When Michael Gove arrived at Boris Johnson’s Downing Street research lab on Wednesday morning, the prime minister knew what to expect. The dismayed expressions of his fellow Brexiteers suggest that the end is imminent.
It was Mr Gove, Johnson’s campaign manager in the 2016 Conservative leadership race, who betrayed his own candidate, declaring he was incapable of “leading the party and the country the way I want”.
Six years later, Gove’s initial judgment on Johnson is now shared by dozens of seething Tory MPs who said on Wednesday Open Prime A brutality rarely seen in British politics.
Gove, now promoted to secretary, has moved to No. 10 to help Johnson prepare for the Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons, knowing this could be his last such appearance.
Gove told Johnson that the time had come: He had to leave, according to officials briefed on the meeting. The prime minister defied and insisted he was determined to move on.
If it weren’t for the fact that his ministers were simply reporting the facts, Johnson might have dismissed the suggestion as further evidence of Gove’s betrayal: the Conservative Party has turned decisively on its leader.
Shortly after his emotional meeting with Gove on the 10th, Johnson appeared in the House of Commons at noon to face questions from MPs, a drowning man battling a vicious political tide.
“Does the Prime Minister think he will resign under any circumstances?” said Tory MP and former children’s minister Tim Laughton with cold disdain.
The insurgency intensified less than 24 hours after two senior ministers – Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak – quit the cabinet. David Davis, a former Brexit secretary and outspoken critic of Johnson, said it was time for him to put “the national interest above his own”.
Another Conservative backbencher, Gary Sanbrook, accused Johnson of “always trying to blame others for his problems”. He said Johnson had privately criticised Conservative MPs at London’s Carleton Club last week for failing to stop a drunken Chris Pincher, Disgraced former Tory deputy chief whipfrom groping two men.
But it was Johnson’s failure to quickly disclose his knowledge of Pincher’s past misconduct – raising new questions about the prime minister’s relationship to the truth – that prompted Javid and Sunak to resign.
Throughout Wednesday, Johnson was A series of ministers resignwhile junior government officials resigned and once-loyal MPs withdrew their support, citing concerns over Johnson’s character, integrity and honor.
Johnson told the Commons he had a “huge mandate” from the people at the 2019 election, suggesting it was more important than the sullen Tory MPs behind him. He will “move on”.
But in a sign that sentiment in Westminster has turned against Johnson, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has started firing at those who could soon take over as Prime Minister No. 10.
Starmer claimed the cabinet was a “Z-list of nodding dogs” who provided Johnson with political cover, while the prime minister was belittling his office and undermining the standard of public life.
He said Johnson had been “supported for months by a corrupt party defending the indefensible”. Starmer hinted that the prime minister would soon step down: his aim was to tarnish those who left Johnson’s legacy.
Johnson looked frustrated, but to make matters worse, former health secretary Javid effectively launched his Conservative leadership campaign and delivered a devastating personal statement to MPs, declaring: “Enough is enough.”
Like Starmer, Javid has his sights set on a Conservative leadership race beyond Johnson. He took aim at ministers who remained in the cabinet, saying: “It was a positive decision not to do something.”
As Javid sat down, Johnson was hurried from the House of Commons for briefings on the growing number of ministers and parliamentary aides who were no longer ready to serve under him.
Johnson has said “a lot of talent” is still in the back seat, but William Ruger, the Tory chairman of the Commons Public Administration Committee, has claimed the prime minister will struggle to fill vacancies.
Shortly after 2pm, five ministers resigned at the same time, including right-wing equality minister Kemi Badenoch and former finance minister George Osborne’s former Treasury adviser Neil O’Brien.
By now, worried Tory chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris has known all too well that the insurrection was broad – infiltrating all parts of the party – and growing rapidly.
Johnson’s once-loyal fan base of Tory MPs first elected in 2019, many representing constituencies in northern England and the Midlands won from Labour, also withdrew their support, including Lee Anderson.
The Conservative MP for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, said: “Integrity should always come first, which unfortunately has not been the case over the past few days.”
Johnson’s career was in jeopardy as he had to appear before senior MPs on the Commons’ Liaison Committee at 3pm to answer questions on topics such as the Ukraine war.
Heaton-Harris can see what’s going on. Johnson won the confidence vote of Conservative MPs last month by 211 votes to 148: so a majority in the parliamentary party wants him to step down as soon as 32 Conservative MPs change their positions. Most of his people disappeared before his eyes.
While Johnson has insisted on the liaison committee that he does not intend to call a snap election – a direct appeal to voters beyond the leadership of his rebel Tory MPs – some Conservatives fear the prime minister may be willing to step down with him.
“We’re worried he’s going to do something Trump-like,” said a senior Conservative Party official. In a Conservative nightmare scenario, Queen Elizabeth, 96, could be put on hold to decide whether to agree to dissolve parliament to allow the The offensive situation of the election.
By 4pm, with Johnson still trapped in a thorny Liaison Committee hearing, Heaton-Harris and other senior ministers were preparing to tell the Prime Minister it was time he left Downing Street with dignity.
A group of Johnson’s loyalists – including Transport Minister Grant Shapps, Commerce Minister Quasi Kwaten and Northern Ireland Minister Brandon Lewis – plan to urge Johnson to resign before facing the humiliation of another vote of no confidence .
Unusually, Nadhim Zahawi, No. 10 insider said, Johnson appoints Sunak as chancellor It was only on Tuesday that he was now one of those who told the prime minister he should step down. “This audacity is unbelievable,” said a senior administration official.
A source close to the unofficial coup said the delegation was “uncoordinated”, but ministers came to the same conclusion. “There are departments that have a secretary of state but no subordinate ministers — they all resigned,” the person said.
Senior Conservative MPs on the 1922 Tory Backbench Committee met at 4pm to decide whether to change party rules to allow another vote on Johnson’s leadership.
Current rules provide for a one-year “grace period” between such votes. The chief executive’s MPs in 1922 decided not to change the rules immediately, hoping Johnson would resign voluntarily after meeting with his closest cabinet allies.
But the threat of another vote of no confidence is real. The election of the 1922 chief executive will be held next Monday, and Conservative MPs have predicted that the new line-up will approve a quick vote if Johnson does not leave by then.
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, arrived in Downing Street to meet Johnson just before 6pm, but he had to join the queue of cabinet ministers waiting to advise the prime minister of his own.
While both Culture Minister Nadine Dorries and Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg are said to be urging him to stick with it, more ministers have so far come to tell Johnson that his time is up.