British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stepped down Thursday (July 7) amid multiple scandals and public pressure to do so, as well as other members of his cabinet having already resigned earlier this week.
“In the past few weeks, I have been trying to convince my colleagues it would be eccentric to change governments when we have achieved so much,” Johnson said during a speech outside No. 10 Downing St. via NBC News. “I regret not to be successful in those arguments and, of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through those projects myself.”
Johnson said he will remain prime minister until his successor is selected, which is expected to be a decision that is opposed by other members of Parliament.
Johnson is now the third consecutive British prime minister to resign prior to the completion of their term, following his predecessors Theresa May (2016-19) and David Cameron (2010-16).
The Conservative Party has faced months of public scrutiny over Johnson’s judgment and ethics, which ultimately led to the resignations of Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, both of which were announced minutes apart from each other on Tuesday (July 5), after Johnson gave shifting explanations over how the party handled sexual misconduct allegations.
More than 50 other members of the British government have resigned since the initial two resignations of Sunak and Javid.
Johnson was publicly pressured to explain what he knew in relation to prior sexual misconduct allegations against former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who had also resigned on Thursday, amid complaints that Pincher had groped two men at a private club,
Johnson had previously claimed he was unaware of any allegations Pincher faced when he was promoted in February, however, a spokesman for the prime minister said Johnson was aware of the sexual misconduct allegations that he believed were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint” at the time.
Simon McDonald, the most senior civil servant at the U.K. Foreign Office from 2015-20, publicly challenged Johnson’s claim in a letter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, claiming he’d received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019 after he’d initially taken over as Foreign Minister, which Pincher had apologized for and that Johnson must have known about the allegations.
“The original No. 10 line is not true, and the modification is still not accurate,” McDonald wrote, referring to the prime minister’s Downing Street office, via NBC News. “Mr. Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation.
“There was a ‘formal complaint.’ Allegations were ‘resolved’ only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr. Pincher was not exonerated. To characterize the allegations as ‘unsubstantiated’ is therefore wrong.”
Johnson changed his story once again shortly after McDonald’s comments went public, now claiming that he forgot he was told of allegations Pincher in an official complaint.
The officer confirmed Johnson was briefed on the situation in 2019, which was a “number of months” after the incident occurred and that the office took time to establish the briefing.