The Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes his resignation statement outside Number 10 Downing Street. Picture by Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street
Almost six months since members of his own party started calling for him to resign, Boris Johnson has finally thrown in the towel and committed to leaving his post as prime minister.
The two years and 348 days in charge of the country means he led the country for less time than Theresa May, who he fought so hard to unseat, over a tenure beset with accusations of lying, the mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic and a succession of scandals relating to the conduct of his MPs and his office.
While the country was plunged into a cost of living crisis with prices outstripping wages and millions turning to food banks, the drama swirling around the prime minister became too much for his ministers. More than 50 quit in less than 48 hours, making his position untenable.
Boris Johnson resigned at lunch time on Thursday. This is his speech in full:
Good afternoon everybody. Good afternoon.
It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister. And I’ve agreed with sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week. And I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place.
So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019, many voting Conservative for the first time, thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of a vote since 1979.
The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.
I, of course, am immensely proud of the achievement s of this government, from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make it’s own laws in Parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, delivering the fastest exit from lockdown, and in the last few months leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Let me say now, to the people of Ukraine, that we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes. And at the same time in this country we’ve been pushing forward a vast investment in infrastructure, skills and technology, the biggest in a century, because if I have one insight into human beings it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population. But opportunity is not. And that’s why we must keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential of every part of the United Kingdom, and if we can do that in this country we will be the most prosperous in Europe.
And in the last few days I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually just a handful of points behind in the polls, even midterm, after quite a few months of relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally. And I regret not to have been successful in those arguments. And of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many of those ideas and projects myself.
But as we’ve seen in Westminster the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves it moves. And, my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensible. And our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times, not just helping families to get through, it but changing and improving the way we do things, cutting burdens on families and businesses and, yes, cutting taxes. As that is the way to generate the growth and income we need to pay for great public services.
And to that new leader, whoever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can. And to you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who will be relieved and perhaps quite a few who are perhaps disappointed, and I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks.
I want to thank Carrie and our children and all the members of my family who’ve had to put up with so much for so long. I want to thank the peerless civil services for all the help and support you have given our police, our emergency services, and of course our fantastic NHS who at critical moments helped to extend my own period in office. As well as our armed services and our agencies that are so admired around the world and our indefatigable Conservative party members and supporters whose selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.
I want to thank the wonderful staff here at Number 10 and of course at Chequers and our fantastic prop force detectives, the one group by the way, who never leak. Above all I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me and I want you to know that from now on until the new prime minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.
Being prime minister is an education in itself. I have travelled to every part of the United Kingdom and in addition to the beauty of our natural world I have found so many people, possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways that I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now our future together is golden.