Boris Johnson has resigned as Conservative leader and blamed the “herd instinct” of Tory MPs for pushing him out of office, after a series of cabinet ministers told him he had lost the support of the party.
In a statement outside Downing Street, Johnson acknowledged that “no one is remotely indispensable” and accepted that it was the “will of the parliamentary Conservative party” that he should leave No 10.
But he also signalled his intention to stay on as prime minister while the party picks his successor, potentially until autumn, triggering an immediate backlash among Tory MPs.
The statement brings an end to an extraordinary standoff between Johnson and cabinet ministers, including his new chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, who were urging him to quit amid anger over the Chris Pincher affair and other scandals.
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Joined by his wife, Carrie, and a number of Tory supporters, Johnson said he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world” and claimed it was “eccentric” to change governments at this stage. “I regret not to have been successful in those arguments,” he said.
“When the herd moves, it moves,” he said, in a reference to the cabinet and MPs moving against him, while paying tribute to the “brilliant Darwinian system” that caused his downfall. “Them’s the breaks,” he added. The prime minister said he had “appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place”, pointing to a sense of duty and obligation to the public.