LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday he plans to stay in power despite the resignations of two top Cabinet ministers and a slew of more junior officials.
Johnson told lawmakers that “the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you’ve been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going.”
Johnson’s hold on power has been shaken by the resignations of Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid. They quit saying they could no longer support Johnson because of his handling of ethics scandals including the case of a senior official accused of sexual misconduct.
Johnson quickly replaced the two men, but a string of junior ministers have also quit, and Johnson’s support inside his Conservative Party is shrinking rapidly.
Opponents hope to change party rules to allow a new no-confidence vote that could oust Johnson. He survived one such vote last month, with 41% of lawmakers voting against him.
The most immediate challenge for the leader is to get through two public grilling sessions: the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament that’s already underway and a long-scheduled interrogation by a committee of senior lawmakers.
How he handles the tough questions could indicate whether a simmering rebellion in his Conservative Party can gather enough strength to oust him.
Johnson is known for his uncanny ability to shrug off scandals, but a series of accusations of misdeeds have pushed him to the brink, and some of his fellow Conservative lawmakers now worry that the leader renowned for his affability could be a liability in elections.
Many are also concerned about the ability of a weakened Johnson to govern at a time of increasing economic and social strain.
Through it all, he has vowed to carry on governing — even suggesting he wanted to stay in office until the 2030s.
But former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was among several members of the Conservative Party who told Johnson his time was up.
“It’s a bit like the death of Rasputin. He’s been poisoned, stabbed, he’s been shot, his body’s been dumped in a freezing river and still he lives,’’ he told the BBC. “But this is an abnormal prime minister, a brilliantly charismatic, very funny, very amusing, big, big character. But I’m afraid he has neither the character nor the temperament to be our prime minister.”
The final straw for Sunak and Javid was the prime minister’s shifting explanations about his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior Conservative lawmaker.