Chancellor tells Johnson to go as new education secretary resigns

UK deserves a government that "acts with integrity", Nadhim Zahawi says less than 48 hours after being appointed
Photo: Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images via ZUMA Press Wire

By Eleanor Langford

07 Jul 2022

Two cabinet ministers who were appointed to their current posts two days ago have called on the prime minister to resign as the number of MPs quitting government roles passes 50.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed as chancellor on Tuesday following Rishi Sunak's resignation, posted a letter on Twitter urging Boris Johnson to go.

"The challenges Britain faces, be it inflation or Putin's war in Ukraine, will not pause for anything, and it is vital that the major offices of state continue to function through a national crisis. If people have thought poorly of me for that decision, it is criticism I am willing to shoulder," he wrote.

"Yesterday, I made clear to the prime minister alongside my colleagues in No.10 that there was only one direction where this was going, and that he should leave with dignity. Out of respect, and in the hopes that he would listen to an old friend of 30 years, I kept this counsel private."

Zahawi said he was "heartbroken" that Johnson had not listened to his colleagues, and that the "country deserves a government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity".

"Prime minister, you know in your heart what the right thing to do is, and go now," he concluded.

Education secretary Michelle Donelan, who was also appointed on Tuesday after precessor Zahawi was made chancellor, announced on Twitter that she was resigning while also calling on the PM to go.

"Whilst I remain very worried about the prospects of no ministers in the department as we approach results day – the impact on students is real – as you know, yesterday I pleaded with you to do the right thing and resign for the sake of the country and our party, both are more important than any one person," she wrote.

Their interventions come after seven further government ministers quit the positions this morning, bringing the total who have left to over 50 at the time of writing.

Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland secretary and a major ally of Johnson, was among those to quit today. He tweeted a resignation letter in which he said that values of "honesty, integrity and mutual respect" were no longer being upheld, and that he was "now past the point of no return".

In a shock move, the PM last night sacked levelling up secretary Michael Gove after he reportedly approached Johnson and encouraged him to resign.

A No.10 source told the BBC: “You can’t have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully tells the press the leader has to go."

The sacking was followed, hours later, by the resignation of welsh secretary Simon Hart, who wrote: "Colleagues have done their utmost in public and private to help you turn the ship around, but it is with sadness I fear we have passed the point where this is possible."

It comes after a Downing Street source told CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome that Johnson is "fighting on", setting up a fresh confidence vote in his leadership – potentially as soon as next week.

The source said the PM believed Tory MPs faced a choice: either a summer of “navel gazing and uncertainty” in a leadership contest, or he and Zahawi “conquering” the cost of living together. 

Eleanor Langford is a reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared.

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