UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces two high-stakes encounters in parliament on Wednesday after his government was rocked by the shock departures of two senior ministers. Rishi Sunak resigned as finance minister and Sajid Javid as health secretary on Tuesday night. Both said they could no longer tolerate the culture of scandal that has stalked Johnson for months.
They will now sit on the Conservative back benches at the weekly session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons at 1100 GMT — which promises to be even more combustible than usual.
Johnson then faces an hours-long grilling from the chairs of the Commons’ most powerful committees, who include some of his most virulent critics in the Tory ranks. Former education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has been elevated to the finance brief.
“You don’t go into this job to have an easy life,” Zahawi told Sky News on Wednesday. Sometimes it’s easy to walk away but actually, it’s much tougher to deliver for the country,” he added.
Days of shifting explanations had followed the resignation of deputy chief whip Chris Pincher. Downing Street at first denied Johnson knew of prior allegations against Pincher when appointing him in February.
But by Tuesday, that defence had collapsed after a former top civil servant said Johnson, as foreign minister, was told in 2019 about another incident involving his ally. The Pincher affair was the “icing on the cake” for Sunak and Javid, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, a Johnson critic, told Sky News.
“I and a lot of the party now are determined that he will be gone by the summer recess (starting on July 22): the sooner the better.”
The resignations dominated British newspaper front pages. The Times ran with headline “Johnson on the brink,” while the conservative Daily Mail tabloid was more colourful: “Can even Boris the Greased Piglet wriggle out of this?” Former loyalist and Brexit pointman David Frost, influential among Tory grassroot members, also wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday “it is time to go
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