London – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was battling for his political survival on Wednesday after a number of high-profile resignations shook the foundations of his government and fueled doubt about his ability to continue leading his party and the country. .
The resignations came in response to the latest in a long line of scandals that have engulfed Johnson, this one involving former government minister Chris Pincher. Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of groping two men, was appointed deputy chief whip by Johnson, who initially claimed he was unaware of any specific prior allegations of misconduct against Pincher. Johnson’s office changed the official account of what the Prime Minister knew twice in the past week as new information came to light.
On Tuesday, two of Johnson’s most senior cabinet ministers, Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Minister Sajid Javid, resigned, posting scathing letters online.
“The public rightly expects government to be run properly, competently and seriously…I believe these standards are worth upholding, and that is why I am stepping down,” Sunak wrote. . “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.”
“The tone you set as a leader and the values you represent ripple through your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country,” said former health minister Sajid Javid. “I have served you loyally as a friend, but we all serve the country first. When faced with a choice between these loyalties, there can only be one answer.”
Johnson quickly replaced ministers, but a string of other resignations – numbering at least 38 in total, according to the BBC – showed the threat to his government was not over.
Crisis after crisis
In recent months, Johnson narrowly survived a vote of no confidence by his party and was fined by police for breaching COVID-19 restrictions during the UK pandemic lockdown, when he attended parties at his official residence.
But for those who recently resigned, the Pincher scandal and the questions it raised about Johnson’s credibility as a leader seemed like the last straw.
Media reports contradicted the initial story conveyed by Johnson’s office, which said it knew nothing of the specific allegations against Pincher. The prime minister later changed course and said he was aware of some allegations but they did not constitute formal complaints.
This was followed by a former senior official publicly alleging that Johnson had been told “in person” about a previous official complaint against Pincher, prompting accusations that Johnson had lied. Johnson responded by saying he did not recall that specific briefing and that he regretted not acting on the information.
At a weekly meeting of parliament on Wednesday, Johnson was repeatedly criticized and urged by a number of ministers from opposition parties to stand down. He responded by saying he believed the government should not walk away when times are tough.
“Working the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months, and Mr President, I will never risk losing my integrity,” Javid, the former health minister, said in his resignation statement. which he pronounced at the gathering. Javid said he had given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt for the last time.
“The problem starts at the top, and I don’t think that will change,” Javid said.
At the end of the meeting, the lawmakers could be heard shouting: “Bye, Boris!”