U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that he would step down as leader of his party, which will eventually see him removed from the country’s top job.
Addressing the nation from in front of his 10 Downing Street office, Johnson thanked Britons for the “immense privilege” they had bestowed upon him, but said he agreed it was time for his Conservative Party to have a new leader.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party, and therefore a new PM,” Johnson said, thanking voters for what he called an “incredible mandate.”
“The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do, so but I felt it was my job, duty, obligation to you to continue to do what we promised,” Johnson said.
The move came after dozens of high-profile resignations by members of his cabinet and government and calls for his exit by members of his own party.
Johnson, 58, will resign as leader of the Conservative Party, but he intends to stay on as prime minister until the fall and has appointed a new cabinet, CBS News partner network BBC News reported. That plan was quickly called into question by fellow Conservatives.
BBC News quoted Conservative lawmaker and former national Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng as saying the country, not just the party, needs a new leader “as soon as practicable,” and former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said in a tweet that there was “no way he can stay on until October. It’s arrant nonsense to think he can.”
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Kier Starmer, said Thursday that Johnson “needs to go. He can’t cling on,” as a caretaker prime minister. If Johnson doesn’t step down as prime minister, Starmer warned that “Labour will, in the national interest, bring a no confidence vote. Because this can’t go on.”
Earlier Thursday, when reports of Johnson’s decision to resign first emerged, Conservative Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood told the BBC that he was happy that Johnson had “recognized the damage that was being done, not just to the party brand but also our international stock,” and decided to step down.
A long series of scandals has engulfed Johnson, the latest involving former government minister Chris Pincher, who recently resigned after being accused of groping two men. Pincher was appointed as deputy chief whip by Johnson, and the prime minister initially claimed that he did not know about the misconduct allegations against Pincher.
Johnson’s office changed the official account of what the prime minister knew two times over the last week as new information came to light.
Johnson’s resignation will mark the end of his nearly three-year spell as leader of the Conservative Party, and the beginning of the end of his time as prime minister.
Just last month, he narrowly survived a vote of no confidence by his own party. In April, he was fined by police for violating COVID-19 restrictions during Britain’s pandemic lockdown, when he attended parties at his official residence.