Even Boris Johnson, who is known to be defiant, is unlikely to survive such an erosion of his government: his support is dwindling with every passing moment. The conservative Tories are fighting for survival – and against the prime minister.
The “apparently coordinated” resignations of two of his most important cabinet members were a “death blow”, as the newspaper “The Times” wrote – above all because Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, Health Minister Sajid Javid, and Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis expressly protested against Johnson’s administration left government.
The government has passed the point where reversal is still possible, Lewis wrote in a letter published on Twitter. “I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they are now,” stressed the outgoing minister. The country and the conservative party “deserve better”.
More resignations followed the next day, and more than 30 members of the government and party friends stabbed the conservative prime minister in the back – and did not fail to sharply criticize his leadership style. The Prime Minister had to be asked by several Tory colleagues in Parliament when he would finally retire. Johnson’s response was, as always, “I’m not resigning!”
Icy atmosphere in the government camp
The mood on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons – where the prime minister is usually cheered with loud yes-yeah-yeah calls – was icy. Sometimes there was dead silence. Health Minister Sajid Javid, who resigned, called on other cabinet members to follow his example. Even as Johnson was answering questions from MPs, more Conservative office holders were resigning.
“Bye, Boris!” hooted the opposition benches as the 58-year-old left the House of Commons. “Is this the first confirmed case of the sinking ship abandoning a rat?” sneered opposition leader Keir Starmer.
The 1922 Committee pinches
A few hours after the parliamentary questioning, the influential 1922 Committee, which has the authority to set the rules for a vote of no confidence in the Tory party leader, met. Johnson narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in his group just a month ago. Under the Tory party’s previous rules, no new attempt could be made for a period of twelve months after the vote.
Although the demands for a change in this rule were unmistakable, the panel initially decided otherwise. A new committee leader is to be elected next Monday. Because Johnson’s opponents within the party are then likely to gain the upper hand, a rule change is then expected. As a result, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not have to expect another vote of no confidence until next week at the earliest.
The prime minister categorically rules out a voluntary resignation. In Parliament, Johnson said: “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he has been entrusted with a strong mandate, is to carry on and I will do that.”