Two of Boris Johnson’s senior cabinet ministers have resigned over his handling of a sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked UK politics.
It comes after Mr Johnson survived a vote of no confidence, a report in which he was blamed for government parties during COVID lockdown and a range of scandals involving MPs and staff in his party.
So there’s a fair bit to unpack.
What happened this time?
Last week, Conservative Party deputy chief whip Chris Pincher resigned from his post and was suspended by the party for a drunken incident in which he reportedly groped two men.
He apologised, saying he “drank far too much” and “embarrassed myself and other people, which is the last thing I want to do, and for that I apologise to you and to those concerned”.
But that triggered a series of reports about past allegations levelled against Mr Pincher.
This prompted questions about why Mr Johnson promoted him to the senior job — which is to enforce party discipline.
Mr Pincher denies the past allegations.
At first, Mr Johnson’s office said he wasn’t aware of the earlier accusations when he promoted Mr Pincher in February.
A spokesman said Mr Johnson knew of allegations that were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”.
This prompted a senior public servant to say Mr Johnson had been aware of Mr Pincher’s behaviour in the summer of 2019.
Mr Johnson then said: “I think it was a mistake, and I apologise for it. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”
Who has resigned from Boris Johnson’s cabinet?
Shortly after Mr Johnson’s apology, Treasury boss Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other.
Mr Javid said he could “no longer continue in good conscience”, while Mr Sunak said government standards “are worth fighting for”.
Both men had stood by Mr Johnson throughout previous scandals, including parties at his Downing Street office during COVID lockdowns.
The two resignations were followed later on Tuesday evening by four junior ministers and a trade envoy quitting their jobs.
Wasn’t there just a big vote to get rid of Johnson?
Yes. It happened about a month ago and was prompted by the government parties during lockdown.
The Conservative Party successfully sought a vote of no confidence on Mr Johnson, which would have required a simple majority for him to be removed.
Mr Johnson survived, winning the vote 211 to 148.
The result means he cannot face another no-confidence vote for a year.
“I think it’s a convincing result,” Mr Johnson said at the time, despite 148 colleagues wanting to boot him from the top job.
“A decisive result and what it means is that, as a government, we can move on and focus on the stuff that I think really matters to people.”
What other scandals has he faced?
Well, there’s the so-called “Partygate” scandal for a start.
A report into the parties was led by senior civil servant Sue Gray, who said the “senior leadership team… must bear responsibility” for a culture that allowed events to take place.
The review investigated 16 gatherings that were held between 2020 and 2021 at Mr Johnson’s official residence during lockdown.
In December, the Conservative Party was fined $32,920 by the electoral watchdog for failing to accurately report a donation of roughly $200,000 that helped renovate Mr Johnson’s Downing Street flat.
Former health secretary Matt Hancock resigned after breaching COVID social distancing guidelines after pictures appeared of him kissing his top aide Gina Coladangelo.
And then there are all the accusations by Mr Johnson’s former right-hand man, Dominic Cummings.
What’s next for Boris Johnson?
Needless to say, Mr Johnson has a track record of surviving scandals.
And Mr Johnson’s confidence-vote win means he can’t face another confidence vote for a year, but some Conservative backbenchers want to change the rules to allow another vote even sooner, potentially before parliament goes into summer recess on July 21.
The only way to do this is through a century-old parliamentary backbenchers’ group historically described as “the men in grey suits”.
The 1922 parliamentary committee, formally known as the Conservative Private Members’ Committee, represents the rank and file party members and governs party rules.
The six officers of the committee are all coming up for re-election next Wednesday, July 13, and any backbencher can put themselves forward for the position.
The ballot is being viewed as a proxy contest on whether the Prime Minister should face another no-confidence vote.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told Sky News he will be standing for one of those positions and push for changes to be made to the 1922 Committee rules, which would allow the party to hold another no-confidence vote.
It’s not clear how long it would take for a rule change to occur after the election, with some insiders suggesting the timeline may stretch out until after the summer break.
Could he resign?
Mr Johnson could also decide to resign, perhaps feeling that his position is too precarious to continue.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out resigning in the past.
But if several more of his party members quit, expressing their dissatisfaction with Mr Johnson’s leadership, it could leave Mr Johnson with no choice but to resign.
So far, reports suggest he has the support of the senior members of the cabinet, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove.
And while former chief whip Andrew Mitchell said “it is over” for Mr Johnson, he did compare Mr Johnson to Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, whose enemies are said to have had extreme difficulty assassinating him.
“It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in a freezing river and still he lives,” Mr Mitchell told the BBC.
Former Conservative MP Michael Heseltine said: “I don’t think that there’s any recovery for Boris Johnson.”
Former Scotland secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind was damning: “Pretty well the whole country thinks he is a loser.”
Who is in line to replace him?
There are a few contenders:
- UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is the darling of the Conservatives’ grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home.
- Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt finished second in the 2019 leadership contest and would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Mr Johnson’s tenure.
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has risen in recent months to be the most popular member of the government with Conservative Party members, thanks to his handling of the Ukraine crisis.
- Former finance minister Rishi Sunak was last year the favourite to succeed Mr Johnson. Mr Sunak was praised for an economic rescue package during the coronavirus pandemic, including a jobs retention program that prevented mass unemployment.
- Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi impressed as vaccines minister when Britain had one of the fastest rollouts of COVID-19 jabs in the world.
- Former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt was sacked by Mr Johnson when he became Prime Minister after she backed Mr Hunt in the leadership contest.
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