London: Bowing to the inevitable after mass resignations across his government, including of top Cabinet ministers, in just three days, Boris Johnson on Thursday announced he is stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party, but will remain the UK Prime Minister, till his replacement is chosen.
Addressing the media outside 10, Downing Street, the 58-year-old embattled British leader, who has faced controversies galore in his 1,079 days in power, said: “It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of the party and therefore a new Prime Minister.”
He said that the process of choosing the new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.
“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.”
Stressing that in politics, no one is “remotely indispensable”, he said that “our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader” and assured of as as much support as he can give.
Thanking millions of people who voted for his party in 2019 – “many of them voting Conservative for the first time” for “that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, and the biggest share of the vote since 1979”, he said that the “reason I have fought so hard for 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.
Johnson said that he was “immensely proud” of the achievements of his government, “from getting Brexit done and settling our relations with the continent after half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, and “the fastest exit from lockdown”.
He also noted how his government had stood up to Russia and assured the people of Ukraine of continued support.
“…At the same time in this country we have at the same time been pushing forward a vast programme of investment in infrastructure, skills and technology, the biggest for 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 is why we need to 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.”
In a parting shot, Johnson said he tried to persuade colleagues it would be “eccentric” to change governments when “we’re delivering so much and such vast mandates, when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally”.
He said “at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful, when the herd moves, it moves”.
“I regret to not be successful in arguments and it’s painful not to see through so many ideas and projects.”
“And to you, the British people I know that there will be many who are relieved
but perhaps quite a few who will be disappointed… I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world,” he said.
“But them’s the breaks,” he added.
Thanking his family, colleagues, party, staff and others, Johnson said: “And above all I want to thank you the British public for the immense privilege you have given me and I want you to know that from now until the new Prime Minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.”