Boris Johnson has resigned as Conservative leader, saying “no one is indispensable” after a series of cabinet ministers told him he had lost the support of the party.
In a statement outside Downing Street, Johnson announced he was stepping down as party leader but said he planned to stay on as prime minister while the party picks his successor.
The statement brings an end to an extraordinary standoff between Johnson and cabinet ministers, including his new chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, who were urging him to quit amid anger over the Chris Pincher affair and other scandals.
Joined by his wife, Carrie, and a number of Tory supporters, Johnson said he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world” and he blamed the Conservative parliamentary party for pushing him out of office.
“When the herd moves, it moves,” he said in a reference to the cabinet and MPs moving against him, while paying tribute to the “brilliant Darwinian system” that caused his downfall. “Them’s the breaks,” he added.
The prime minister said he had “appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place”, pointing to a sense of duty and obligation to the public.
However, senior Conservative MPs are pushing back against the idea that Johnson should be allowed to stay in office for any longer and they want to see an interim leader in place such as Dominic Raab.
Support drained away from Johnson as more than 50 ministers and government aides resigned in a rolling walkout, while a slew of once supportive backbenchers declared no confidence in his leadership.
The revolt began on Tuesday evening with the resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak as health secretary and chancellor respectively.
Johnson faced the prospect of a second vote of no confidence as soon as next week, with elections to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee due to be held on Monday and likely to result in a change to the rules.
His exit follows three years of scandals, including fury over his handling of harassment allegations against Pincher, the deputy chief whip; a police fine over lockdown parties in Downing Street, attempts to change the standards system, and accusations of breaking international law.
Johnson became prime minister in 2019, taking over from Theresa May with a promise to “get Brexit done”. After winning an 80-seat majority in a general election in December 2019, and taking the UK out of the EU, the prime minister had his eye on multiple terms in No 10.
However, his leadership toppled under a wave of sleaze allegations and failure to tell the truth, contributing to the resignation of two of his ethics advisers, Sir Alex Allan and Lord Geidt.