British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation on Thursday.
Johnson said he would stay until the Conservative party picks a new leader, despite multiple people, including his two latest cabinet appointments, calling on him to step down immediately amid ethics scandals. Dozens of ministers and officials in his Conservative government have resigned this week.
British Treasury chief Nadhim Zahawi – one of Johnson’s closest allies – told him to resign on Thursday for the good of the country just two days after he was appointed by the prime minister.
“Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country,” Zahawi said in a letter to Johnson. “You must do the right thing and go now.”
Education Secretary Michelle Donelan, who was also appointed on Tuesday following the resignation of her predecessor, announced her resignation Thursday morning.
Zahawi was also appointed after his predecessor resigned.
As recently as Wednesday, the prime minister was defiant, arguing he had a mandate from voters.
A group of Johnson’s most trusted Cabinet ministers visited him at his office in Downing Street Wednesday, telling him to stand down after losing the trust of his party. But Johnson instead opted to fight for his political career and fired one of the Cabinet officials, Michael Gove, British media reported.
Five cabinet ministers had quit by Thursday and more than 50 officials have left in the last two days since the latest scandal broke. Johnson is accused of lying about not knowing about groping allegations against a man whom he appointed as a senior government minister.
Johnson’s most prominent scandal, Partygate, undercut his trust with voters during the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson was among party members who attended parties at 10 Downing Street and other places while health restrictions prohibited gatherings for regular citizens.
“I just said to him, ‘Look, it’s just when you go now, and it’s how you go,” Bernard Jenkin, a senior Conservative Party lawmaker, told the BBC he said to Johnson Wednesday. “You can go with some dignity or you can be forced out like Donald Trump, clinging to power and pretending he’s won the election when he’s lost.’’
Weeks earlier Johnson narrowly survived a no-confidence vote from his own Conservative party.
“We are… past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now,” Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said in his resignation letter Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.