Boris Johnson has resigned as Conservative leader 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.
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.
Joined by his wife, Carrie, and a number of 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.
His resignation will kick off a leadership contest over the coming months, in which Rishi Sunak, Ben Wallace, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Penny Mordaunt, Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman among many others are likely to stand to become the prime minister.
However, senior Conservative MPs are pushing back against the idea that Johnson should be allowed to stay in office for any longer and want to see an interim leader in place, such as Dominic Raab.
Johnson became prime minister in 2019, taking over from Theresa May with a promise to “get Brexit done”. After winning an 80-seat majority in a general election in December 2019, and taking the UK out of the EU, the prime minister had his eye on multiple terms in No 10.
However, his leadership toppled under a wave of sleaze allegations and failure to tell the truth, contributing to the resignation of two of his ethics advisers.