Boris Johnson to Step Down as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

·6 min read

Boris Johnson has agreed to step down as the British Prime Minister.

The United Kingdom's Conservative Party leader announced his forthcoming resignation outside No.10 Downing Street on Thursday after losing the confidence of his cabinet. He was elected prime minister in July 2019.

Johnson now aims to continue as caretaker Prime Minister until the fall while the Conservative Party holds a leadership election across the summer.

"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 told reporters Thursday.

"I have 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.

"I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019 - many of them voting Conservative for the first time - thank you for that incredible mandate," he continued. "The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person, was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt that it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you, to continue to do what we promised."

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Julian Simmonds/The Daily Telegraph/Bloomberg via Getty Images Boris Johnson

"It's painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself," Johnson added Thursday. "But as we have seen at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful. When the herd moves, it moves.

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"No one is remotely indispensable (in politics) and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.

"To that new leader, whoever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can. And to you the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them's the breaks."

Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds
Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds

Karwai Tang/WireImage Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Johnson

Johnson's resignation was largely prompted by the COVID-19 "Partygate" scandal, in which 16 social gatherings were found to have taken place in Downing Street during a 20-month period of various levels of COVID-related lockdowns in England.

In April, Johnson, 58, was fined by the Metropolitan Police for the parties, becoming the first U.K. Prime Minister in history to be officially found to have broken the law.

RELATED: Boris Johnson Survives Vote to Oust Him as British Prime Minister, but His Political Future Remains Uncertain

In June, he also survived a vote of confidence among his own members of parliament as a result of the investigation by 211 votes to 148 after an unknown number of Conservative MPs submitted letters stating they could no longer trust him to effectively run the U.K. government.

This left Johnson in the position of governing the country without the support of a large percentage of his own lawmakers — a situation that ultimately led to the downfall of Conservative governments helmed by Margaret Thatcher, John Major and his predecessor, Theresa May.

Jill Biden blazer
Jill Biden blazer

Toby Melville-WPA Pool/Getty U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and wife, Carrie, with President Joe Biden and wife, Dr. Jill Biden

Johnson's premiership finally came to an end as a result of a scandal involving Conservative MP Chris Pincher, however, who was forced to resign as deputy chief whip of the Conservative Party after being suspended for allegedly groping two men at the prestigious Carlton Club in London's upscale Mayfair neighborhood.

"I drank far too much," Pincher wrote to Johnson in his resignation letter on June 30. "I've embarrassed myself and other people which is the last thing I want to do and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned."

Yet it was Johnson's actions after Pincher's resignation that had the most impact, when it emerged that he'd been warned that the MP had acted similarly before promoting him to government office.

When questioned about whether he knew about the earlier allegations on July 1, a spokesperson for Johnson said he was not aware of "specific allegations."

On July 5, Lord McDonald, a former lead staffer in the Foreign Office, publicly refuted this, however, accusing Downing Street of "not telling the truth."

"I briefed the relevant senior official in the Cabinet Office," he told the Today program on BBC Radio 4. "I know that the senior official briefed the prime minister in person because that official told me so at the time."

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With the political pressure building, Johnson told the BBC that he "bitterly" regretted giving Pincher a government job.

"In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do and I apologize to everyone who has been badly affected by it," he said. "I just want to make absolutely clear that there's no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or abuses their position of power."

RELATED: Boris Johnson Apologizes After Report Reveals 16 Office Parties Held During U.K. COVID Lockdown

Ultimately, however, the combination of "Partygate," Pincher and other scandals — such as Johnson refurbishing his Downing Street apartment with wallpaper costing $1,000 a roll — led to him losing the support of the public and his own government, evidenced by the resignation of two high-profile members of his inner circle on July 5.

"The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously," Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stated in his resignation letter on July 5. "I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning."

Sunak, who was previously in charge of the U.K.'s economy and effectively No. 2 in the government, added: "Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it's not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. I am sad to be leaving government but I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we cannot continue like this."

RELATED: Boris Johnson Faces Calls to Resign After Admitting He Attended Office Party During U.K. COVID Lockdown

Health Minister Sajid Javid backed up this belief in his own resignation letter, writing "We [the Conservative party] may not have always been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are now neither."

"It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership and you have therefore lost my confidence," Javid told Johnson.

On Thursday, Johnson's exit was hastened by the resignation of at least 50 ministers and aides from the U.K. government, including five ministers who urged Johnson "to step aside" in a combined resignation letter.

Johnson also lost the support of key cabinet minister Michael Gove on Wednesday afternoon, his close friend and political sparring partner since their student days at Oxford University.

 

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