Boris Johnson’s resignation speech has been criticised as “ungracious and boastful” after he lashed out at the Conservative Party revolt that forced him to finally quit.
The prime minister attacked the “eccentric” decision to oust him from No 10 and mourned the “pretty relentless sledging” he had received over the last few months.
“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world – but them’s the breaks,” he said at the podium outside No 10.
Attacking the “herd instinct” at Westminster, he added: “When the herd moves, it moves. And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable, and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader.”
One senior Tory MP told The Independent it was “pretty damn ungracious”, as a growing number of party figures call for Dominic Raab to be immediately installed as a caretaker PM.
Another backbencher added: “He didn’t offer even the smallest shred of contrition. If there was any sense of guilt about forcing him out, he saw it off with that effort.”
Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant complained that it was an “utterly disgraceful exit speech … selfish; self-centred, narcissistic, poor me the victim, no regrets, no fault, no mistakes, no apology, no resignation.”
Piers Morgan said Mr Johnson had quit as he had led: “Boasting, blathering and blaming everyone but himself. What a terrible final speech by a man who turned out to be a truly terrible Prime minister.”
Many others picked up on his use of the casual phrase, “Them’s the breaks” – tweeting pictures of the Queen attending Prince Philip’s funeral in dignified silence, and listing the many problems Mr Johnson leaves the country to face.
Mr Johnson said it was “painful” not to be able to see through his ideas, and appeared to give only equivocal backing to his successor. “To that new leader, I say wherever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can,” he said.
The speech comes as Tory MP Nus Ghani, deputy chair of the 1922 Committee, said Mr Raab should take over from Mr Johnson immediately on an interim basis.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also suggested Mr Johnson should not stay until October, as has been suggested – saying a new leader is needed “as soon as practicable”.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said the speech showed “no apology, no contrition – so Johnson”. The backbencher said he was worried about “further damage” Mr Johnson could do while he remains caretaker in the weeks ahead.
The Brexiteer suggested Mr Johnson could say he was “unwell” and let Mr Raab take over. Challenged on Sky News over whether Mr Johnson was unwell, Mr Bridgen said: “That depends on who you ask.”
George Freeman – who quit as science minister earlier today – tweeted: “Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker Prime Minister to take over today.”
As debate continued about his future, Mr Johnson named Greg Clark as levelling up secretary, Robert Buckland as Welsh secretary, and James Cleverly as education secretary as he desperately tries to fill vacant cabinet posts in a bid to stay on as caretaker prime minister until the autumn.
Shailesh Vara becomes the new Northern Ireland secretary after Brandon Lewis quit this morning, while Kit Malthouse will be the new Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, the most senior minister in the Cabinet Office.
With more spaces left to appoint, Tory rebel Aaron Bell, a red wall MP from the 2019 intake, said it was not “tenable for [Mr Johnson] to continue as a caretaker if he cannot fill the ministerial appointments he needs to”.
Labour will stage a Commons vote to try to force Mr Johnson out of No 10 immediately, if he tries to stay on as caretaker.
Keir Starmer urged Conservative MPs to “get rid of him” now – rather than serve a two-month interim period, while a successor is elected, saying: ”He can’t cling on in this way.”