Boris Johnson’s glorious days of leading the UK ended with inflation rising in 2022, to the current rate of 9.1%. Many of the reasons were outside of Boris Johnson’s control. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for example, has led to rises in oil prices and the cost of food. And, while the government has taken some steps – for example, by cutting fuel duty by 5p per litre – it also went ahead with a tax rise in April. National Insurance went up by 1.25 pence in the pound. The government said the tax rise would pay for health and social care, and changes that kicked in this week softened the blow – but anyone earning more than £34,000 a year will still pay more. The UK was in the middle of the worst cost-of-living crisis for decades.
In October 2021, a House of Commons committee recommended a 30-day suspension for then-Conservative MP Owen Paterson. The committee said he broke lobbying rules, to try to benefit companies who paid him. But the Conservatives – led by the prime minister – voted to pause his suspension, and set up a new committee to look at how investigations were carried out. After an outcry, Mr Paterson ended up resigning. Mr Johnson later admitted he had “crashed the car” in his handling of the case.
Mr. Johnson’s premiership has been rocked by a chain of scandals in recent months after they found government officials to have held several parties in his Downing Street headquarters while the rest of the country was under strict Covid-19 lockdowns. He apologized to Buckingham Palace after staff held parties on the night before the funeral of Prince Philip, where Queen Elizabeth had to sit alone to comply with social-distancing requirements. Most recently, Johnson had to apologize for appointing as a senior parliamentary official a man whom he knew had a history of allegedly making unwanted sexual advances. “Them’s the breaks,” Johnson said as he announced his decision outside Downing Street. Less than three years ago, Boris Johnson led the Conservatives to their biggest election victory since 1987.
Now, the prime minister has lost the support of his MPs and is set to resign. The last British prime minister to resign was Theresa May, in 2019. Her departure started the leadership race that resulted in Mr Johnson becoming prime minister. He later secured a landslide election win. Mr Johnson will stay on in a caretaker capacity until a new leader is selected. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would resign once a successor is chosen after senior members of his government turned against him and urged him to stand down following a series of scandals. It is a stunning reversal for a politician who has dominated British politics since the campaign to pull the UK out of the European Union, but one that leaves the ruling Conservative Party with a difficult choice—who should it pick to replace him?
Johnson decided to step down after senior cabinet ministers from his ruling Conservative Party, including Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak, and a long list of junior officials resigned, making it difficult if not impossible for him to run the government. He tried to hold on for a while, but as the number of departures mounted it became clear he would have to leave if the government was to get back on its feet. Many names have been mentioned, but there is no clear and obvious candidate. Mr. Sunak, the former Treasury chief and onetime hedge-fund manager, is seen as a front-runner but so far hasn’t officially thrown his hat into the ring.
Potential rivals include figures such as Ben Wallace, the defense minister, who has overseen the UK’s response to the war in Ukraine, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, though neither have the same name recognition as Johnson. Other candidates include lawmakers Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt. The man Johnson chose to succeed Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi, has also been touted in some quarters as a potential candidate. After less than 24 hours on the job, Zahawi on Wednesday issued an open letter calling on Johnson to step down. Whoever it is, choosing the next leader is lengthy. Successive rounds of voting by Conservative lawmakers would whittle the number of candidates to two, who would then be presented to the party’s broader membership and voted on.