British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned today, acknowledging that it was "clearly the will" of his party that he should go.
He stepped down immediately as leader of his Conservative Party but plans to remain as prime minister while the leadership contest is held. He said he has appointed a new Cabinet following a multitude of resignations, but many are calling for him to go now.
It is a humiliating defeat for Johnson, who succeeded in leading Britain out of the European Union and was credited with rolling out one of the world's most successful mass vaccination campaigns to combat Covid-19.
The announcement came after the latest ethics scandal around Johnson's leadership led some 50 senior lawmakers to quit the government and left him unable to govern.
Speaking outside No 10 Downing St, Johnson said he was "immensely proud of the achievements of this government," from Brexit to steering the country through the pandemic, and leading the West in standing up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But he acknowledged that "in politics, no one is remotely indispensable."
The internal election to pick a new leader of the Conservative Party, who will also be the next prime minister, is likely to take place over the summer.
Dominic Cummings, Johnson's former right-hand man, has urged Conservatives to remove him as PM today, rather than let him stay as caretaker prime minister.
Cummings tweeted: "Evict TODAY, or he'll cause CARNAGE."
Johnson had earlier rejected clamours for his resignation from his Cabinet and across the Conservative Party, digging in his heels in the past 24 hours even as dozens of officials quit and previously loyal allies urged him to go after yet another scandal engulfed his leadership.
One of his closest allies, Treasury Chief Nadhim Zahawi, told the prime minister to resign for the good of the country.
"Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country," Zahawi said in a letter to Johnson. "You must do the right thing and go now."
Labour leader Keir Starmer put out a statement saying it was good news for the country Johnson had chosen to resign.
"But it should have happened long ago," the statement read. "He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale. And all those who have been complicit should be utterly ashamed."
He closed his statement by saying: "We don't need to change the Tory at the top - we need a proper change of government. We need a fresh start for Britain."
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, also slammed the idea of Johnson staying on.
"There will be a widespread sense of relief that the chaos of the last few days (indeed months) will come to an end, though notion of Boris Johnson staying on as PM until autumn seems far from ideal, and surely not sustainable?" she wrote on Twitter.
A group of Johnson's most trusted Cabinet ministers visited Johnson at his office in Downing Street on Wednesday, telling him to stand down after losing the trust of his party. But Johnson instead opted to fight for his political career and fired one of the Cabinet officials, Michael Gove, British media reported.
Tonight George Freeman, who was among the ministers who recently resigned, has called for a caretaker prime minister to govern in response to the news of Johnson's imminent resignation.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the resignation was "good news for the country" but it "should have happened long ago".
He said in a statement: "He was always unfit for office. He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale. And all those who have been complicit should be utterly ashamed.
Starmer said that "enough is enough" and "we don't need to change the Tory at the top – we need a proper change of government".
As of early Thursday, four Cabinet ministers had quit — the latest was Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis who told Johnson in his resignation letter that "we are ... past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now."
Some 40 junior government officials have also left amid a furore over Johnson's handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official that was the latest in a long line of issues that have made Conservative lawmakers uncomfortable.
"He's breached the trust that was put in him. He needs to recognise that he no longer has the moral authority to lead. And for him, it's over," Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told The Associated Press.
Johnson cannot continue because his government has not even got ministers to attend to regular Parliament business after so many resigned, Blackford added.
So far, most Cabinet officials have remained in their positions but a mass walkout by the Cabinet could have forced his hand if that leaves him unable to run a functioning government.
Johnson survived such a no confidence vote on June 6 — though his authority took a beating because even then 41 per cent of his lawmakers voted to get rid of him. Under current party rules, a year must pass before another formal leadership challenge can take place.
But an influential group of Conservative lawmakers known as the 1922 Committee had the power to rewrite the rules to allow a fresh confidence vote within a shorter timeframe.
Johnson, 58, is known for his knack for wiggling out of tight spots. He has remained in power despite allegations that he was too close to party donors, that he protected supporters from bullying and corruption allegations, and that he misled Parliament and was dishonest to the public about government office parties that broke pandemic lockdown rules.
But recent disclosures that Johnson knew about sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker, before he promoted the man to a senior position pushed the prime minister to the brink.
Last week, Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip after complaints he groped two men at a private club. That triggered a series of reports about past allegations levelled against Pincher — and shifting explanations from the government about what Johnson knew when he tapped him for a senior job enforcing party discipline.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak resigned within minutes of each other Wednesday over the scandal. The two Cabinet heavyweights were responsible for tackling two of the biggest issues facing Britain — the cost-of-living crisis and Covid-19.
Javid captured the mood of many lawmakers when he said Johnson's actions threaten to undermine the integrity of the Conservative Party and the British government.
"At some point we have to conclude that enough is enough," he told fellow lawmakers Wednesday. "I believe that point is now."
The resignations of some 40 junior ministers and ministerial aides followed on Tuesday and Wednesday. A third Cabinet official, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, quit late Wednesday, saying "we have passed the point" where it's possible to "turn the ship around," and Lewis left on Thursday morning.
Johnson had attempted to defy the mathematics of parliamentary government and the traditions of British politics. It is rare for a prime minister to cling to power in the face of this much pressure from his Cabinet colleagues.
The closest parallel may be Margaret Thatcher, the long-time Conservative prime minister who in 1990 sought to remain in office after her authority was undermined by disagreements over Britain's relationship with what is now known as the European Union. But even she decided to resign after a number of Cabinet ministers told her it would be better for the party if she stepped aside.
The Guardian's front page on Thursday called him "Desperate, deluded."