More and more people want the British prime minister to step down. More than two dozen people in his government quit on Wednesday, and the people in Parliament were very angry with him.
London — Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain, tried desperately on Wednesday to save his position, even as a group of his cabinet colleagues went to Downing Street to ask their scandal-tainted leader to step down. Johnson’s support was falling, his government was in chaos, and he was out of justifications.
More than 30 government ministers or staffers quit, and many Conservative Party lawmakers asked Mr. Johnson to step down. When he left Parliament through a side door, backbenchers jeered, “Bye, Boris!” because of how he handled the latest sex and bullying scandal in the party.
On a day when things moved quickly, Mr. Johnson said he would keep fighting. He said that voters had given him the power to lead Britain into its post-Brexit future, even though rebellious cabinet ministers are trying to get rid of him. But in another part of Westminster, lawmakers debated — and then put off, at least for a few days — a change in party rules that would allow another vote of confidence against the prime minister, possibly next week. This would be the second vote of confidence in a month.
Most people agreed that Boris Johnson’s time in office was coming to an end, no matter what happens in the next few hours or days. Less than three years after he became prime minister, before he rode a wave of pro-Brexit passion to a landslide election win, Mr. Johnson seemed trapped, like a political gambler who had finally run out of options.
That doesn’t mean that the end will be fast or easy. The cabinet delegation asked Mr. Johnson to step down, but he refused. He hasn’t said for sure that he won’t call a snap election to put his future in the hands of British voters. Queen Elizabeth II would have to agree to this, which could cause a political crisis.
“A prime minister’s job in hard times, when he’s been given a huge mandate, is to keep going,” Mr. Johnson said in Parliament with a grim face, rejecting yet another call for him to step down.
Even though a lot was going on in Parliament on Wednesday, the real action took place behind the scenes, where Mr. Johnson’s shrinking group of supporters and growing group of opponents worked things out. Michael Gove, one of his most important allies, told the prime minister in a private meeting that Mr. Johnson needed to leave. The BBC said that Mr. Johnson had fired Mr. Gove later on Wednesday.
Later on Wednesday, Britain’s attorney general, Suella Braverman, asked Mr. Johnson to step down and said she would run for office to replace him if he did. She said on ITV, “If there is a leadership race, I will put my name in the hat.”
The latest part of the crisis began on Tuesday, when the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid, both quit without warning. Mr. Johnson’s handling of a case involving Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker who admitted to being drunk at a London private members’ club where it was said he groped two men, set off the fight.
Their departures sparked a rebellion within Mr. Johnson’s party, which had been building against him for months. This was made worse by embarrassing reports of social gatherings at Downing Street that broke the government’s own coronavirus lockdown rules.
Given how quickly Mr. Johnson’s government is falling apart, many Tory lawmakers think that Mr. Johnson needs to be replaced as soon as possible to protect the party’s chances at the polls.
Keir Starmer, who is the leader of the opposition, criticized Mr. Johnson and the cabinet ministers who haven’t quit the prime minister despite what seems like a never-ending string of scandals.
“Anyone who quits now after defending all that hasn’t got a shred of integrity,” Mr. Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, said to Mr. Johnson as he glared at him across a table. “Isn’t this the first time anyone has heard of rats running away from a ship that is sinking?”
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