Boris Johnson to resign as Conservative leader but will remain British Prime Minister until fall

In this file photo from May 25, 2022, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties in Whitehall.Leon Neal/The Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to resign as party leader on Thursday less than three years after winning one of the largest landslides in British history.

Media reports said Mr. Johnson had finally bowed to growing pressure to quit from cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament and Conservative Party officials. Mr. Johnson wants to remain Prime Minister until the fall when a new leader will be chosen, the BBC reported. However, there is mounting pressure for him to go immediately and be replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.

Mr. Johnson had been plagued by a series of scandals in recent months including reports that he and his officials held more than a dozen social gatherings when the country was in lockdown because of the pandemic. But allegations of sexual assault involving former deputy Tory MP Chris Pincher brought the rebellion to a boil this week as reports surfaced that Mr. Johnson overlooked Mr. Pincher’s behavior and appointed him as deputy chief whip.

His resignation is a humiliating end to a career that seemed to defy political norms.

He was born to British parents in New York as Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and spent much of his youth in Brussels where his father, Stanley, worked for the European Commission. After a privileged education at Eton and Oxford, he joined The Times as a trainee reporter in 1987, only to be fired for making up a quote.

His political career began in 2001 when he won a seat in Parliament. He went on to serve two terms as mayor of London and return to Westminster in 2015. Through it all, he has relied on humour, self-deprecation and more than a little exaggeration.

He led the campaign to pull Britain out of the European Union in 2016, after hesitating about which side to support. After winning a referendum on Brexit that year, Mr. Johnson became an ardent critic of then Prime Minister Theresa May, who tried to negotiate a departure deal with the EU.

Mr. Johnson led the move to force Ms. May to step down, and he was elected party leader in 2019. He went on to lead the Conservatives to a massive majority in December 2019, by promising to “get Brexit done.” However, the deal he negotiated with the EU has caused havoc in Northern Ireland because it has effectively left the province bound by EU rules and cut off from the rest of Britain in terms of trade. Mr. Johnson has now moved to terminate key parts of the agreement, even though he signed it in 2020.

He also came under fire for his handling of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic even though he nearly died from the illness. And while he managed to launch a successful vaccination drive, he became mired in scandals over renovations to his flat at Downing Street and allegations of repeated violations of COVID-19 regulations.

The scandals prompted Conservative MPs to hold a leadership review last month. Mr. Johnson received the backing of a majority of MPs but 148, or 40 per cent of the caucus, voted for him to resign. A couple of weeks later, the Tories lost two by-elections by heavy margins, raising more questions about Mr. Johnson’s ability to continue as leader.

Through it all, Mr. Johnson remained defiant and refused to resign, even as dozens of cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries quit this week and called on him to step down.

There are no clear favorites to succeed him as party leader. Some of the main contenders are expected to be Mr. Raab as well as former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, former health minister Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed Mr. Johnson’s departure but said it came too late. “It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister,” Mr. Starmer said. “But it should have happened long ago.”

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