Brandon Lewis has become the fourth cabinet minister to quit the government in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership.
In a tweet posted at 6.47am this morning, the Northern Ireland secretary said: “A decent and responsible government relies on honesty, integrity and mutual respect - it is a matter of profound personal regret that I must leave government as I no longer believe those values are being upheld.”
He follows Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Simon Hart in resigning from the cabinet.
In all, more than 40 ministers, parliamentary aides and government trade envoys have resigned in an attempt to remove Johnson from office.
But despite the attempted coup, the PM is insisting that he has a mandate from voters to continue in the job.
In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Lewis said he had “given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt”.
“I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately,” he said.
“We are, however, now past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now. It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better.”
His resignation was swiftly followed by that of Helen Whately, the exchequer secretary to the Treasury.
In her letter to the PM, which was also posted on Twitter, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent, said: “With sincere regret I am resigning from HM Government.
“I stood for Parliament because I want to make our country a better place.”
“Your vision for our country and your mission to level-up has inspired and galvanised people.
“As exchequer secretary I have seen this in practice and been proud to play a part. I have argued that you should continue as Prime Minister many times in recent months, but there are only so many times you can apologise and move on. That point has been reached.”
Within minutes, security minister Damian Hinds also quit.
He said: “It has been a huge privilege and responsibility to serve as security minister. It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.”
And announcing his own resignation, science minister George Freeman tweeted: Enough is enough. This can’t go on. The chaos in No10, the breakdown of Cabinet collective responsibility, the abandonment of the Ministerial code, the defence of impropriety & defiance of Parliament are all insults to the Conservatism I believe in and stand for.”