'end of the line'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson "suffered a potentially lethal political blow" on Tuesday, The New York Times reports, and "is fighting for political survival," BBC News adds, "after two of his top ministers attacked his leadership and resigned." In a span of 10 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid quit and released biting resignation letters explaining why they have lost confidence in Johnson's competence and integrity.
Johnson has had a rocky few months. A government report found that he and members of his staff participated in boozy lockdown-violating parties at his office and official residence, leading to 126 fines, including one against Johnson; he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote last month, with 41 percent of fellow Conservative members of Parliament voting to oust him; and Conservative candidates were then soundly beaten in two special parliamentary elections, leading to the resignation of Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden.
"Until Tuesday his Cabinet had largely stayed put and loyal," The Associated Press reports.
The public resignations of Sunak and Javid, followed quickly by several junior ministers, were evidently prompted by the latest scandal surrounding Johnson, involving suspended Conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher. Johnson appointed Pincher deputy chief whip in February despite, he finally acknowledged Tuesday, being aware of sexual misconduct allegations against him as early as 2019.
"Both Sunak and Javid are seen as possible contenders to replace Johnson if he is forced out," AP reports, but "Johnson has in the past proven to be an adept politician, fighting off criticism to prolong his career." Johnson quickly replaced both officials with loyalists. And other key Cabinet ministers stuck with Johnson, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, another possible successor.
Still, Johnson has clearly been politically weakened by the successive scandals. A snap YouGov poll released Tuesday found that 69 percent of Britons — including 54 percent of Conservatives — think Johnson should resign. And The Times of London, Johnson's former employer, published a brutal editorial Wednesday calling "game over" for the prime minister, saying "he has lost the confidence of his party and the country" and should resign.
After the dual departures of Sunak and Javid, "I can't see a way he gets through this — it really does look like the end of the road this time," Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, tells The New York Times.