiest politician in British politics, but it would take something extraordinary.