UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to resign on Thursday, July 7. BBC Political Editor Chris Mason has stated that Johnson plans to remain in office until later this year, pending a leadership race within the Conservative Party. The new PM will be in place ahead of the Tory party conference in October. However, sections within the party are demanding he step down immediately.
The announcement follows major chaos within the government this week, triggered by a record wave of resignations of Cabinet members, junior ministers, and aides. The crisis snowballed following the significant resignations of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, on July 5.
In a statement he shared on Twitter, Javid wrote that the public had concluded that the Conservative party was neither “popular” nor “competent in acting in the national interest,” and that the previous month’s vote of confidence had shown that many of their colleagues agreed with this assessment. Sunak, in his own statement, said that he was resigning because under Johnson’s leadership the public had lost faith that the government was “conducted properly, competently and seriously.”
By the morning of July 7, 54 out of the Johnson government’s 120 members had resigned, with the Guardian reporting five resignations at the Cabinet level, and 22 at below cabinet level. Despite growing pressure, including a grueling Prime Minister’s Questions session in Parliament on July 6, Johnson refused to step down.
It was later reported on Wednesday night that a delegation of senior politicians, including Johnson loyalist Home Secretary Priti Patel, had approached the PM asking him to resign. Patel was accompanied by newly-appointed Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi.
On July 7, Zahawi made his stance public, calling on Johnson to leave the government. While the prime minister seems to have finally acceded, reports indicate disagreement within the Conservative Party regarding whether he should be allowed to stay on till a new leader is chosen.
The ministerial resignations were the latest shock to the embattled Johnson administration, which has been at the center of a series of scandals and crises in the past several months. Most recently, the Prime Minister was forced to issue an apology for the appointment of Chris Pincher as the deputy chief whip, despite being informed of an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the MP.
Meanwhile, public outrage had been growing for months over rising inflation and a country-wide cost-of-living crisis which left millions unable to afford food and energy. Anger over the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of public procurement and public health was also compounded by the revelations made in the “Partygate” scandal.
Growing opposition within the Conservative Party resulted in a no-confidence motion in June, with 40% of Tory legislators voting to remove Johnson from office.
The looming collapse of the Johnson government follows a wave of popular unrest and workers’ mobilizations in the UK. Taxes have increased for ordinary workers in ways that they have not for the wealthy, making conditions worse for people who have already been suffering under years of austerity.
Food costs and energy costs have already increased sharply and will only increase further as Europe deals with supply problems stemming from the war in Ukraine. Ofgem, the government energy regulator, increased its maximum price cap on household energy bills by £700 in April, and is likely to increase it by a further £800 in October 2022—an almost 50% increase since the beginning of the year. While the government has offered energy rebates, these are required to be paid back over the next few years. Rental costs have also increased sharply, adding to workers’ woes.
Workers from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union organized a historic strike recently over better pay and working conditions and National Health Service (NHS) workers have also called for strikes . Teachers’ unions and doctors have threatened to strike as well; dubbed ‘essential workers’ during the early days of the pandemic, the salaries of these workers have suffered real-term cuts because of inflation and rapidly rising costs over the last two years. Protests over rising fuel costs have also been organized to bring motorways around the country to a halt.
In a blow to public health services, the government had planned to offer nurses a pay increase of between 3% and 5% in 2022, well behind an inflation rate of 9%, and which the Bank of England says could climb as high as 11%. These austerity measures, essentially a stealth defunding of the NHS, are likely to increase wait times and push nurses and doctors to look for other, private employment, in turn increasing the pressure on those who remain. Other public services and their employees—in education, transport, sanitation, council work, communications, and others—face similar problems. Nothing is likely to change on this front even if a new Conservative government comes to power.
Leftist sections say the present crisis will not automatically resolve itself with a mere change in Tory leadership. “Downing Street change not enough!”, declared the Communist Party of Britain. The Party’s anti-racism and anti-fascism convener, Tony Conway, stated during a political committee that “a change of Conservative leaders will not alter the government’s pro-big business, anti-democratic, racist and war-mongering agenda”.
DOWNING STREET CHANGE NOT ENOUGH, CP SAYS
‘The rats are jumping the Johnson ship – but a change of Conservative leaders will not alter the government's pro-big business, anti-democratic, racist and warmongering agenda’, Tony Conway told the Communist Party’s…
— Communist Party ☭ (@CPBritain) July 6, 2022
The party has called for a united response from trade unions and movements to address the cost of living, housing, climate change and food crises. Conway further called for a “generalized strike action” as workers across sectors including civil services and communications prepare to down tools alongside railway workers and barristers and other workers “in the fight for jobs, services, and a living wage”