British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced more resignations from his government Thursday amid growing calls for him to step down.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, a member of Johnson’s Cabinet, was among the latest to submit his resignation, saying in a statement, “I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now.”
Three other Cabinet ministers had resigned as of early Thursday, along with at least 40 junior ministers and ministerial aides.
Johnson, who vowed Wednesday to stay in office, furthered the list of departures by dismissing Communities Secretary Michael Gove.
“Frankly … the job of the prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he’s been handed a colossal mandate, is to keep going,” Johnson said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Johnson faced a round of tough questions from angry and skeptical lawmakers during the traditional prime minister’s question and answer session in Parliament Wednesday, a day after Finance Minister Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid unexpectedly quit within minutes of each other.
The two men resigned after Johnson apologized for appointing conservative lawmaker Chris Pincher to a key party post despite allegations Pincher groped two men at a private club in London while intoxicated.
Officials at No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence, initially said Johnson did not know about the allegations surrounding Pincher, but later acknowledged he had been told about previous accusations against the lawmaker in 2019.
In his resignation letter, Sunak wrote that the British public “rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I believe these standards are worth fighting for, and that is why I am resigning.”
Johnson immediately replaced Sunak and Javid with other members from his Cabinet. But another Cabinet official, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart added his resignation late Wednesday, saying it was past the point where it is possible to “turn the ship around.”
The latest scandal comes just weeks after Johnson survived a no-confidence vote within his Conservative Party after he received a police fine for violating his own COVID-19 lockdown rules by holding parties at 10 Downing Street.
In a resignation letter, Javid said Johnson had a chance to show “humility, grip and new direction” after surviving the no-confidence vote, but added, “It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.