Boris Johnson resigned on Thursday as leader of Britain’s Conservative party, paving the way for the selection of a new prime minister after dozens of ministers quit his scandal-hit government.
“It is clearly the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party, and therefore a new prime minister,” Johnson said outside 10 Downing Street.
Johnson, 58, announced that he would step down after a slew of resignations from his top team in protest at his leadership but would stay on as prime minister until a replacement is found.
The timetable for a Tory leadership race will be announced next week, he said, after three tumultuous years in office defined by Brexit, the Covid pandemic and non-stop controversy over his reputation for mendacity.
It was gathered that the leadership election will take place over the summer and the victor will replace Johnson at the party’s annual conference in early October.
He said he was “sad… to be giving up the best job in the world” and justified fighting in the final hours to deliver the mandate he won in a general election in December 2019.
In the frenzied hours building up to Johnson’s announcement, opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer had welcomed his impending departure.
But Starmer said “a proper change of government” was needed and demanded a no-confidence vote in parliament, potentially triggering a general election, rather than Johnson “clinging on for months and months”.
While eyeing the exit, Johnson on Thursday sought to steady the ship with several appointments to replace the departed cabinet members.
They included Greg Clark, an arch “remainer” opposed to Britain’s divorce from the European Union, which Johnson had championed.
Johnson had been clinging on to power despite a wave of more than 50 government resignations, expressing defiance late Wednesday.