(London) Worn out by scandals, weakened by an unprecedented series of resignations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally resolved on Thursday to leave power, announcing his resignation as leader of the Conservative party.
What you need to know
- Pro-Brexit champion Boris Johnson is elected leader of the Conservative Party on July 23, 2019;
- Ultra-popular, in December 2019 he won a historic majority in the House of Commons for the Conservatives;
- In April 2021, the Prime Minister has been criticized since the start of the pandemic for his management of the crisis;
- The Prime Minister’s party is still gaining ground against Labor in local elections on May 6, 2021;
- The “partygate” scandal, its variable explanations, the police investigation and the administrative inquiry denouncing the lax culture in Downing Street got the better of the confidence of the country;
- Boris Johnson survived a vote of no confidence from members of his Conservative Party on June 6. More than 40% of MPs say they no longer have confidence in the Prime Minister;
- Boris Johnson’s approval rating had fallen from 66% favorable opinions in April 2020 to 23% at the end of June;
- Between 69% and 72% of Britons wanted him to quit, according to two polls this week;
- A final scandal, that of the deputy chief “whip”, accused of touching and whose past Mr. Johnson knew, was the last nail in his coffin;
- On July 7 at 10 a.m. (9 a.m. GMT, 5 a.m. EDT), nearly 60 cabinet members resigned.
“It is clearly the will of the Conservative Party that there is a new leader and therefore a new prime minister,” he said during a six-minute speech outside Downing Street, saying he was “sad” to leaving “the best job in the world”.
Mais s’il a démissionné, M. Johnson a affirmé qu’il resterait premier ministre jusqu’à ce que son successeur soit désigné, le calendrier pour l’élection d’un nouveau leader conservateur devant être précisé la semaine prochaine.
Boris Johnson a estimé qu’il convenait de laisser à son successeur les « décisions budgétaires majeures », a annoncé Downing Street quelques heures après l’annonce qu’il allait quitter ses fonctions.
Selon le compte rendu du Conseil des ministres, Boris Johnson a souligné qu’il ne chercherait pas d’ici son départ à mettre en œuvre de nouvelles politiques ou des changements de cap majeurs. « Il a déclaré que les décisions budgétaires majeures devraient être laissées au prochain premier ministre », selon un communiqué de Downing Street.
Après trois années au pouvoir, marquées par le Brexit, la pandémie, l’invasion russe en Ukraine et une inflation record, Boris Johnson a été poussé vers la sortie par son propre camp conservateur lassé des scandales, après une soixantaine de démissions en cascade depuis mardi.
Reconnaissant son échec, M. Jonhson a néanmoins jugé « dingue » que son gouvernement ait voulu se débarrasser de lui.
Mais des voix se font déjà entendre pour qu’il quitte Downing Street sans attendre la désignation d’un nouveau dirigeant.
Une majorité des Britanniques (56 %) partagent cette opinion selon un sondage YouGov.
« Pour le bien-être du pays, M. Johnson ne doit pas rester à Downing Street […] longer than necessary,” wrote John Major, Conservative Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997.
“We don’t need a change at the head of the Tories. We need a real change of government,” Opposition Leader Keir Starmer argued shortly before.
No one can “look at Boris Johnson and conclude that he is capable of behaving as interim prime minister,” said Scottish independence leader Nicola Sturgeon. It “will inevitably cause even more chaos”.
Mr Johnson’s departure is “an opportunity to return to the true spirit of partnership and mutual respect that we need”, said Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin at a time when relations between Dublin and London are strained over Northern Ireland.
For its part, the Ukrainian presidency thanked Boris Johnson for his support “in the most difficult times”. Head of State Volodymyr Zelensky called him on the phone to tell him of his “sadness”.
” It was time ! »
Of a once stainless popularity, Boris Johnson had sunk in the opinion polls and 77% of the British estimated Thursday that he had been right to resign (YouGov poll).
Last month, he had escaped a vote of no confidence, however 40% of Conservative MPs refused to give him their confidence.
” It was time ! Seriously, had we ever seen someone so arrogant, ignorant, delusional, ”said Helen Dewdney, 53, an employee interviewed by AFP in London.
“This is what happens when you have a prime minister who has no scruples,” reacted Cletus Morraies, 51. “Lies after lies […] for me, he betrayed the country”.
Resignations and calls for departure had continued until its announcement on Thursday, as Downing Street announced a series of appointments to replace resigning ministers and secretaries of state.
Again on Wednesday evening, several ministers went to Downing Street to try, in vain, to convince Boris Johnson that, having lost the confidence of the Conservative Party, he should resign.
But the 58-year-old prime minister hung on, saying he had a “colossal mandate” to accomplish. He even went so far as to dismiss by telephone Wednesday evening the minister who had been the first to advise him to resign, Michael Gove.
Discontent had been simmering for months, fueled in particular by the scandal of illegal parties in Downing Street during the anti-COVID-19 confinement, when the British had to respect very strict rules.
Boris Johnson, known for not being close to a lie, had varied in his explanations, provoking frustration and then anger among elected Conservatives, in a country faced with record inflation of 9% and social movements.
The resignation on Tuesday evening of Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, and Health Minister Sajid Javid, had sounded the hallali for the Prime Minister, after yet another sex scandal involving the deputy “whip” responsible for the discipline of Conservative MPs, whom Mr Johnson had named in February, “forgetting” past similar charges.
A YouGov poll of Conservative Party members gives Defense Minister Ben Wallace the favorite to succeed him.