BORIS Johnson parries queries during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons on Wednesday.—AFP
BORIS Johnson parries queries during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons on Wednesday.—AFP

LONDON: Cabinet ministers gathered in Boris Johnson’s official residence on Wednesday to tell him to quit as British leader, after he insisted he would not stand down in the face of a mounting rebellion within his party.

With more than 30 government resignations and many lawmakers in his Conservative Party in open revolt, some senior ministers were in Downing Street to tell the prime minister he needed to go, a source said. At least one was there to back him if he decided to fight on, another source said.

Boris Johnson has sacked senior minister Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, BBC reported.

Despite the clamour for him to resign, Johnson said he had a mandate from the 2019 national election, which he won with a large majority, to plough on.

“I am not going to step down and the last thing this country needs, frankly, is an election,” he told a parliamentary committee, refusing to answer whether he would try to stay in the job even if he lost a confidence vote from his own lawmakers.

The dramatic resignations on Tuesday evening of his health and finance ministers triggered a growing swell of other ministerial departures, while many Conser­vative lawmakers openly said they wanted him gone, questioning his fitness to govern and his integrity.

At parliamentary questions on Wednesday some Conservatives struggled not to laugh when others poked fun at him and he took a pummelling from a committee of senior politicians over his past behaviour, his motivation and some of the scandals that have come to define much of his tenure.

Some Conservatives enthusiastically backed him while others were happy to support him despite reservations about the former journalist and London mayor because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party. That was borne out in the December 2019 election.

“The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going,” Johnson told parliament. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Johnson might take some relief from the 1922 Committee that sets the rules for Conservative leadership confidence votes. It decided to hold an election to its executive bef­ore changing the rules to allow a second confidence vote on his leadership. He has tried to reassert his authority by quickly appointing Nadhim Zahawi — a rising Conservative star widely praised for the successful rollout of Covid-19 vaccines — as finance minister. But Zahawi was among the group of ministers in Downing Street who were to tell him to go.

Earlier in parliament, senior ministers struggled to contain their laughter as the opposition Labour leader poked fun at his cabinet for being in the “charge of the lightweight brigade”.

“At some point, we have to conclude that enough is enough. I believe that point is now,” said Sajid Javid, in his resignation speech as health minister, with Johnson listening stony-faced.

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2022

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