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Boris Johnson resignation: why did the British Prime Minister resign?

On Thursday, after significant pressure from those in his government and the wider Conservative party, Johnson announced he’d be leaving.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks into 10 Downing Street, London, after reading a statement formally resigning as Conservative Party leader after ministers and MPs made clear his position was untenable. He will remain as Prime Minister until a successor is in place. Picture date: Thursday July 7, 2022. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Gareth Fuller - PA ImagesGetty

“Them’s the breaks!” That is a short, rather un-Churchillian, line from Boris Johnson’s speech on Thursday as he announced in front of Number 10 Downing Street that he would resign as Britain’s prime minister. He added, however, that he would not be leaving his position just yet, but instead would remain until a replacement was found, that most likely being in the autumn.

So, how did we get to this point?

In related news:

Why did Boris Johnson resign?

For many, Thursday’s speech has been a long time coming, although the content of it may still have surprised those hoping for some contrition.

“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,” he began, “and I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.

“And I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until the new leader is in place.”

After that it was a case of regretting not being able to finish his projects, promoting how well he’d been voted in, and thanking the public for voting him into the “greatest job in the world.” Read the full speech for yourself.

There was no mention of his failures, and it was those failings, one by one, that finally nailed him into a coffin, even if that box hasn’t been fully closed securely.

Johnson has tried to hold onto his position to the last possible moment, eventually bowing to calls from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers in his Conservative Party to go. There is deepened uncertainty hanging over Britain’s economy, already under strain from an inflation rate heading for double digits, the risk of a recession and Brexit, which is still far from resolved satisfactorily.

The Johnson scandals

The most recent scandal will be the one that is remembered at that final nail. Chris Pincher, the Conservative deputy chief whip, resigned on 30 June after admitting he had “embarrassed myself and other people” following reports that he drunkenly groped two men at a private club. Pincher had already resigned from the whips’ office in 2017 after he was reported to have made an unwanted pass at a Tory activist. The last week has seen Johnson’s team flip-flop around a leaky defence of what the PM did and didn’t know when he appointed him, with some being sent out in front of journalists with blatant lies to deliver on his behalf. It all unravelled.

After some lower level resignations the real chaos kicked off when Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid stood down. Both called into question Johnson’s leadership, although why it took them so long after a litany of scandals since taking over as PM is still a mystery. Following Sunak and Javid, the resignation floodgates opened, and those closest to him explained that the game was over.

He had seen off a vote of no confidence in early June after a damning report was issued about “Partygate”, a series of ‘gatherings’ that took place at 10 Downing Street during the covid-19 lockdowns that went against not only the restrictions in place for the pandemic but also potentially the law as well. Many looked on in disbelief that most Conservatives were willing to go along with the Johnson show, but on they went, cheering him to the rafters while losing much of their integrity, something they are now all claiming to have back as they target new self-ambition.

When Boris Johnson and his Brexit followers created the chant ‘leave means leave’ in reference to the UK exiting the European Union, few could have imagined it being tweaked to summarise the PM’s resignation announcement. For Johnson’s departure from Number 10, it would appear that ‘leave does not mean leave,’ at least not yet. We’ll have to see how and if other members of the party can change that.