Scandal-ridden British Prime Minister Boris Johnson capitulated to mounting pressure to step down Thursday, announcing his decision after days of high-profile government resignations and calls from fellow Conservative Party members to quit.
“In the past few weeks, I have been trying to convince my colleagues it would be eccentric to change governments when we have achieved so much,” he said in his speech outside No. 10 Downing St. amid loud booing from the crowd nearby. “I regret not to be successful in those arguments and, of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through those projects myself.”
Johnson also said he planned to remain as prime minister until a successor is chosen — a move that may face opposition from others in an increasingly hostile Parliament.
He becomes the third consecutive British prime minister to resign before their term in recent years, following in the footsteps of Theresa May and David Cameron.
Months of discontent over Johnson’s judgment and ethics within his governing party erupted with the resignations of Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid within minutes of each other Tuesday evening.
The final straw for them was the prime minister’s shifting explanations about his handling of sexual misconduct allegations within Conservative Party ranks.
Calls for Johnson’s resignation had only intensified in the hours that followed, during which more than 50 other members of the government also resigned.
The embattled prime minister had few allies left in the final hours before his announcement, with even ministers he had appointed 36 hours ago turning against him. Before his announcement Thursday, Johnson was abandoned by the finance minister and the education minister he had promoted in a bid to hold on. They were joined by a succession of other ministers — leaving the government virtually rudderless as it faces some of its most serious crises in decades.
“Yesterday, I made clear to the Prime Minister alongside my colleagues in No. 10 that there was only one direction where this was going, and that he should leave with dignity,” newly appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi wrote in an open letter published on Twitter early Thursday.