Boris Johnson is fighting on as Prime Minister, after sacking Michael Gove from the cabinet on Wednesday night. He may soon run out of people to remove. So far 49 Tory ministers have resigned from his government, including five cabinet ministers. The latest to go is Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who announced his resignation on Thursday morning. Other cabinet ministers are in open revolt, with Boris’s Attorney General, Suella Braverman, calling for him to go on Wednesday night, and launching her own leadership bid. Earlier in the day Boris Johnson’s newly appointed Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, joined a delegation of ministers calling on him to go. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, and Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, who has since resigned, were among those who told the PM to resign. But Johnson has refused to do so and is now willing to risk a confidence vote which may come on Tuesday.
We’ll be keeping you updated with the latest here.
7.29 a.m. – Boris faces three more ministerial resignations
James Forsyth writes… It is not even 7.30 yet and there have been three ministerial resignations. Brandon Lewis – who flew back from Belfast to see the PM last night – has quit as Northern Ireland Secretary, declaring that things are past ‘the point of no return’. Helen Whately has gone as exchequer secretary and Damian Hinds has gone as security minister. Johnson has not filled any of the vacancies that were created by resignations yesterday and it is hard to see how he could fill the bulk of them, given how quickly sentiment is moving against him. Tory MPs are horrified by what is going on. But this leaves us in a situation where we barely have a government. You can’t go that long without a Northern Ireland Secretary or a security minister.
6.48 a.m. – Brandon Lewis resigns
Boris Johnson has been presented with yet another cabinet resignation this morning with the announcement that Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has decided to go. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Lewis writes: ‘A decent and responsible Government relies on honesty, integrity and mutual respect – it is a matter of profound personal regret that I must leave Government as I no longer believe those values are being upheld.’
The drama last night:
11.30 p.m – Suella Braverman announces Tory leadership bid
Katy Balls writes… Boris Johnson has so far had four cabinet ministers resign and sacked one – in the form of Michael Gove. Now, another minister has come out publicly to say they will run to be a successor should there be a leadership contest. Step forward Suella Braverman.
9.30 p.m. – Gove fired by Boris
Fraser Nelson writes… On Wednesday morning, Michael Gove advised Boris Johnson to resign on his own terms rather than be forced out: a difficult, but civil conversation. Then this evening, out of the blue, Johnson called Gove and fired him. It’s a mad end to a mad day. It’s easy to see why Gove didn’t join the exodus today: after having famously stuck the knife into Johnson in the 2016 Tory leadership race, Gove perhaps thought could not very well do so again. But his dismay with the direction of the Johnson project had become well-known. In yesterday’s Cabinet, Gove was the main voice of dissent – saying that it was time to be honest about the economic pain that lies ahead. Two of Gove’s Levelling-Up ministers, Neil O’Brien and Kemi Badenoch, resigned earlier today. A No. 10 source has been quoted saying of Gove ‘you can’t have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully tells the press the leader has to go.’ But if Johnson intends to fire all those who think that he has to go, that will be quite a lot of jobs to fill on top of the 39 ministers who have already resigned.
8.50 p.m. – Javid warns of Tory ‘1997-style wipeout’
Steerpike writes… After a long day of plots, gossip and rumour, where else to head but a think tank summer party? Thirsty Westminster watchers piled into the Centre for Policy Studies’ shindig tonight to variously drown their sorrows or toast the collapse of Boris Johnson’s government. But the main attraction was Sajid Javid, the former Health Secretary who resigned over the Pincher affair, as opposed to the attendant Matt Hancock, another former Health Secretary who, er, resigned over his own affair.
Welcoming Javid to the stage was Robert Colvile, the CPS director and Sunday Times columnist who joked that: ‘On an extraordinary day in British politics, it’s great to be here with the man who started it all off.’ Remarking drily on the current direction of the government, Colvile remarked that when his think tank was launched in the 1970s ‘it was a time of high inflation and high taxes…it’s so good that things have changed.’ But then it was time for Javid to deliver his speech, watched on by an army of CCHQ’s finest. The onetime Chancellor remarked that he had received a range of messages since his resignation speech earlier today.
Some, he said, had been comparing his speech to that of Geoffrey Howe, whose address in 1990 is credited with triggering the fall of Margaret Thatcher. Javid joked that he didn’t welcome the comparison as on the day that Thatcher resigned, he and a group of friends at Exeter University – former MP David Burrowes, conservative commentator Tim Montgomerie and current MP Robert Halfon – all clubbed together to raise £20 to send the Iron Lady a bouquet of flowers. Another message was from his family group chat about sushi in the house: a reminder, perhaps, of the role family plays in grounding politicians.
But then Javid struck a serious note, demanding a return to ‘real Conservative values.’ He told the crowd: ‘There’s only one solution: we have to go for growth and unfortunately we haven’t been doing enough of that.’ Javid concluded by saying: ‘Unless we do change and we become Conservative again, the genuine risk that we now face is that we could now be facing a 1997-style general election catastrophe, unless we change. We’ve got the opportunity to change now, we’ve got a couple of years before the next election. We can do it and we have to.’
And which leader might be able to sponsor that change, eh Saj?
7.15 p.m. – Nadhim Zahawi’s star has fallen
Katy Balls writes… Who are the winners and losers from today’s Cabinet intervention? Of course, the person who suffers the most from it is Boris Johnson. But there’s also a sense among MPs that Nadhim Zahawi’s star has fallen as a result of the past 24 hours. As I write in this week’s politics column, there were nerves last night that Zahawi could join Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid in resigning. Instead he was promoted to Chancellor. In Downing Street, Johnson asked Zahawi: ‘Do you actually want the job?’ Zahawi replied that it was the most challenging, rewarding and exciting position there was and suggested that he would bring to the Treasury the efficiency and clarity he showed over the vaccine rollout.
No. 10 aides pointed to the appointment as evidence Johnson had support. So why has Zahawi changed his mind less than 24 hours later? He is believed to be in the delegation of ministers telling Johnson to go. The apparent turnaround has led some in the party to question his judgment.
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