Boris Johnson ‘sad’ as British Prime Minister confirms resignation
Boris Johnson confirmed he is resigning as Prime Minister after failing to stem the flood of resignations among former Conservative Party appointees.
The writing was on the wall when a succession of his own Ministers, hitherto loyal to their leader, arrived at Number 10 Downing Street after Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament on Wednesday to tell him it was over, after Mr Johnson said in the House of Commons he would remain in his role.
A total of over 50 MPs, Ministers and government officials had followed former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid in tendering their resignation in protest over the latest controversy to engulf the government in Britain. The NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis was among those to resign this morning.
Speaking this afternoon, Boris Johnson said “it was clearly now the will” of the party to appoint a new leader and that that process would start next week.
“I want to say to those who voted for us in 2019, many of them voting Conservative for the first time, thank you for that incredible mandate.”
He said he had felt it was ‘my job, my duty, my obligation’ to stay on do what was promised back in 2019.
In a seven minute speech he said his party needed to stick with the ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. “If we do that we will be the most prosperous in Europe”.
“My friends, in politics no-one is remotely indispensable”, he conceded, and to his successor he said: “I will give you as much support as I can”.
“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world,” he said in a direct address to the British public.
Earlier yesterday Boris Johnson refused to heed calls for him to go from MPs from within his own party as well as from opposition parties.
Labour leader Kier Starmer claimed earlier today the only thing Boris Johnson was delivering was ‘chaos’ and branded those in the Cabinet who haven’t abandoned ship as a “z-list cast of nodding dogs’.
Boris Johnson retorted at the time that the difference between his government and Labour was the Conservatives had a plan, the opposition didn’t.
He said the government was getting on with the business of governing and were “going to continue to deliver on the mandate I was given”.
But in the end it was his own party who unseated the man who championed and delivered Brexit, was in Number 20 throughout the pandemic, who oversaw the UK government deciding to unilaterally alter the Northern Ireland Protocol agreement it had signed up to with the European Union, and whose government tabled the Legacy Bill which has sparked protests across the north.
It is now unclear if whoever succeeds him will take a different approach to these and other matters who impact directly on people here in the north of Ireland.
Derry’s MP Colum Eastwood was among those yesterday who warned that the game was up.
Foyle MP Mr Eastwood claimed: “Throughout his tenure as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has aimlessly shambled from one disaster to the next. He showed a real failure of leadership during the coronavirus pandemic, has repeatedly undermined the public’s faith in their politicians with a multitude of scandals and brought shame upon his government and Britain – that’s before we even get to the negative impact he has had on the North.
“His determination to push through the hardest version of Brexit and use of the Protocol for his own political ends has fostered division and political instability here, his disregard for international law has seriously damaged Britain’s relations with the South, the EU and the US, and he has retraumatised victims of our Troubled past with an amnesty...
“Boris Johnson should have been removed as Prime Minister long ago, that he has been allowed to continue this long and cause further damage is a matter of deep regret. Now that his colleagues are deserting the sinking ship.... the writing is on the wall. The moment has long since passed for Johnson to do the right thing and depart with any dignity, but he must go as soon as possible so we can begin to undo the damage he’s caused.”
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA today said the British Government’s legislation on the Protocol stands condemned before the international community, and warned that the DUP, closely aligned to the Tory party over recent years, needed to reflect on where its loyalties lie.
Speaking after British Secretary of State Brandon Lewis became the latest Minister to resign from the British government, Michelle O’Neill claimed the ‘rigorous impartiality’ required under the Good Friday Agreement had been lacking.
Ms O’Neill claimed the focus rather had been on efforts which “shamefully placated the DUP by giving them political cover in denying the electorate the democratic representation they are entitled to”.
Ms O’Neill blamed the outgoing Secretary of State for preventing Ministers from using £435 million to support workers and families struggling with the rising cost of living crisis, “agreeing a three-year budget and putting an additional billion pounds towards fixing our health service”.
“He has failed victims and survivors by tearing up the Stormont House Agreement agreed by the two governments and political parties to deal with the past,” she claimed, adding:
“He has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and political stability and his actions gave us a daily reminder why those with no mandate or votes here will only ever act in their own political interests, and not ours.
“The political stability of the North cannot be a hostage to the Tory-in fighting, Westminster chaos and continued DUP disruption.”
In his letter to the Prime Minister, the now former NI Secretary Mr Lewis outlined some of the things he considered the biggest successes during his tenure and why he could not carry on.
He said: “It is with regret that I submit my resignation from the Government. It has been an incredible honour to serve in Government over the last ten years under three Prime Ministers, most recently as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
“Through the challenges of the last two and a half years, we have taken important steps to secure the future peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland. I am pleased to have guaranteed the greatest funding settlement for Northern Ireland since devolution in 1998. The legacy of the Troubles is one of the most complex and sensitive policy issues we have faced, one that successive Governments have struggled to address, so I am immensely proud that we have persevered and brought in the Northern Ireland (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.
“We have taken huge strides to level up the economy of Northern Ireland and have not shied away from taking other difficult decisions; confronting the practical issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, advocating for the reproductive rights of women and championing the benefits of integrated education for all.”
He added: “A decision to leave Government is never taken lightly, particularly at such a critical time for Northern Ireland. I have taken a lot of time to consider this decision, having outlined my position to you at length last night. I have served loyally in your Cabinet and you have achieved much during your time as the leader of our Party and as Prime Minister.”
Mr Lewis said he had given his Party leader and those around him the benefit of the doubt. “I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately. We are, however, now past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now. It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better.
“I delivered my first campaign leaflet as a teenager and the Conservative Party has been hugely influential in my life ever since. In recent weeks and months, we have been relentlessly on the defensive, consumed by introspection and in-fighting. A divided Party cannot win elections. It cannot deliver for those who trusted us with their votes for the first time in 2019.
“A decent and responsible Government relies on honesty, integrity and mutual respect it is a matter of profound personal regret for me that I must leave Government as I no longer believe those values are being upheld.”