He won a historic election victory in 2019, but eventually had to clear the field under pressure from his own party. Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would quit as leader of the Conservatives, and as a result, as Prime Minister.
Scandals that supposedly cost other prime ministers did not seem to affect Johnson‘s position. But the latest affair, the one around Chris Pincher, turned out to be too much for even Johnson. How is the United Kingdom premiership going now?
How long is Johnson staying?
Johnson wouldn’t be Johnson if his departure went silent. When he announced his departure as party leader today, he indicated that he wanted to remain as acting prime minister until autumn. But not everyone in the House of Commons accepts that.
Some Conservatives point out that in recent weeks, a large number of ministers have resigned because of Johnson. If he stayed on for the next few months, it would be very wry.
Opposition leader Starmer immediately threatened a vote of no confidence against the government if Johnson does not leave before then. “His own party has decided that he is unfit to stay on, they will not be able to saddle the country with him in the coming months,” said the Labour leader.
Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, who resigned himself in the 1990s, also made himself heard today. In a letter, he called on the powerful 1922 committee, the Conservative backbenchers, to sidetrack Johnson immediately. Major called it “unwise” to leave Johnson in power de facto for another three months.
How does it go on now?
Meanwhile, the race to the premiership has begun in the background. It could take weeks.
Johnson‘s predecessor, Theresa May, left in 2019 after losing her party’s trust because she failed to secure a Brexit deal acceptable to her party with the EU. May remained as acting Prime Minister until the Conservatives appointed a successor. Johnson became the winner in the leadership election after a few rounds.
Those interested in the post can report in the coming period. Only House of Commons are eligible. They need at least eight signatures from fellow group members to do so. Once they are in, it is up to Conservative parliamentarians to vote in rounds. In addition, the threshold to stay in the race is constantly increased, until finally two candidates remain. These two names are presented to the 200,000 Conservative Party members from across the country.
The time frame for this leadership race is determined by the 1922 committee.
Who will succeed Johnson?
As with May‘s resignation, there is already plenty of speculation in the British media about who will be the new Prime Minister. Several Tory leaders are mentioned, such as Rishi Sunak. The Treasury Secretary was one of the first to step out of Johnson’s cabinet and, in a way, paved the way for other leavers. For a long time, Sunak was very popular. But the minister himself also came under fire because of his wife. His wife, multi-millionaire Akhshata Murty, had the status of non-resident and therefore did not have to pay British taxes.
The name of Minister Liz Truss (Foreign Affairs) is also regularly included. She has already held many cabinet posts and is popular among the Conservatives. Previously, she did not hide her ambition to become Prime Minister.
Defence Minister Ben Wallace has recently been named. Its popularity increased due to the handling of the Ukraine crisis. At some bookies (betting offices), it is currently the most popular.
Furthermore, names such as Penny Mordaunt – one of the ministers who stayed on during the exodus – and Michael Gove (made an attempt before) are mentioned.
Will there be a new election?
The Conservatives can appoint a new leader who will automatically become Prime Minister, without the need for elections. It is only stipulated that new general elections must be held before December 2024.
A new prime minister could also hold elections before that time. But the Conservatives currently have a large majority in the House of Commons. So they do not have much benefit from new elections.