London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced his resignation, after one of his closest associates -- Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi -- told him to step down for the good of the country.
In the last few days, dozens of ministers have quit his scandal-hit government, including the shocking exit of two persons of Indian and Pakistani origin – Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid -- which set off the chain of events.
They quit after Johnson apologised for his February appointment of senior Conservative MP Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip. Pincher was forced to step down following accusations that he drunkenly groped two men.
Days of shifting explanations followed the resignation, before Downing Street finally conceded that Johnson had known about Pincher's behaviour as far back as 2019.
The prime minister was earlier under a cloud for breaching the Covid lockdown norms by attending what came to be known as the "partygate" affair; he faces a parliamentary probe into whether he lied to MPs about the revelations.
Watched by his wife Carrie and their baby son Romy, Johnson said it was ''clearly the will of the party that there should be a new leader.'' He blamed the "herd instinct" of his party as he delivered his good-bye speech on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.
The outgoing leader reiterated he had been given an "incredible mandate" at the 2019 general election, which was "the reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person”. "I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019," he said.
Referring to the high drama of the last few days, Johnson said he had tried to persuade his colleagues that it would be “eccentric” to change governments with such a “vast mandate” and when the Tories are only a “handful of points” behind in the polls and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.
The timetable for a Tory leadership race will be announced next week, he said. The election will take place over the summer and the victor will replace him by early October, the BBC and others reported.
Admitting 'no-one is indispensable,' Johnson is lining up a 'unity Cabinet' as he battles to stay in Downing Street for months longer. However, that may not be acceptable to Tory MPs. More than 50 government members have resigned, and there will be questions over whether they can simply be reappointed, or would even agree to that.
His three tumultuous years in office were defined by Brexit, the Covid pandemic and non-stop controversy over his reputation for mendacity.