New Delhi: As many as 32 British lawmakers, including Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, have now left Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government in less than 24 hours. Boris, however, on Wednesday (July 6, 2022) said that he was not going to resign and that the last thing the country needed was a national election.
“I am not going to step down and the last thing this country needs, frankly, is an election,” he told a parliamentary committee when asked to confirm he would not seek to call an election rather than resign if he lost a vote of confidence.
Boris Johnson’s statement comes amid media reports that a group of cabinet ministers are about to tell him to quit, including Nadhim Zahawi, who has just been appointed as the new finance minister. According to news agency Reuters, Transport Minister Grant Shapps would lead this delegation.
Zahawi, notably, had told reporters earlier on Wednesday that he fully supported Johnson.
Despite mass resignations, Boris Johnson pledges to fight on
Boris Johnson on Wednesday defiantly vowed to fight on against growing calls for him to resign as prime minister, a pledge that was met with scornful laughter at a parliamentary appearance.
“The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances is to keep going,” Johnson said.
“And that’s what I`m going to do,” he added.
Boris Johnson’s leadership mired in scandals and missteps
Boris Johnson’s leadership has been mired in scandals and missteps over the last few months, with the prime minister fined by police for breaking Covid-19 lockdown laws and a damning report published about the behaviour of officials at his Downing Street office who breached their own lockdown rules.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism he has not done enough to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The latest scandal also saw Johnson apologising for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, even after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
Several of the ministers cited Johnson`s lack of judgment, standards, and inability to tell the truth.
Boris Johnson could face confidence vote
Earlier in June, Johnson had survived a confidence vote of Conservative lawmakers, and party rules mean he cannot face another such challenge for a year. Some lawmakers, however, are seeking to change those rules. But a new confidence vote will not be brought by his lawmakers until at least next week, after the Conservative Party committee governing the rules agreed to elect a new executive before considering allowing one.
The so-called 1922 Committee decided on Wednesday it would hold an election to its executive on Monday, before deciding whether to change the rules to bring forward a confidence vote in Johnson.
The latest bout of drama at the heart of British power has seen at least 32 British lawmakers leaving Boris Johnson’s government in less than 24 hours. The departures started on Tuesday with Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak quitting and continued till Wednesday evening.
British lawmakers who left Boris Johnson’s govt within last 24 hours
- – Rishi Sunak, Finance Minister and an MP since May 2015
- – Sajid Javid, Health Secretary and an MP since May 2010
- – Bim Afolami, Conservative Party Vice Chair and MP for Hitchin and Harpenden since June 2017
- – Saqib Bhatti, PPS to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and an MP since December 2019
- – Jonathan Gullis, PPS to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and an MP since December 2019
- – Nicola Richards, PPS for Department of Transport and an MP since December 2019
- – Alex Chalk, Solicitor General for England and Wales and an MP since May 2015
- – Virginia Crosbie, PPS to the Wales Office and an MP since December 2019
- – Theo Clarke, Trade Envoy to Kenya and an MP since December 2019
- – Andrew Murrison, Trade Envoy to Morocco and an MP since June 2001
- – John Glen, financial services minister and a Member of Parliament (MP) since May 2010
- – Rachel Maclean, minister for safeguarding and an MP since June 2017
- – Mike Freer, minister for exports and equalities and an MP since May 2010
- – Duncan Baker, Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) in the government`s Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
- – Craig Williams, PPS in the finance ministry and an MP since December 2019
- – Mark Logan, PPS to the Northern Ireland Office and an MP since December 2019
- – Mims Davies, employment minister and MP since 2019
- – Kemi Badenoch, minister for equalities and an MP since June 2017
- – Neil O`Brien, a junior minister at Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities and MP since June 2017
- – Alex Burghart, a junior minister in the Department for Education and an MP since June 2017
- – Lee Rowley, a junior minister in the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and an MP since June 2017
- – Julia Lopez, a junior minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and an MP since June 2017
- – Victoria Atkins, a junior home office minister and an MP since May 2015
- – Stuart Andrew, a junior housing minister and an MP since May 2010
- – Jo Churchill, a junior minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and an MP since May 2015
- – Will Quince, minister for children and families, and an MP since May 2015
- – Robin Walker, minister of state for school standards and an MP since May 2010
- – Felicity Buchan, PPS in the BEIS and an MP since December 2019
- – Laura Trott, Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Department of Transport and an MP since December 2019
- – Selaine Saxby, PPS to DEFRA and an MP since December 2019
- – Claire Coutinho, PPS to the Treasury and an MP since December 2019
- – David Johnston, PPS to the Department of Education and an MP since December 2019
Who could replace UK PM Boris Johnson if he is ousted?
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, evoking a famous 1986 image of Britain`s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who was also captured in such a pose.
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 Johnson has her “100% backing” and she urged colleagues to support him.
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 the 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 would vote to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month which Johnson narrowly won.
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 himself, he served in Northern Ireland, Germany, Cyprus and Central America, and was mentioned in dispatches in 1992.
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 for his department`s role in the evacuation of British nationals and allies from Afghanistan last year, and the sending of weapons to Kyiv during the recent war in Ukraine.
RISHI SUNAK TO BE NEXT BRITISH PM?
Rishi Sunak, who resigned as finance minister on Tuesday saying “the 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 rescue package for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention programme, which prevented mass unemployment, that could cost as much as 410 billion pounds ($514 billion).
But Sunak has faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households, his wealthy wife`s non-domiciled tax status and a fine he received, along with Johnson, for breaking COVID-19 lockdown rules.
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.
Sajid 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 an admirer of the late Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Javid finished fourth in the 2019 leadership contest to replace former Prime Minister Theresa May.
Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed finance minister impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world. Zahawi`s personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other Conservative contenders.
He went on to co-found 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.
Penny Mordaunt, the former defence secretary was sacked by Johnson when he became prime minister after she backed 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 now-defunct reality TV diving show.
Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government “shameful”. She said voters wanted to see “professionalism and competence” from the government. She had previously expressed loyalty to Johnson.
(With agency inputs)