Despite wave of resignations, British PM insists he will 'deliver' on mandate
Boris Johnson on Wednesday refused to quit as British prime minister despite a slew of resignations from his scandal-hit government, piling on pressure as he faced a grilling from angry MPs.
At least 21 resignations have been submitted since Tuesday evening, Sky News reported.
The 58-year-old leader promised to "deliver" on his "mandate" but his grip on power appears to be slipping following 10 short minutes on Tuesday night, when Rishi Sunak resigned as finance minister and Sajid Javid quit as health secretary.
Both said they could no longer tolerate the culture of scandal that has stalked Johnson for months, including lockdown lawbreaking in Downing Street that enraged the public who followed the rules.
The most immediate challenge for the leader is to get through two public grilling sessions: the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session in Parliament and a long-scheduled interrogation later on Wednesday by a committee of senior lawmakers.
At the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament, MPs from all sides rounded on Johnson.
But brushing off calls to resign, he told MPs: "Frankly, the job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you have been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going and that's what I'm going to do."
Nadhim Zahawi, Britain's new chancellor of the exchequer, has urged the Conservative Party to unite behind Johnson.
In a hasty reshuffle, Zahawi was elevated from the education portfolio to the country's top financial post. In an interview with Sky News, he said it was "easy to walk away "from government but "much tougher to deliver for the country", and that "the team in government today is the team that will deliver".
He said that he believed Johnson had integrity and was "determined to deliver for this country".
The two senior ministers' resignation was followed by those of a number of junior officials, plunging Johnson's already beleaguered leadership into a new crisis. Victoria Atkins, a junior home office minister, was among the ministers quitting.
In recent months, Johnson's personal conduct during the pandemic, which saw him handed a fixed penalty notice by London's Metropolitan Police for breaking lockdown restrictions in what became known as the "Partygate" scandal, has seen him heavily criticized.
Last month the Conservatives lost two parliamentary seats at by-elections, but despite this warning shot, Johnson told a BBC interview that a "psychological transformation" of his character "is not going to happen".
But what proved to be the final straw was his comments around the resignation of government whip Chris Pincher over allegations of improper behavior.
In his resignation letter, Pincher announced that he "drank far too much" and "embarrassed myself and other people".
In subsequent days it emerged that Johnson had appointed him despite having been made aware of previous concerns about his conduct, something that Downing Street officials suggested Johnson had forgotten, before he admitted in a television interview that he had made a mistake and it was "in hindsight, the wrong thing to do".
But within minutes of that interview, the resignations began, dashing any hope that Johnson might be seen to be taking charge of the situation.
"The tone you set as leader, and the values you represent, reflect on your colleagues, your party, and ultimately the country," Javid said in his resignation letter.
He referred to Johnson surviving a damaging vote of no confidence by his own members of Parliament at the start of June, saying that it had been "a moment for humility, grip and new direction. I regret to say, however, that it is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership-and you have therefore lost my confidence too".
Sunak, whose letter followed minutes later, cited personal and political differences.
"The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously," he said of concerns about the prime minister's standards of behavior.
Agencies contributed to this story.