Nearly 60 members of his government — almost half paid — had to resign before Johnson finally gave up trying to cling to power. Even then, the Prime Minister insisted that the Conservative Party should continue as caretaker leader while it begins the process of choosing a successor.
Some senior figures in his party say that will also be unsustainable as the number of people willing to work for him dwindles.
Others are already lining up to replace him. Party officials have said that they will release the schedule for the leadership election by Monday.
Speaking in front of the famous 10 Downing Street door, the same place where many of his predecessors gave their own resignation addresses, Johnson announced his resignation — without actually saying the words aloud.
“The will of the Parliamentary Conservatives is now clear, that the party must have a new leader and therefore a new Prime Minister,” Johnson said.
“The process of electing that new leader should start now,” he added, adding that a deadline would be announced next week.
In a sign that he planned to stay in office as long as he could, Johnson announced that he had appointed a new cabinet “to serve as I please until there is a new leader”. Appointing new cabinet ministers means the government can continue to function as he prepares to leave.
Johnson talked about his efforts to stay on as president and how “painful” it was for him to step down, but made no mention of the scandals that proved his political downfall.
“Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to convince my colleagues that it would be strange to change governments when we’re delivering so much…and when the economic picture is so tough both domestically and internationally,” Johnson said.
“I regret not winning those arguments and, of course, it hurts not being able to see many of the ideas and plans myself,” he said, adding that he was proud to “get Brexit done” and “lead the way”. The West stands against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”
Johnson spoke directly to voters and expressed regret about stepping down after nearly three years in office.
“To you, the British public: I know there will be many who will be relieved and, perhaps, some will be disappointed,” he said. “I want you to know how sad I am to give up the best job in the world, but they’re just breaks.”
Johnson initially sought to defuse the crisis — an unprecedented flight of neutral ministers from the government, battered by Prime Minister’s Questions and an acrimony in front of a panel of senior lawmakers in parliament. On Wednesday, he insisted he would not resign yet.
But Johnson finally delivered on Thursday after some of his loyal allies said the game was over.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Johnson had made the “right decision” to resign. “We need peace and unity now and continue to govern while a new leader is found,” he added.
Greg Clark, the newly appointed UK Secretary of State for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities, said he had a “duty to ensure the country has a government that works”.
Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said Johnson’s decision to resign was “good news for the country”, adding that it “should have happened a long time ago”.
“He has never been fit for office. He has been responsible for lies, corruption and fraud on an industrial scale,” Starmer said on Twitter.
The Leader of the Opposition also had harsh words for the Conservatives. “They’ve been in power for 12 years. The damage they’ve done is profound. Twelve years of economic stagnation. Twelve years of collapsing public services. Twelve years of empty promises,” Starmer said.
“Enough is enough. We don’t need to change the Tories at the top — we need a proper regime change. Britain needs a fresh start.”
But some said Johnson should leave office quickly.
“We need a new leader soon,” Commerce and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on Twitter. “We can rebuild trust, heal the country and set a new, sane and sustainable economic approach to help families,” he added.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also called for a solution to the leadership issue.
“Whilst the idea of Boris Johnson remaining Prime Minister until the autumn seems less than ideal and certainly not sustainable, will there be widespread relief that the chaos of the last few days (and months, really) will end?” Sturgeon said in a series of tweets.
Conservative MP Steve Baker told CNN the party “must move quickly to a leadership contest”.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is expected to be caretaker prime minister, but Johnson could also continue in office, Baker said. Robb has represented Johnson in the past: in April 2020 when the prime minister was in intensive care with Covid-19, and then again briefly last month when Johnson underwent “routine” surgery and was put under general anesthesia.
“I am determined that we must not prolong this crisis. If there is agreement within the government that Boris Johnson should continue as caretaker, that would be fine with me,” Baker told CNN. “Because we need to end the crisis, engage in a leadership contest, and start fresh in September.”
Former British Prime Minister John Major said it would be “unwise and unsustainable” for Johnson to remain prime minister for longer while a new Conservative leader is elected.
A barrage of reviews
Johnson’s departure would mark a significant fall for a prime minister once seen as a political superpower.
He won a landslide victory on his promise to deliver a Brexit deal in December 2019 and lead the UK to a brighter future outside the EU. But his prime ministership emerged after the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recent months, the prime minister has faced a barrage of criticism from all sides about her behavior and the behavior of some members of her government, including illegal, Covid-19 lockdown-breaking parties thrown in her Downing Street offices, for which she and others have been fined. .
And many more scams were reported in his polling station. These include allegations that he improperly used donor money to refurbish his Downing Street home and ordered MPs to vote to protect a colleague who broke lobbying rules.
Last month, he survived a confidence vote among members of his own party, but the final number of his legislators who rebelled against him was higher than his supporters expected: 41% of his own parliamentary party refused to support him.
He suffered another blow late last month when his party lost two parliamentary by-elections overnight, raising fresh questions about his leadership.
His reputation was also damaged by the resignation of his second ethics adviser within two years.
CNN’s Lauren Kent and Sugam Pokharel contributed to this report.