Boris Johnson Vows To Fight On Despite Cabinet Ministers Telling Him To Quit

Defiant prime minister dismisses direct pleas from senior members of government to stand down, as resignations mount.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street.
Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images

Boris Johnson is to fight on to save his political career despite a succession of cabinet ministers personally telling him it was time to go.

The prime minister rejected direct pleas from the likes of Grant Shapps, Simon Hart, Priti Patel and Brandon Lewis to quit.

In a dramatic move, Michael Gove was sacked from the cabinet after telling the PM earlier in the day his position was untenable.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, also met with the PM in Downing Street to tell him he now longer had the support of the parliamentary party.

Meanwhile, dozens of government frontbenchers quit their posts throughout the day in a bid to force Johnson to resign.

A succession of backbenchers, including many who had supported him in last month’s vote of confidence, also made it clear that they now wanted him out.

But the defiant prime minister insisted he had a mandate from the people to carry on in the job, insisting that he would continue to focus on the “hugely important issues facing the country”.

One MP told HuffPost UK: “He’ll try to ride it out. He’s unbelievably selfish but no one can be surprised by that now.”

Patel – a long-time loyalist – is said to have spoken to the prime minister to convey the “overwhelming view” of the parliamentary party.

Shapps is thought to have told Johnson that he stood little chance of winning another confidence vote and should instead set out a timetable for a departure on his own terms.

But a source close to the PM said he told his colleagues there would be “chaos” if he quit and the party would almost certainly lose the next election.

The source said Johnson was “continuing to focus on delivering for the public” and addressing the “hugely important issues facing the country”.

If Johnson digs in, even in the face of further resignations, the next flashpoint is set to be on Monday, when the 1922 committee has scheduled elections for its executive committee.

The new executive could decide to alter the rules, allowing another confidence vote within days, with Johnson then facing a fresh battle to remain in office.

It has been suggested that the prime minister could even refuse to quit if he lost that confidence vote.

But one cabinet minister told HuffPost UK that “the mechanism of the 1922 committee will do its job”, meaning the PM would be removed from office if more than half of his MPs voted for it.

Gove was thought to have told the prime minister on Wednesday morning that it was time for him to quit.

The BBC reported that the communities secretary had been sacked, with a No 10 source telling the broadcaster: “You cannot have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully briefs the press that he has called for the leader to go.

“You cannot operate like that.”

Johnson’s relationship with Gove has long been troubled, with the prime minister’s leadership campaign in 2016 derailed when his rival withdrew support and decided to run himself.

Soon after Gove was removed, Welsh secretary Simon Hart also quit.

Wednesday’s drama followed the shock resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid a day earlier.

The PM managed to see off the immediate threat to his premiership by carrying out a hasty reshuffle.

But the resignation of several junior ministers, as well as a number of ministerial aides, piled further pressure on Johnson to fall on his sword.

During a disastrous appearance in front of the Commons liaison committee, cabinet ministers began arriving in No. 10 so they could tell Johnson his time was up when he came back.

Astonishingly, a rival group of Johnson-supporting ministers, including Nadine Dorries, also arrived in Downing Street to give him their backing.

The PM struck a defiant tone during his committee appearance, repeatedly insisting that he had no intention of quitting.

Johnson said: “I look at the biggest war in Europe for 80 years and I can’t for the life of me see how it is responsible just to walk away from that. Particularly not when you have a mandate of the kind that we won two, three years ago.”

He added: “We’re going to get on with running the country.”

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