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Boris Johnson: Resignations continue after Patel calls for PM to go

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Boris Johnson remains adamant and has refused to resign as prime minister

Embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fighting to stay on as prime minister as the wave of ministerial resignations continues.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis became the latest cabinet member to quit early on Thursday, quickly followed by several other ministers.

Previously-loyal supporters – including Priti Patel and Grant Shapps – urged him to step down on Wednesday.

But Mr Johnson insists he has a “colossal mandate to keep going” from voters.

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Meanwhile, Attorney General Suella Braverman has said she will stand in any leadership challenge, although she did not resign.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during the weekly question time debate at Parliament in London Covid

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised during the weekly question time debate at Parliament in London over Covid parties

In his resignation letter on Thursday, Mr Lewis said: “I have given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt. I have gone out and defended this government both publicly and privately. We are, however, now past the point of no return.”

Taking aim at his critics, the prime minister sacked Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove in a shock move on Wednesday, with a Downing Street source calling him a “snake” who “gleefully briefs the press that he has called for the leader to go”.

Mr Gove, a former ally in the Brexit campaign but who derailed Boris Johnson’s first bid for the Tory leadership, had urged the PM to resign earlier in the day.

On Wednesday, more than 40 ministers and aides quit – a record for a 24-hour period.

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Even late into the night, the resignations continued, with Welsh Secretary Mr Hart standing down just before 23:00 BST.

Mr Hart said he had “no other option left”, adding that colleagues had done their utmost in private and in public “to help you turn the ship around, but it is with sadness that I feel we have passed the point where this is possible”.

He had been among a group of cabinet members who attempted to persuade the prime minister to stand down, which also included Mr Johnson’s former close allies Home Secretary Ms Patel, Transport Secretary Mr Shapps and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

Boris Johnson now has around 20 ministerial posts he needs to fill after the resignations.

Later on Wednesday night, former loyalist Ms Braverman joined the calls for Boris Johnson to stand down, telling ITV’s Peston that he had handled matters “appallingly” in recent days.

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She said she would not resign as it was her duty to carry on in her current job – but said: “If there is a leadership contest, I will put my name into the ring.”

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock also withdrew his backing for the PM, saying he had “supported him through thick and thin” but he now needed to go.

Mr Hancock – who said he would not be running for the leadership – predicted Mr Johnson would not be leader for much longer, “whether that’s tomorrow or next week”.

But some cabinet ministers – including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg remain loyal to the prime minister.

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And justifying Mr Johnson staying in the role, a No 10 source said: “The prime minister has a mandate from 14 million people to get a job done… If the party wants to stop him they have to take that mandate away.”

The BBC has also been told Mr Johnson has been stressing that “millions” voted for him, and questioning whether any of his would-be successors would be able to “replicate his electoral success at the next election”.

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove

Boris Johnson has a long history with Michael Gove – who he sacked after Mr Gove called for the PM to quit

Boris Johnson appeared in front of the Liaison Committee earlier on Wednesday – a group of MPs which scrutinises government decisions and policies.

He ruled out calling a snap general election, saying the earliest date he can see for one is 2024.

Boris Johnson survived a confidence vote last month and under current rules he is immune from another challenge for 12 months.

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But there are elections next week to the top team of the 1922 Committee, which organises the confidence votes. Rebel Tories want to get elected so that they can push through a rule change so that a confidence vote can be held sooner.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman has put her hat in the ring to be the next leader of the Conservative Party

The wave of resignations on Tuesday and Wednesday was triggered by revelations about the prime minister’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher.

On Tuesday, it emerged that Mr Johnson had been personally briefed about a complaint against Mr Pincher in 2019 when the Tamworth MP was a minister in the Foreign Office.

It contradicted days of denials from No 10 that the prime minister had known of any formal complaints about Mr Pincher, and prompted resignations that evening by two key cabinet colleagues, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Mr Javid told the Commons in his resignation speech on Wednesday that “enough was enough” and “the problem starts at the top and I believe that is not going to change”.

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The row is the latest issue to prompt Conservative MPs to question the prime minister’s leadership and direction of government.

Boris Johnson’s government has been dogged by a series of controversies in recent months, not least by a police investigation into parties in Downing Street during lockdown.

Some Tory MPs have also expressed dissent over tax rises, the government’s response to rising living costs and its policy direction.

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