Boris Johnson has told MPs he will be leaving office “with my held held high” as the Tory leadership contest kicks off to choose his successor.
The prime minister has said he will step down when a successor is in place, after he was hit by over 50 resignations by Conservative MPs who said he had lost their confidence.
Mr Johnson’s critics cited his lack of integrity and said he had lost the trust of the public, after a string of scandals and untruths over lockdown rule-breaking and the promotion of an MP accused of sexual misconduct.
Speaking at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, the prime minister declined to endorse as successor and suggested the session could be his last.
Responding to a question from opposition leader Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson continued:
“At the end of three years we go Brexit done which he voted against 48 times; we delivered the first vaccine in the world and rolled it out faster than any other European country, which would never have been possible under him, Mr Speaker, and we played a decisive role in helping to protect the people of Ukraine from the brutal invasion of Vladimir Putin. We helped to save Ukraine, Mr Speaker.
“And I’m proud to say that we are continuing and every one of the eight candidates will continue, with the biggest ever programme of infrastructure, skills and technology across this country to level-up in a way that will benefit the constituents of every member of this house.”
He added: “It’s perfectly true that I leave not at a time of my choosing. It is absolutely true. But I am proud of the fantastic teamwork that has been involved in all of those projects, both nationally and internationally. I’m also proud of the leadership that I have given. I will be leaving soon with my head held high.”
Attacking his Labour opposite number, the outgoing prime minister said that any of the eight “brilliant” candidates who are currently standing for leader of the Conservative Party would “wipe the floor” with “Captain Crasheroony Snoozefest”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said Conservative leadership candidates have promised “£330 billion in giveaways” and challenged them to say how they would pay for it.
He said: “Over the weekend the candidates to replace him have promised £330 billion in giveaways. That’s roughly double the annual budget for the NHS. Sadly they haven’t found time to explain how they are paying for it. Even though one of them is the Chancellor, and another one was chancellor until a week ago.
“They all backed 15 tax rises. Now they are acting as if they have just arrived from the moon, saying it should never have happened. Doesn’t he agree that rather than desperately rewriting history they should at least explain exactly where they are getting all this cash from?”
The candidates to replace Mr Johnson are Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi, Liz Truss, Kemi Badenoch, Sajid Javid, Suella Braverman, Tom Tugendhat, and Jeremy Hunt.