Scandal-ridden Boris Johnson announced on Thursday he would quit as British prime minister after he dramatically lost the support of his ministers and most Conservative lawmakers, but said he would stay on until his successor was chosen.
According to Reiters, bowing to the inevitable as more than 50 ministers quit and lawmakers said he must go, an isolated and powerless Johnson said it was clear his party wanted someone else in charge, but that his forced departure was “eccentric”.
“Today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place,” Johnson said outside his Downing Street office where his speech was watched by close allies and his wife Carrie.
“I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks,” he added, making no apology for the events that forced his announcement.
There were cheers and applause as he began his speech, while boos rang out from some outside the gates of Downing Street.
After days of battling for his job, Johnson had been deserted by all but a handful of his closest allies after the latest in a series of scandals sapped their willingness to support him.
“It was a short and bizarre resignation speech which didn’t mention the word resign or resignation once. There was no apology, no contrition,” Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen said. “There was no apology for the crisis his actions have put our government, our democracy, through.”
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The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take weeks or months, with details to be announced next week. read more
A snap YouGov poll found that defence minister Ben Wallace was the favourite among Conservative Party members to replace Johnson, followed by junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former finance minister Rishi Sunak.
While Johnson said he would stay on, opponents and many in his own party said he should leave immediately and hand over to his deputy, Dominic Raab.
Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major said it was “unwise and maybe unsustainable” for him to remain in office when he could still exert its powers.