British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a huge blow yesterday when two of his top ministers announced their resignations, saying they could no longer work for a government mired in scandal.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both announced they were quitting in letters posted to Twitter within minutes of each other on Tuesday evening.
“The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” Sunak said in his resignation letter. “I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
“In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different,” Sunak added in the letter. “I am sad to be leaving Government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this.”
Javid wrote that “it has been an enormous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience.” Javid added that the vote of confidence in the prime minister last month “was a moment for humility, grip and new direction.”
“I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership — and you have therefore lost my confidence too,” Javid wrote.
The most immediate controversy facing Johnson is Downing Street’s handling of last week’s resignation of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who stepped down from his post last Thursday amid allegations he had groped two guests at a private dinner the night before. While he did not admit the allegations directly, Pincher said in a letter to Johnson that “last night I drank far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people.”
Downing Street has struggled to explain why Pincher was in government in the first place, amid a wave of revelations about his previous alleged conduct.
When those reports emerged, Downing Street initially denied the Prime Minister knew anything specific about them. Then, Johnson’s team said he had known about the historical allegations, but that they had been “resolved.”
When it emerged that one of the previously unreported allegations against Pincher had been upheld, Johnson’s spokesperson explained that “resolved” could mean that it had been upheld.
Then on Tuesday morning, Simon McDonald, the former top civil servant at the Foreign Office, revealed that Johnson had been briefed in person about the outcome of an investigation into Pincher’s conduct. Minutes before Sunak and Javid announced their resignations, Johnson acknowledged it “was a mistake” to appoint Pincher to his government.