August 19, 2022

2 key ministers have resigned from Boris Johnson’s government

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson clung to power Tuesday after two of his senior cabinet ministers resigned, saying he had lost confidence in Johnson’s leadership amid shifting explanations for his handling of a sex-abuse scandal.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid resigned Within minutes of each other, it cost Johnson the support of the men responsible for tackling two of the biggest issues facing Britain – the cost-of-living crisis and rising COVID-19 infections.

Both cited Johnson’s credibility after the prime minister was forced to back down from earlier reports of corruption that have rocked his government over the past six days.

The defeat is the latest for Johnson, who survived a no-confidence vote last month triggered by a similar exchange of stories about parties breaking the lockdown in government offices.

In his resignation letter, Javid said many Conservative MPs had lost confidence in Johnson in a confidence vote.

“This is a moment of humility, grip and a new direction,” Javid said. “However, I regret that it is clear that this situation will not change under your leadership – so you have lost my trust as well.”

Moments later, Sunak echoed those sentiments.

“The public expects government to be run properly, efficiently and seriously,” Sunak said. “I realize this may be my last ministerial role, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for, and that is why I am resigning.”

Both Sunak and Javid are seen as potential contenders to replace Johnson if Johnson is forced out.

While the resignations have heaped pressure on the prime minister, Johnson has proven a skilled politician in the past, fighting off criticism to prolong his career.

Johnson soon named two loyalists to the posts: Steve Barclay got Javit’s old job, while Education Secretary Nadim Zahavi replaced Sunak as head of the Treasury, Downing Street said.

At the same time, Secretary of State Liz Truss was quick to throw her support behind Johnson. Other Cabinet members were in his corner, including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel.

But Scott Lucas, professor emeritus at the University of Birmingham and a longtime political observer, said Johnson would ultimately find it difficult to survive if both senior members of his cabinet leave.

“He’s not going to go down without a fight,” Lucas said. “I don’t know how many more people there are to fight him.”

The latest scandal began Thursday when Chris Fincher resigned as deputy chief whip amid allegations that he groped two men at a private club. That prompted a series of reports about past allegations against Pincher and questions about why Johnson promoted him to a senior job enforcing party discipline.

Pincher denies the allegations.

Johnson’s office initially said he was unaware of the previous allegations when he promoted Pincher in February. On Monday, a spokeswoman said Johnson was aware of allegations that “have not been resolved or progressed to a formal complaint.”

That account does not fit Simon McDonald, the most senior civil servant at the UK Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, McDonald said publicly that the Prime Minister’s Office had not been telling the truth.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, MacDonald said she received complaints about Fincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after he took office as secretary of state. An investigation confirmed the complaint, and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.

“Mr. Johnson was personally informed of the initiation and conclusion of the investigation,” McDonald wrote.

Hours after McDonald’s comments were published, Johnson’s office again changed its story, saying the prime minister had forgotten Fincher was the subject of an official complaint.

Minutes before Javid and Sunak announced their resignations, Johnson told reporters that Fincher should have been removed from the government after the earlier 2019 incident.

Asked if it was a mistake to appoint Fincher to the government, Johnson said, “I think it was a mistake, and I apologize for that. In hindsight it was a mistake.

Johnson’s shifting explanation sparked discontent within the Cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly deliver the prime minister’s denials, and the explanation was reversed the next day.

Johnson’s power has already been shaken by last month’s confidence vote. Although he survived, 41% of conservatives voted to remove him from office. But until Tuesday his cabinet remained largely loyal and faithful.

Concerns about Johnson’s leadership were fueled by his response to months of allegations about lock-breaking parties in government offices, which eventually led to 126 fines, including one levied against Johnson.

Two weeks later, Conservative candidates were badly defeated in two special elections to fill vacant seats in parliament, adding to the discontent within Johnson’s party and suggesting the ongoing impeachment was finding a hold with the public.

When Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip last week, she told Johnson she had “drank too much” the night before and “embarrassed myself and others.”

Johnson initially refused to suspend Fincher from the Conservative Party, but relented after a formal complaint was lodged with parliamentary officials.

Critics suggested Johnson was slow to react because Fincher did not want to resign his MP position, setting the Conservatives up for another potential special election defeat.

Even before the Fincher scandal, suggestions were rife that Johnson could soon face another no-confidence vote.

Existing rules require 12 months between such votes, but several conservative lawmakers have suggested they support changing the rules in an upcoming vote on the issue.

Senior Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale, a longtime critic of Johnson, said he supported changing the rules.

“Mr Johnson has been sending ministers for three days now – in one case a cabinet minister – to protect the indefensible, effectively lying on his behalf. That cannot be allowed to continue,” Gale told the BBC. , that cannot be accepted.”

___

Follow all of AP’s coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson