The chancellor and health secretary have resigned from the government, saying they no longer trust Boris Johnson to lead the country.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the public expected the government to operate “properly, competently and seriously”. Health Secretary Sajid Javid echoed that, saying the government was “not acting in the national interest”.
The resignation came minutes after the PM apologized for appointing MP Chris Pincher to a government role.
Education Secretary Nadim Zhawi has been named the new chancellor, and Downing Street’s chief of staff, Steve Barkley, will replace Mr Javid as health secretary. Higher Education Minister Michelle Donelan has been promoted to Secretary of Education.
Mr Johnson admitted he had made a “bad mistake” in appointing Pincher to the deputy chief whip earlier this year, despite being aware of earlier allegations about the MP’s conduct.
In an interview with the BBC, Johnson said: “Ultimately, it was wrong to do so. I apologize to all who have been badly affected by this.” His handling of the controversy has drawn sharp criticism from the opposition and some of his MPs.
The last Conservative prime minister to face the party’s vote on his leadership was Theresa May, who won the vote but resigned six months later over the approach of Brexit.
Mr Johnson’s government has been beset by controversies recently, with some Tory lawmakers calling for the prime minister’s resignation.
Discontent among Tory MPs has grown since a highly critical report was published earlier this year at lockdown parties in and near Downing Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report highlighted the extent of Covid rule-breaking in number 10, including a birthday party for which the PM was fined by the police. The fine meant Mr Johnson became the first UK prime minister to be acknowledged for breaking the law.
Some Tory lawmakers have also expressed dissatisfaction with the tax hike, the government’s response to rising living costs, and its policy direction.
The defeat of the by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield in June put more pressure on the prime minister. It triggered the resignation of Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden.