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THE Tories sank into complete chaos today as the “pathetic spectacle” of at least 32 resignations and protests over Boris Johnson’s leadership has left the prime minister on the brink.
Ministers gathered at Downing Street were expected to tell the PM to quit when he returned there as the Morning Star went to press.
Mr Johnson’s scandal-ridden premiership has been plunged into further crisis after a slew of resignations today, including ministers Kemi Badenoch, Julia Lopez, Lee Rowley, Alex Burghart and Neil O'Brien, who resigned in a joint letter to the prime minister.
Will Quince also resigned as education minister two days after defending Mr Johnson over his decision to appoint Chris Pincher deputy chief whip earlier this year despite allegations of sexual harassment against him.
The domino effect followed the dramatic resignations of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid within minutes of each other on Tuesday.
Nadhim Zahawi was appointed as the new chancellor amid rumours he had threatened to resign from the government if he had not been given the role, and Michelle Donelan replaces him as education secretary.
Mr Johnson’s chief of staff, Steve Barclay, was appointed as the new health secretary.
Even Mr Johnson’s right-hand man, Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove, has reportedly told the prime minister to step down.
In a damning resignation speech to the Commons, Mr Javid said “the problem starts at the top” and is “not going to change.”
Railing that “enough is enough,” Mr Javid said those cabinet ministers who had decided to stay will have their reasons for doing so, but “not doing something is an active decision.”
Mr Johnson had earlier faced a brutal grilling from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
Mr Johnson sidestepped a question from Sir Keir about whether the PM had called the disgraced MP “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature.”
Sir Keir said when a young man complained about Mr Pincher to a government whip “she asked him if he was gay. When he said he was, she said that doesn’t make it straightforward.”
The Labour leader says this comment will sicken anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault.
Asked to apologise, Mr Johnson said: “I regret very much that the member for Tamworth continued to hold office after the complaint was made against him in the Foreign Office.”
Following a quip from the PM about Sir Keir facing a “criminal investigation” of his own, Sir Keir hit back saying: “What a pathetic spectacle.
“The dying act of his political career is to parrot that nonsense, and as for those who are left only in office because no-one else is prepared to debase themselves any longer, the charge of the lightweight brigade.”
Sir Keir slammed those ministers resigning now after defending Mr Johnson so much previously, asking: “Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ships fleeing the rat?”
Gary Sambrook, a “red wall” MP of the 2019 intake, blasted the prime minister for telling MPs they should have intervened over Mr Pincher’s alleged behaviour at the Carlton Club.
Mr Sambrook described Mr Johnson’s comments as “insulting” and as an example of him constantly trying to deflect from the issue and “blaming other people” for his mistakes.
Tory grandee David Davis, who had called on Mr Johnson to quit back in January, urged him to “put the interests of the nation before his own interests”, while Conservative former minister Tim Loughton drew applause from opposition benches after asking Mr Johnson what it would take for him to stand down.
Mr Johnson answered: “Clearly, if there were circumstances in which I felt it was impossible for the government to go on and discharge the mandate that we’ve [been] given.”
Ian Blackford, the leader of the SNP in Westminster, recalling a previous quip he had made at Mr Johnson about Monty Python, said: “The PM is not the Black Knight, but a dead parrot.”
Mr Johnson insisted throughout that he had a “colossal mandate” from the 2019 election and he intended to “keep going.”
Mr Johnson also faced a grilling from the Liaison Committee, made up of chairs of the Commons committees, where jibes are flooding in from MPs.
Angus Brendan MacNeil, for the SNP, said: “The game’s up – will you be prime minister tomorrow?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, but rather than giving any on commentary on my own career” he would focus on what the government was doing.
The PM repeated previous statements that he had made a mistake in appointing Mr Pincher as deputy chief whip and refused to go into further detail as the matter was now under investigation.
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