Sajid Javid has resigned as Health Secretary and Rishi Sunak as Chancellor, as Boris Johnson faces growing pressure over his handling of the Chris Pincher affair.
The pair announced their resignations late on Tuesday afternoon, piling pressure on Johnson’s precarious leadership.
It comes amid fury within the Conservative party over the Prime Minister’s handling of the case of Chris Pincher, the Tory MP who resigned as a Deputy Chief Whip last week after being accused of groping two men.
In his letter, Javid wrote: “The tone you set as a leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party and ultimately the country. Conservatives at their best are seen as hard-headed decision makers, guided by strong values. We may not always have been popular, but we have been competent in acting in the national interest. Sadly, in the current circumstances, the public are concluding that we are neither.”
Sunak, who announced his resignation just minutes later, wrote: “To leave ministerial office is a serious matter at any time. For me to step down as Chancellor while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.
He added: “However, the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.
The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously.
I recognize this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.
My letter to the Prime Minister below. pic.twitter.com/vZ1APB1ik1
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 5, 2022
“I have been loyal to you, I backed you to become Leader of our Party and encouraged others to do so. I have served as your Chancellor with gratitude that you entrusted me with stewardship of the nation’s economy and finances. Above all, I have respected the powerful mandate given to you by the British people in 2019 and how under your leadership we broke the Brexit deadlock.”
The letter went on: “That is why I have always tried to compromise in order to deliver the things you want to achieve. On those occasions where I disagreed with you privately, I have supported you publicly. That is the nature of the collective government upon which our system relies and it is particularly important that the Prime Minister and Chancellor remain united in hard times such as those we are experiencing today.”
There have also been resignations at more junior levels of government, with Jonathan Gullis, Saqib Bhatti and Nicola Richards resigning as Parliamentary Private Secretaries.
Bim Afolami resigned as a vice chairman of the Tory party over Johnson’s leadership live on television.
— The News Desk (@TheNewsDesk) July 5, 2022
The resignations come after a former senior FCO official said Boris Johnson was briefed in person on alleged wrongdoing by Tory MP Chris Pincher.
In a letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Lord McDonald said Number 10 was “not telling the truth” about the situation.
Responding to an Urgent Question on the matter, Paymaster General Michael Ellis told MPs on Tuesday: “The Prime Minister was made aware of this issue in late 2019.”
“He was told that the Permanent Secretary had taken the necessary action, therefore no issue rose about remaining as a minister.”
I have spoken to the Prime Minister to tender my resignation as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience. pic.twitter.com/d5RBFGPqXp
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) July 5, 2022
But he said that Johnson “did not immediately recall the conversation in late 2019 about this incident.”
It came after a slew of new allegations of misconduct against Pincher over the weekend since his resignation from government and subsequent removal of the Conservative Party whip after his drunken actions at the private Carlton Club in London on Wednesday.
In an interview that went public at the same time as the resignations, Johnson defended his actions, saying: “Let me explain what happened. We are talking about a series of appointments over seven years.
“Chris Pincher came into government as deputy chief whip before I became Prime Minister, he was move to the Foreign Office, he then went on to be a minister for housing and we then moved him back to be deputy chief whip.
“About two and a half years ago I got this complaint, it was something that was only raised with me very cursorily but I wish that we had, I in particular, had acted on it and that he had not continued in government because he then went on, I’m afraid, to behave, as far as we can see, according to the allegations that we have, very, very badly.
“I’m sorry for those who have been badly affected by it.”
There was understood to be widespread disquiet in the Cabinet on Thursday as the Pincher saga raged on. Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey was said to be furious that she spent Sunday morning defending the government only for the line on Pincher to change. Coffey, like numerous other senior Cabinet ministers including Liz Truss, Kwasi Kwarteng and Michael Gove, has decided not to resign, however.
One female minister was said to be in tears this morning as they tried to decide whether or not to resign. “When your response to a scandal creates a scandal you know it’s time to go,” one senior Tory source told PoliticsHome.
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labor Party, said: “After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it’s clear that this Government is now collapsing. Tory cabinet ministers have known all along who this Prime Minister is.”
He went on: “They have been his cheerleaders throughout this sorry saga, backing him when he broke the law, backing him when he lied repeatedly, backing him when he mocked the sacrifices of the British people.
“In doing so, they have been complicit every step of the way as he has disgraced his office and let down his country. If they had a shred of integrity they would have gone months ago. The British public will not be fooled. The Tory party is corrupted and changing one man won’t fix that.”
Additional reporting from John Johnston, Eleanor Langford and Alan White.
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