2 key UK Cabinet ministers leave Boris Johnson’s government | Government and politics
By DANICA KIRKA – Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Two of Britain’s top Cabinet ministers resigned on Tuesday, a move that could spell the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership after months of scandals.
Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other after a day in which the Prime Minister was forced to admit he needed to change his story about how he dealt allegations of sexual misconduct by a senior government official.
“It is with immense regret that I must tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue to serve in this government,” Javid said in his resignation letter. “I am instinctively a team player, but Britons also rightly expect integrity from their government.”
Sunak said “the public rightly expects government to be run properly, competently and seriously. ”
“I recognize that this may be my last ministerial post, but I believe these standards are worth upholding and that is why I am stepping down,” he added.
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Both Sunak and Javid have been considered potential candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party if Johnson is forced out. Their departures were a blow to the prime minister as both were in charge of two of the biggest issues facing Britain right now – the cost of living crisis and the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest scandal has seen Johnson hit by allegations that he has not been clear about a lawmaker appointed to a senior post despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
Johnson came under pressure to explain what he knew of previous misconduct allegations against lawmaker Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy chief whip on Thursday amid complaints he groped two men at a club private.
Minutes before Javid and Sunak’s resignations were announced, Johnson told reporters that Pincher should have been fired from government after a previous incident in 2019.
When asked if it was a mistake to appoint Pincher to government, Johnson replied: ‘I think it was a mistake and I apologize. In hindsight, it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
“I apologize to everyone who has been hit hard by this. I want it to be absolutely clear that there is no place in this government for anyone who is predatory or abuses their position of power,” Johnson said.
The government’s explanation has changed several times over the past five days. Ministers initially said Johnson was unaware of any allegations when he promoted Pincher to the job in February.
On Monday, a spokesperson said Johnson was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct that were “either resolved or did not result in a formal complaint.”
That account did not sit well with Simon McDonald, Britain’s top Foreign Office official from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, he said on Tuesday that the Prime Minister’s Office was still not telling the truth.
McDonald said in a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became foreign minister. An investigation upheld the complaint and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.
McDonald disputed that Johnson was unaware of the allegations or that the complaints were dismissed because they had been resolved or had not been formally filed.
“The original No 10 line is not true and the edit is still not accurate,” McDonald wrote, referring to the Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street. “Mr Johnson was personally informed of the initiation and results of the investigation.
Hours after McDonald’s comments were published, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the prime minister had forgotten he had been told Pincher was the subject of a formal complaint.
The latest revelations fueled discontent within Johnson’s cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly deliver the prime minister’s denials, only to have the explanation changed the next day.
The Times of London published an analysis of the situation on Tuesday under the headline ‘Alleged lie puts Boris Johnson at risk’.
Johnson’s authority had already been shaken by a vote of no confidence last month. He survived, but 41% of Tories voted to remove him from office.
The Prime Minister’s changing responses to months of allegations of lockdown-breaking parties at government offices that ultimately resulted in 126 fines, including one levied on Johnson, have fueled concerns over his leadership.
Two weeks later, Tory candidates were badly beaten in two special elections to fill vacant seats in Parliament, add to discontent within Johnson’s party.
When Pincher resigned last week as Deputy Chief Whip, a key post in enforcing party discipline, he told the Prime Minister he had “drank way too much” the night before and that he had “embarrassed myself and other people”.
Johnson initially refused to suspend Pincher from the Conservative Party, but he relented after a formal complaint over the groping allegations was filed with parliamentary authorities.
Critics have suggested Johnson was slow to react because he did not want to be in a position to force Pincher to resign his seat in parliament and set the Tories up for another potential special election defeat.
Even before the Pincher scandal, suggestions were circulating that Johnson could soon face another vote of no confidence.
Over the next few weeks, Conservative lawmakers will elect new members to the committee that sets the party’s parliamentary rules. Several candidates have suggested they would support changing the rules to allow another vote of no confidence. The existing rules require 12 months between these votes.
Senior Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale, a longtime critic of Johnson, said he would support a change to the 1922 Conservative committee rules.
“Mr Johnson has been sending ministers – in one case a cabinet minister – for three days to defend the indefensible, in effect to lie on his behalf. This cannot go on,” Gale told the BBC. minister has trashed the reputation of a proud and honorable party for its honesty and decency, and that is not acceptable.”
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