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UK Cabinet ministers resign over Boris Johnson's leadership

July 5, 2022

The resignations of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid have plunged Boris Johnson's government into crisis, at a time the prime minister was apologizing for sexual misconduct allegations against a senior member of his party.

Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid
Rishi Sunak (pictured left) and Sajid Javid were two of the most high-profile members of Boris Johnson's Cabinet

Two of the most senior members of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Cabinet resigned on Tuesday. It could potentially signal the end of Johnson's leadership after a series of scandals.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid was the first to go, saying he could "no longer continue in good conscience" at his post.

Immediately following, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak also announced he was stepping down, saying that "the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously."

The resignations came as Johnson was apologizing for keeping former Conservative party whip Chris Pincher in his post after sexual misconduct allegations were made against him.

"In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do. I apologize to everyone who's been badly affected by it," Johnson told broadcasters.

Both Javid and Sunak had formerly publicly supported Johnson during months of scandal over his administration's conduct and a damning report into parties at his Downing Street office and residence that broke strict COVID-19 lockdown rules.

'Partygate' report 'not a pretty picture for Boris Johnson': DW's Birgit Maass reports 

Later on Tuesday, the prime minister said he was "sorry to see" the resignations. He then announced that he would replace Javid with his chief of staff, Steven Barclay.  Johnson also tapped Iraqi-born education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, as the new finance minister.

What did the ministers say?

In his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter, Javid told Johnson that "the values you represent reflect on your colleagues," and in light of recent scandals, the public had concluded that their party was neither "competent" nor "acting in the national interest."

The former health secretary also took the prime minister to task for not reacting with "humility" after narrowly winning a recent no-confidence vote.

"It is clear that this situation will not change under your leadership," he wrote, "and you have therefore lost my confidence too."

Sunak, for his part, wrote that "the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently, and seriously...I believe that these standards are worth fighting for and that's why I'm resigning." 

He added that their "approaches are fundamentally too different" to keep working together and accused Johnson of peddling narratives that were "too good to be true" to the public.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer said those who had backed Johnson were complicit in how he had performed his job.

"After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it’s clear that this government is now collapsing," he said.

Who are Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak?

Both men were heavy-hitters in the Conservative party and considered possible future prime ministers.

52-year-old Javid entered politics after a career in finance, and is himself a former finance minister under Johnson, as well as serving as interior minister under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May.

This is not the first time Javid has had to quit one of Johnson's cabinets, however. His seven-month stint as finance minister in 2019 and 2020 was rocked by rumors of deep divisions with Johnson's former chief political adviser, Dominic Cummings, despite some success in navigating the financial aspects of Brexit.

Sunak, 42, was barely known to the British public when Johnson made him finance minister in February 2020, after only five years in Conservative politics following a lucrative career in hedge funds.

His star rose quickly, however, as the COVID pandemic forced Sunak to craft a massive financial rescue package to safeguard millions of jobs.

es/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)