Boris Johnson’s premiership has given way to some of the most explosive resignations in recent political history – with the jumping ship of his own brother, and Tuesday’s bumper departure of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak among the most devastating.
The now former chancellor of the exchequer and health secretary stepped down within minutes of one another on Tuesday amid anger over Boris Johnson’s handling of misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher.
It comes after No 10 admitted Mr Johnson was aware when promoting Mr Pincher to his role as deputy chief whip that a misconduct complaint had been upheld against him – causing simmering concern among Tory MPs about party standards to boil over.
In his letter of resignation to the ex prime minister, Mr Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Meanwhile, Mr Javid said the British people “expect integrity from their government” but voters now believed Mr Johnson’s administration was neither competent nor “acting in the national interest”.
And Tuesday’s list of resignations did not end there, with the likes of Javid’s parliamentary private secretary Saqib Bhatti MP and trade envoy to Morocco Andrew Murrison joining its ever-growing ranks.
With his premiership hanging in the balance, we take a look back at all the major resignations under Boris Johnson’s fraught rule:
Baron Young of Cookham – August
Lord Young of Cookham’s resignation as a House of Lords whip was the first departure from Mr Johnson’s administration after his controversial decision to ask the Queen for a “prorogation” in the run up to Brexit.
The former peer – who had served in parliament since 1974 – said that the PM’s move risked “undermining the fundamental role of parliament at a critical time in our history”.
Jo Johnson – September
In September of the same year, Boris Johnson’s own brother dramatically quit the government – and parliament – in an apparent protest at the prime minister’s leadership.
Jo Johnson, who at the time was a higher education minister, said it was impossible to reconcile “family loyalty and the national interest”, adding: “It’s an unresolvable tension and time for others to take on my roles as MP and minister #overandout.”
Sajid Javid – February
Tuesday in fact marked Mr Javid’s second ministerial resignation, the first of which came during Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle of February 2020.
His dramatic resignation threw what was intended to be a relatively modest shake up into disarray as he refused to accept Dominic Cummings’ demand that the then chancellor should lose his independent team of special advisers at the Treasury.
Conor Burns – May
Conor Burns resigned as a government minister after the Commons standards watchdog recommended a seven-day suspension from parliament for abusing his privileged position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public.
An investigation by the Commons Standards Commissioner found that the Bournemouth West MP used House of Commons notepaper to write to an individual who was in dispute with his father over the repayment of a loan, and warned that he could raise the matter in parliament.
A close ally of Mr Johnson, he is currently serving as minister of state for Northern Ireland.
Douglas Ross – May
The now Scottish Conservative leader resigned in protest at the row over Dominic Cummings‘ alleged and famed breach of coronavirus lockdown rules – during which the ex senior aide said he went on a “short drive” to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.
In a blow to the government’s efforts to move on from the scandal, Mr Ross, a minister in the Scotland Office, said he was resigning after hearing Mr Cummings defence of his actions, a view which he said was “not shared by the majority”.
Johnny Mercer – April
The former defence minister was reportedly sacked by Boris Johnson following a row over the government’s treatment of troops.
Johnny Mercer, ex veterans minister, said he was sorry to have been “relieved of my responsibilities”.
It had been reported that he was on the brink of resignation over the government’s handling of historic prosecution of soldiers. And in a stinging letter to the prime minister Mr Mercer said it was “with a heavy heart that I am forced to offer you my resignation from your government.”
Matt Hancock – June
Scuppered by the social distancing rules he helped set, the former health secretary stood down after admitting he breached Covid restrictions after stills of a CCTV recording showed him in his Whitehall office embracing Gina Coladangelo, who at the time was a non-executive director at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
“We owe it to people who have sacrificed so much in this pandemic to be honest when we have let them down as I have done by breaching the guidance,” Mr Hancock said in his letter of resignation to the prime minister.
Lord David Frost – December
Brexit minister David Frost resigned from Mr Johnson’s Cabinet in protest at “the direction of travel” within government
In his resignation letter, Lord Frost also told the prime minister he was disappointed about Covid restrictions, warning him not to be “tempted by the kind of coercive measures we have seen elsewhere.”
Lord Agnew – January
Senior Tory peer Lord Agnew resigned over what he called the “lamentable track record”of Boris Johnson’s government in tackling fraud in a multi-billion-pound Covid loan scheme.
He quit in a shock announcement in the House of Lords, blasting “arrogance, indolence and ignorance” across government departments.
Oliver Dowden – June
Boris Johnson was dealt a second blow within hours of his twin by-election defeats in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, as close ally Oliver Dowden quit as Conservative chairman.
In an apparent nod to the Partygate scandal in a letter to prime minister, Mr Dowden said he shared the feelings of Tory supporters who were “distressed and disappointment by recent events”
The senior MP said “somebody must take responsibility” for losses adding “we cannot continue as business as usual.”
Chris Pincher – July
The former deputy chief whip, who was responsible for maintaining discipline among Conservative MPs, stood down after allegations he groped two colleagues at a social event while drunk emerged.
He said he had “embarrassed myself and other people” after having had “far too much” to drink.
Sajid Javid – July
Sajid Javid resigned as health secretary in a move that came just as the PM was being forced into a botched apology to address the row over scandal-hit former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.
Mr Javid said the British people “expect integrity from their government” but voters now believed Mr Johnson’s administration was neither competent nor “acting in the national interest”.
Rishi Sunak – July
Rishi Sunak quit as chancellor on Tuesday as concerns over No 10’s increasingly butterfingered handling over the Pincher row reached news heights.
Mr Sunak said “the public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously”, adding: “I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”