A FURIOUS campaign to stop Boris Johnson limping on in Downing Street for another three months was thundering tonight.
As the PM assembled his “zombie Cabinet” in No10, a pincer movement of angry Tories and Labour was plotting to prize him out.
Critics demanded Mr Johnson resign immediately and make way for a caretaker PM like Dominic Raab rather than wait until October.
In his resignation speech this afternoon the PM vowed to stick around while a new Tory leader.
A timetable will be announced next week but is expected to drag on throughout the summer and into the autumn.
Top Tories lashed the PM for hopelessly clinging on and ramped up efforts to get him out as soon as possible.
Senior MP Sir Bob Neill said: “We should look to have this result not by October, I think, we should do it in the summer.
“Nowadays most people are on email, we can do it quite easily.”
Former Minister George Freeman who resigned this morning said “his authority is gone” after suffering a ministerial exodus.
He blasted: “Fifty ministers have resigned, and I think we’re going to have to, in the next few days, select somebody. It’s not beyond the wit of man.”
Labour are also gearing up to table a motion of no confidence in the Commons next week to collapse the government and force a resignation.
On a dramatic day in Westminster
- Mr Johnson made new Cabinet appointments to fill the slew of vacancies
- More than 55 Tory MPs have now quit as government ministers or aides
- The PM phoned the Queen to tell her he planned to quit
- Suella Braverman became the first Tory to announce a leadership run
- Brexiteer Steve Baker also said he might put his name forward
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace topped a Tory members poll as the preferred choice
- Leadership contender Liz Truss flew back from the G7 in Bali
- Sir John Major said a caretaker PM should takeover
Mr Johnson appointed a slew of Cabinet Ministers this morning to replace those who have quit and assembled them at 3pm.
A No10 spokeswoman said: “He made clear the government would not seek to implement new policies or make major changes of direction.
“He said major fiscal decisions should be left for the next Prime Minister.”
In his resignation speech the PM confessed: “I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.”
He fired the starting gun on a Conservative leadership race that will be launched next week and bitterly fought throughout the summer after a timetable is set out next week.
But some Tory MPs are demanding Mr Johnson bows out now and makes Dominic Raab a caretaker PM while a new leader is elected.
Mr Johnson’s government has utterly imploded with 55 resignations and junior ministers refusing to fill the vacant jobs.
Sir Keir Starmer has promised to table a vote of no confidence if Mr Johnson does not leave immediately.
He said it had been an “immense privilege” to serve in the “best job in the world” but admitted that “no one is remotely indispensable”.
Two years and 348 days since he first entered No10 in 2019, the PM today called The Queen to tell her he planned to stand down.
In a packed Downing Street, thronged with supporters including Carrie and baby Romy, he thanked the millions who voted for him in a historic landslide.
Yet after a brutal Cabinet coup he said: “In Westminster the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.
“And my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensable.”
He said he was “immensely proud of the achievements of this government” such as Brexit and the vaccine rollout.
In his resignation speech Mr Johnson said he had tried to cling on for so long because he considered it “eccentric” to change leader at a time of instability.
“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself,” he said.
He sent a message to the besieged Ukrainian people that Britain will continue to remain a loyal friend.
As he prepared to dig in for three months, Mr Johnson announced Greg Clark would replace sacked Michael Gove as Levelling Up Minister.
James Cleverley was made Education Secretary after Michelle Donelan resigned this morning after just 36 hours in the job.
It came after seven ministers quit before breakfast, meaning the overall number of resignations topped 55.
Mr Johnson played down his woes, insisting” we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls.
“Even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.E
A race to replace Mr Johnson as Tory leader and British PM will now begin. Mr Johnson said the timetable will be set out next week.
This morning Attorney General Suella Braverman announced live on air she was not resigning – but wanted to be the next leader.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is the favourite among Tory members, according to a new poll.
The crisis climaxed in the past 24 hours when Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid both quit the Cabinet and called for him to go.
It fired the starting gun on a wave of ministerial resignations that has so far swelled to around 40 Tories.
In an assassination attempt with echoes of Thatcher’s removal, Cabinet members yesterday saw the PM individually to demand he quits.
BORIS JOHNSON’S ZOMBIE CABINET
BORIS Johnson has made Cabinet appointments this morning as he plans to soldier on for a few more months:
Greg Clark has been appointed as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
James Cleverly has been appointed as Secretary of State for Education
Sir Robert Buckland has been appointed as Secretary of State for Wales
Kit Malthouse has been appointed as Chancellor
Shailesh Vara MP as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Andrew Stephenson MP as Minister without Portfolio. He will attend Cabinet.
Previously loyal Conservative backbenchers withdrew their support and demanded the PM steps down for the good of the party and country.
Until hours ago the PM was defiantly vowing to remain in post and even fight to win the next election.
He told the Commons: “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when he’s been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going – and that’s what I’m going to do.”
But Cabinet Ministers including Nadhim Zahawi, Grant Shapps and Simon Hart took matters into their own hands.
They waited for Mr Johnson to arrive back in No10 and then told him to quit.
Even ultra-loyalist Priti Patel turned to urge the PM throw in the towel after backbench support drained away.
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Ex-Health Secretary Mr Javid attempted to deliver the fatal blow with a blistering resignation speech in the packed Commons.
The big beast said: “At some point we have to conclude that enough is enough. I believe that point is now.
“The reset button can only work so many times. There’s only so many times you can turn that machine on and off before you realise something is fundamentally wrong.”
More Conservative rebels stuck the knife in during PMQs and asked if there was anything that would make him resign.
Mr Johnson was elected as PM in 2019 on a wave of optimism and with a pledge to Get Brexit Done.
The PM was praised for winning Red Wall seats that for too long had been taken for granted by Labour.
BORIS JOHNSON’S RESIGNATION SPEECH IN FULL
Boris Johnson’s resignation speech in full
Good afternoon. Thank you. It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new Prime Minister. I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week. I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve as I will until a new leader is in place.
So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019, many of them voted Conservative for the first time. Thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987. The biggest share of the vote since 1979. And the reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.
Of course, I’m immensely proud of the achievements of this government from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century – reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws. In parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown, and in the last few months, leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Let me say that to the people of Ukraine that I know that we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes.
At the same time in this country we’ve been pushing forward a vast programme of investment in infrastructure and skills and technology – the biggest in a century. If I have one insight into human beings, it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population, but opportunity is not. That’s why we must keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential in every part of the United Kingdom. If we can do that in this country we will be the most prosperous in Europe.
In the last few days I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments where we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in midterm after quite a few months in pretty relentless sledging, and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally. I regret and not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it’s painful, and not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.
But as we’ve seen, a Westminster the herd instinct is powerful when the herd moves, it moves, and my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable. Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times. Not just helping families to get through it, but changing and improving the way we do things – cutting burdens on businesses and families and yes, cutting taxes. Because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay for great public services.
To that, new leader, I say wherever he or she may be I say I will give you as much support as I can. And to you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed. I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.
I want to thank Carrie, our children and all members of my family who have had to put up with so much for so long. I want to thank the peerless British civil service for all the help and support that you have given our police, our emergency services and of course our fantastic NHS who at a critical moment helped to extend my own period in office, as well as our armed services and our agencies that are so admired around the world, and our indefatigable Conservative Party members and supporters whose selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.
I want to thank the wonderful staff here at No10 and of course at Chequers. Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me. I want you to know that from now on until the new Prime Minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.
Being Prime Minister is an education in itself. I’ve travelled to every part of the United Kingdom and in addition to the beauty of our natural world, I found so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways that I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.
Thank you all very much.