Wednesday July 06, 2022

Top Ministers Including Sunak Turn on UK’s Scandal-Tainted PM

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered two shock departures from his government, including his finance minister, as civil war erupted in the high command of the ruling Conservative party.

Rishi Sunak quit as chancellor of the exchequer and Sajid Javid resigned as health secretary, with both saying they could no longer tolerate the culture of scandal that has stalked Johnson for months.

Their resignations were announced minutes after the prime minister apologised for appointing a senior Conservative, who quit last week after he was accused of drunkenly groping two men.

Days of shifting explanations had followed the resignation of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher. Downing Street at first denied Johnson knew of prior allegations against Pincher when appointing him in February.

But by Tuesday, that defence had collapsed after a former top civil servant said Johnson, as foreign minister, was told in 2019 about another incident involving his ally.

“I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it,” the prime minister told reporters, after opposition MPs and some Tories accused him of lying over what he knew when he appointed Pincher.

“In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”

The Pincher affair was the “icing on the cake” for Sunak and Javid, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, one of Johnson s fiercest critics, told Sky News.

“It s time for Boris to go. He can drag this out for a few more hours if he wants to.

“But I and a lot of the party now are determined that he will be gone by the summer recess (in three weeks): the sooner the better.”

The resignations came after Johnson only narrowly survived a vote of no confidence among Conservative MPs a month ago.

Other cabinet members including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace — two likely contenders for the leadership — continue to back Johnson, aides said.

But Sunak s departure in particular, in the middle of policy differences over a cost-of-living crisis sweeping Britain, is dismal news for Johnson.

In a caustic resignation letter, Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”.

“I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning,” he wrote to Johnson.

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