Michael Gove has told Boris Johnson he should resign as Prime Minister, reports suggest, as 12 ministers quit

Boris Johnson’s premiership continues to hang in the balance, after 12 ministers resigned and Michael Gove reportedly told him he should stand down as Prime Minister.
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The resignations come as reports in the Daily Mail suggest Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who has not stood down, has privately told Mr Johnson it was time for him to go.

Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid quit their Cabinet posts on Tuesday evening, as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Health Secretary, respectively, prompting a wave of departures from both ministers and a string of parliamentary aides.

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At Prime Minister's Questions earlier today, Mr Johnson said the ‘colossal mandate’ he had been handed by voters in 2019 means he should keep going despite the ‘difficult circumstances’ he faces.

File photo dated 01/06/16 of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) on the Vote Leave campaign bus. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireFile photo dated 01/06/16 of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) on the Vote Leave campaign bus. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
File photo dated 01/06/16 of Michael Gove and Boris Johnson (right) on the Vote Leave campaign bus. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

‘Enough is enough’

But Mr Javid's resignation statement in the House laid bare the scale of the problems facing the Prime Minister - and he challenged other Cabinet ministers to consider their positions.

The Prime Minister stayed in the Commons chamber as former health secretary Mr Javid set out the reasons for his resignation, saying Mr Johnson was not going to change and ‘enough is enough’.

Mr Javid said: "Treading the tightrope between loyalty and integrity has become impossible in recent months.

"I will never risk losing my integrity."

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He said ‘the problem starts at the top and I believe that is not going to change’.

In a message to Cabinet ministers who decided not to quit, he said: "Not doing something is an active decision.

"I'm deeply concerned about how the next generation will see the Conservative Party on our current course.

"It is incumbent on all of us to set high standards for ourselves and to take action when they are not met by others."

‘Handed a colossal mandate to keep going’

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But Mr Johnson told MPs: "The job of a Prime Minister in difficult circumstances when he has been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going, and that's what I'm going to do."

The 12 ministers to quit on Wednesday were Will Quince, Robin Walker, John Glen, Victoria Atkins, Jo Churchill, Stuart Andrew, Kemi Badenoch, Neil O'Brien, Alex Burghart, Lee Rowley, Julia Lopez and Mims Davies.

Communities Secretary Mr Gove, who has not resigned, was reported by the Daily Mail to have told Mr Johnson that he should go.

In their resignation letters:

- Ex-children and families minister Mr Quince said he could not accept being sent out to defend the Prime Minister on television with inaccurate information over the Chris Pincher row.

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- Former justice minister Ms Atkins told Mr Johnson: "I can no longer pirouette around our fractured values. We can and must do better than this."

- Ms Churchill quit as environment minister, saying: "Recent events have shown integrity, competence, and judgment are all essential to the role of Prime Minister, while a jocular self-serving approach is bound to have its limitations."

Laura Trott, Felicity Buchan, Selaine Saxby, Claire Coutinho and David Johnston resigned as ministerial aides.

MPs on the backbenches were also turning away from the Prime Minister.

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Education Select Committee chairman Rob Halfon said he would back a change in leadership, criticising not only a "real loss of integrity" but also "a failure of policy".

Transport Select Committee chairman Huw Merriman told the BBC Mr Johnson should resign if he has "any dignity left".

Former Cabinet ministers Robert Jenrick and Liam Fox withdrew their support.

Prime Minister’s position on Chris Pincher

Mr Quince was one of the ministers sent on the airwaves to defend Mr Johnson's position over MP Chris Pincher, who quit as deputy chief whip after allegedly assaulting two men while drunk at London's Carlton Club.

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The Prime Minister later acknowledged he had previously been informed of allegations against Mr Pincher dating back to 2019 and said he regretted keeping him in government beyond that point.

Mr Quince said he had received a "sincere apology" from Mr Johnson for being sent out with an "inaccurate" briefing about the Prime Minister's knowledge of events.

The Prime Minister's authority had already been damaged by a confidence vote which saw 41 per cent of his own MPs withdraw their support in June.

The loss of crunch by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton later that month triggered the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, while there is still lingering resentment over coronavirus lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.

A change in the rules?

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The Prime Minister's fate may ultimately lie with backbench MPs if the Tory 1922 Committee's rules are changed to allow another confidence vote within 12 months.

The committee's executive was meeting on Wednesday in Westminster.

In a sign that discontent stretches across the party, Lee Anderson, one of the MPs elected in 2019 in Red Wall seats who largely owe their political careers to the Prime Minister, said he too had lost faith in the leader.

The Ashfield MP pointed to the row over Mr Pincher's appointment and said: "Integrity should always come first and sadly this has not been the case over the past few days."

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New Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi hinted at reversing a planned rise in corporation tax as part of the effort to win over Tory MPs.

Mr Zahawi sought to reassure Conservatives that "nothing is off the table" when questioned about possibly scrapping the planned increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April 2023.

"I know that boards around the world, when they make investment decisions, they're long term, and the one tax they can compare globally is corporation tax," he told Sky News.

"I want to make sure that we are as competitive as we can be whilst maintaining fiscal discipline."