LONDON — Boris Johnson is standing down as U.K. prime minister after a wave of government resignations and a revolt from his own Cabinet left him unable to carry on.
He will stay on as a caretaker leader while the race to replace him gets going — but critics in his own party want him out of office sooner.
Johnson — who spearheaded the campaign for Brexit and led his party to an emphatic election victory in December 2019 — made an at-times defiant statement outside No.10 Downing Street, as he teed up a battle to succeed him as head of the governing Conservative party.
“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,” Johnson conceded.
He said he intended to serve until a new leader is in place and that a timetable for the leadership race will be announced next week.
In the latest developments on Thursday:
— Johnson told a newly-assembled Cabinet he would “not seek to implement new policies or make major changes of direction” as he presses to stay on as a caretaker leader.
— Former Conservative prime minister John Major led calls for Johnson to leave office sooner rather than later.
— Tory backbencher Steve Baker said he was “seriously considering” a run for the leadership.
— Labour Leader Keir Starmer promised a vote of no confidence if Johnson does not go soon.
In a resignation speech that reeled off his own achievements and struck a bullish tone after days of resignations in his own ranks and months of controversy over his leadership, Johnson rebuked colleagues whose disloyalty eventually forced him out.
Johnson said he had tried to persuade colleagues it would “be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate.” His party, he contended, remained “only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging” and amid a bleak economic picture at home and abroad.
“I am immensely proud of the achievements of this government,” he said, pointing to Britain’s exit from the European Union, its “fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown” and the U.K.’s response in “standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”