(Update: adds Johnson resignation)
London, Jul 7 (EFE).- Boris Johnson stepped down as Conservative Party leader on Thursday after nearly 60 government ministers and MPs had resigned in recent days, amid multiple scandals that have engulfed the British prime minister’s tenure.
Reading a statement at a lectern outside 10 Downing Street, where his remaining Conservative party allies and friends and family had gathered, Johnson thanked the British public for the mandate he won in the 2019 election, “the biggest share of a vote since 1979”.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said, adding that the process of selecting a new party leader “should begin now.”
“I have today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place,” he said.
Johnson’s resignation comes after days of mounting pressure from Tory party members and the opposition for him to step down, with dozens of Conservatives resigning this week.
The flurry of resignations comes in the wake of Johnson acknowledging on Tuesday, after initially denying it, that he was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by now former Conservative party whip Chris Pincher and that Pincher had been investigated in the past for inappropriate behavior towards men.
The Pincher scandal followed Johnson narrowly surviving an internal vote of no confidence in his party, in which 41% of MPs said they wanted him to step down after a series of scandals, including multiple parties held at Downing Street when the country was under strict lockdown due to the pandemic.
Johnson had promoted Pincher to the role of party whip – who is in charge of making sure MPs toe the party line – when the prime minister was aware that Pincher had been accused of inappropriate behavior while working at the foreign office, a decision Johnson said Wednesday that he “greatly” regrets.
He said that he had tried to persuade his colleagues this week that it would be “eccentric” to change governments when they had “such a vast mandate”, when he was trailing in the polls by only a small margin and with the economy – both domestically and internationally – in such a difficult state.
“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself,” he said, after listing some of his government’s achievements, including “getting Brexit done,” delivering Europe’s fastest vaccine rollout and being the first country in Europe to exit coronavirus lockdown, as well as “leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”
“But as we have seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful – when the herd moves, it moves. And, my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable,” he said.
Johnson added that he was confident that the “brilliant and Darwinian” political system would yield another leader, whom he promised to fully support.
“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 said.
The appointment of Johnson’s successor at the helm of the Tory party and the British government should be announced before the Conservative Party Conference in October, the Downing Street source told the BBC. EFE