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Tories wield knife as Johnson quits

By Connor Steel

BORIS JOHNSON has announced his upcoming resignation as UK Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader after less than three years in charge; ending forty eight hours of political chaos which saw over fifty resignations from Government and a flurry of letters of no confidence in his leadership submitted by his parliamentary colleagues including Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage late on Wednesday night (July 6).

In a live lunchtime statement to the nation from Downing Street, Mr Johnson thanked the millions that voted for the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election; outlining his reasons for staying firm against strong political pressure to date as: “I thought it was my job, my duty and my obligation to you”. The PM further admitted that he had lost the Cabinet arguments to stay as he stated: “I regret not to have been successful in those arguments. At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.”

Surviving a vote of no confidence last month, Mr Johnson’s resignation comes amidst a scandal involving Tamworth MP Chris Pincher and allegations of sexual assault by the former deputy chief whip. Although Mr Pincher quickly resigned it was reported that the PM had been aware of formal allegations before promoting his colleague in February’s cabinet reshuffle; something that was first denied by Downing Street until new evidence was leaked by a former Civil Servant that forced another U-turn from Mr Johnson who apologised.

But under pressure from previous scandals including party-gate, wallpaper and the Owen Paterson debate; this latest series of events prompted a series of resignations across the cabinet and frontbenches. Starting with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Savid Javid on Tuesday night; a total of 55 Government ministers, Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) and high profile names resigned from their roles across a 36 hour period.  This includes the Secretaries of Northern Ireland and Wales, alongside the new Education Secretary Michelle Donelan who only took the high-profile role earlier this week replacing Nadhim Zahawi.

And although fellow backbench Conservatives MP chose not to resign their roles, instead choosing to keep the wheels of Government turning, they did submit letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee Chair Sir Graham Brady in hope of triggering another vote amongst MPs if the rules were changed as expected next week. One of these names was Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage following discussions with voters and colleagues; her intervention broken by the Daily Echo and Portsmouth News late on Wednesday evening.

In her letter available here she wrote: “I like to think that I have served the Prime Minister, both as a Minister (for Department of Culture, Digital & Sport, DCMS) and backbench MP, with integrity and loyalty. However, my priorities will always be my loyalty to my constituents, the Conservative Party and this country and I am sorry to say that I no longer believe the Prime Minister is governing in the best interests of any of them.”

Mr Johnson’s resignation ends a spell of leadership that started nearly three years ago on July 24, 2019; sitting just behind his immediate pre-successor Theresa May in terms of number of days as Prime Minister. And he looks set to overtake the Maidenhead MP as he will stay in Downing Street until a leadership contest has taken place in the Conservative Party; agreeing not to “seek to implement new policies” or make “major fiscal decisions” in the aftermath with a temporary cabinet selected to conduct key Government business.

The exact timetable for the leadership contest will be announced next week and Conservative MPs will be allowed to challenge for the top job; providing they have the support of eight colleagues. Votes will be held on a regular basis until the top two are selected, before ballots are sent to party members to decide; a final result and new Prime Minister due to be announced in time for October’s party conference in Birmingham.

Popular names for the running include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Deputy PM Dominic Raab and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss; alongside former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. But there are furthermore some outsiders keen to put their name forward, with one of these being Suella Braverman; who addressed the situation in a live television interview broadcast late on Wednesday night.

The Fareham MP and Attorney General told ITV’s Robert Peston the “balance has tipped” in favour of Mr Johnson’s departure from office at this time; whilst also taking the opportunity to state that she would  “put her name into the ring” during a possible leadership election. Making her case Ms Braverman told the host it would be “the greatest honour” to serve the country that gave her parents “hope” as Prime Minister in future.

No official bids for leadership have been confirmed at the time of writing following Mr Johnson’s resignation, but it is expected that the Fareham MP will run despite a level of perceived inexperience compared to her potential rivals. She has been a MP for Fareham since the General Election in 2015 and her Attorney General role is her first Cabinet job; only being in the role for just over two years, whilst voter rating is low.

Readers are encouraged to visit the official websites of Dame Caroline Dinenage and Suella Braverman as they react to the resignation of Boris Johnson alongside any potential leadership bids over the coming days.

PICTURED BY SKY NEWS (GETTY IMAGES): Boris Johnson has resigned as PM ending a 3 year tenure.