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Britain’s Johnson defies despite opponents telling him time is up

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed calls for his resignation from his cabinet and across the Conservative Party, digging in on his heels on Thursday despite dozens of officials resigning and previously loyal allies urging him to leave after another scandal had devoured his leadership.

A group of Johnson’s most trusted cabinet ministers visited him at his Downing Street office on Wednesday, urging him to resign after losing confidence in his party. But Johnson instead chose to fight for his political career and sacked one of the cabinet officials, Michael Gove, British media reported.

It is rare for a prime minister to hold on to office in the face of intense pressure from his cabinet mates. The front page of the Guardian on Thursday called him “desperate, blinded”.

As of early Thursday, four cabinet ministers had resigned – the latest being Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis, who in his resignation letter told Johnson that “we have… passed the point of no return.” I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now.”

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Some 40 younger government officials have also left, amid an uproar over Johnson’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a senior official, which was the latest in a long line of issues that have made Conservative lawmakers uneasy.

“He betrayed the trust placed in him. He must realize that he no longer has the moral authority to lead. And it’s over for him,” Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford told The Associated Press.

Johnson cannot continue because his government has not even gotten ministers to attend to Parliament’s regular business after so many have resigned, Blackford added.

Johnson’s future remains extremely uncertain. So far, most cabinet officials have remained in their positions, but a mass cabinet strike could force him to act if it left him unable to run a functioning government.

If Johnson still refuses to step down, the Conservatives could oust him, potentially triggering a new no-confidence vote.

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Johnson survived one such vote on June 6th – although his authority was tarnished because even then 41% of his lawmakers voted to get rid of him. Under current party rules, a year must elapse before another formal leadership challenge can take place.

But an influential group of conservative lawmakers known as the Committee of 1922 has the power to rewrite the rules to allow for a new vote of confidence within a shorter timeframe. The committee could decide on Monday whether this is the case.

Johnson, 58, is known for his ability to wriggle out of tight spots. He has remained in power despite allegations that he is too close to party leaders, shielding supporters from allegations of bullying and corruption, misleading parliament and being dishonest to the public towards ruling parties that violated the rules of the pandemic lockdown.

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But recent revelations that Johnson knew of sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker, before he promoted the man to a senior position brought the Prime Minister to the brink of collapse.

Last week, Pincher resigned as deputy chief whip after he complained of groping two men at a private club. That sparked a flurry of reports of previous allegations against Pincher – and shifting government accounts of what Johnson knew when he used him for a senior job enforcing party discipline.

Health Minister Sajid Javid and Finance Chief Rishi Sunak resigned within minutes on Wednesday over the scandal. The two Cabinet heavyweights were responsible for tackling two of the biggest issues facing Britain – the cost of living crisis and COVID-19.

Javid struck a chord with many lawmakers when he said Johnson’s actions threatened to undermine the integrity of the Conservative Party and the UK government.

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“At some point we have to come to the conclusion that enough is enough,” he told fellow lawmakers on Wednesday. “I think that point is now.”

Around 40 junior ministers and ministerial assistants resigned on Tuesday and Wednesday. A third cabinet official, Welsh Minister Simon Hart, resigned late Wednesday, saying “we have passed the point” where it is possible to “turn the ship around” and Lewis left on Thursday morning.

Many of Johnson’s Conservatives were concerned that he no longer had the moral authority to govern at a time when difficult decisions will be needed to deal with soaring food and energy prices, rising COVID-19 infections and the war in the United States to tackle Ukraine. Others fear that he could now become a burden at the ballot box.

But Johnson dismissed the attacks, citing the mandate voters gave him when he came to power in 2019.

“Quite frankly … it is the Prime Minister’s job to carry on in difficult circumstances, when he has been given a colossal mandate,” Johnson told critics in Parliament on Wednesday. “And I will do that.”

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Follow all of AP’s coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/07/07/uks-johnson-defiant-even-as-opponents-tell-him-time-is-up/ Britain’s Johnson defies despite opponents telling him time is up

Sarah Y. Kim

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