Jul 7, 2022 - World

Boris Johnson announces resignation: "When the herd moves, it moves"

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed Thursday that he will resign as leader of the Conservative Party and step down as prime minister once a replacement is selected.

How it happened: Dozens of ministers in Johnson's government resigned over the past 24 hours as a cascade of scandals finally caught up to the prime minister. In remarks outside 10 Downing Street, Johnson said this was a "painful" moment, and noted that he'd fought hard to avoid it.

What he's saying: "It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader ... and therefore a new prime minister," Johnson said.

  • He thanked the voters who gave him a landslide general election victory in December 2019, and said he'd resisted the calls to resign because "I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019."
  • Referring to the Conservative members of Parliament who turned against him he said, "The herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves."
  • But Johnson said that no leader was indispensable, and "our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader." He promised to offer his successor his support.

What's next: Johnson said he'd appointed a new Cabinet that would serve alongside him until the Conservative Party selected a new leader to replace him as prime minister.

  • The BBC previously reported that Johnson intended to remain in a caretaker capacity until perhaps early October, but he's already coming under pressure to hand over power much sooner.
  • The new Cabinet is still taking shape, and some positions may prove difficult to fill given the sheer number of resignations.
  • At least 59 members of Johnson's government had resigned at the time of his remarks.

The flood of resignations began on Wednesday morning with Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

  • The last straw was the revelation that Johnson had named Conservative MP Chris Pincher to his government despite being aware of previous sexual misconduct allegations against him. Pincher resigned last week after new allegations were leveled against him.
  • It seemed increasingly clear — though perhaps not to Johnson himself — that his position was becoming untenable.
  • Johnson insisted until Thursday morning that he would fight on, citing his massive electoral mandate.

Setting the scene: A cluster of loyal members of Parliament gathered outside 10 Downing Street to applaud Johnson's remarks.

  • Johnson managed to keep the tone light, as is his style, despite the gravity of the moment.
  • He also briefly addressed the people of Ukraine, where he is immensely popular due to his support for weapons shipments, and promised that support would continue under his successor.

What to watch: Johnson said the timetable for the Conservative Party leadership contest would be announced next week. Candidates to replace Johnson are likely to include Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and Johnson rivals like former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Go deeper: The top candidates to replace Johnson

Go deeper