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Boris Johnson resigns as Prime Minister amid groping scandal involving Chris Pincher

MPs in Kent have reacted to the news that Boris Johnson is set to step down.

The scandal-hit Prime Minister will step down following dozens of ministerial resignations which began with the departures of Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid within five minutes of each other on Tuesday.

Speaking outside Downing Street today, Mr Johnson said: "It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary conservative party that there should be a new leader of that party and so a new prime minister.

"I've agreed with Sir Graham Brady... that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now.

He thanked "millions for their mandate" after securing the biggest sahre of the vote since 1979 and explained why he still thinks it’s a bad idea to change leadership and “regrets he was not successful in persuading colleagues.”

Mr Johnson said: "The reason I have fought so hard over the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you.

"I'm immensely proud of the achievements of this government in getting Brexit done, to settling our relations with the continent reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in Parliament.

"Getting this country through the pandemic, getting the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown and in the last few months leading the West in standing up to Putin's aggression in Ukraine."

He then addressed the people in Ukraine, saying the UK will "continue to back their fight".

He confirms he will serve "until a new leader is in place".

His decision comes after his new chancellor told him to 'go now' - writing a letter revealing he'd 'pleaded' with him to step down.

This follows the departure of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak. In total, 55 MPs submitted letters of resignation.

Tunbridge Wells' Greg Clark, this morning appointed levelling up secretary after Michael Gove was sensationally sacked, sad: "We have a duty to ensure that the country has a functioning government in the weeks ahead. Having been Secretary of State at the Communities department before, I will do my best to provide stability, good governance and accountability to Parliament at this important time."

Sir Roger Gale, a vocal critic of Mr Johnson's leadership for some time, was the first Kent MP to react to the news.

He tweeted: "Faced with the reality Prime Minister has made the only right decision. Our job must now be to unite and run the Country in the interests of all of the people of the United Kingdom."

His Tory colleague Folkestone and Hythe MP, Damian Collins, said: "He has made the right decision to resign. A Prime Minister can only govern with the support of his colleagues and it was clear that he no longer enjoyed their confidence. I hope now that we can elect a new leader as soon as practically possible."

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson said: "I am saddened to see the way in which Boris Johnson has announced his resignation.

"Although I did not support him in the leadership contest when Theresa May stood down, I gave him total loyalty once he was elected Conservative Leader and Prime Minister. That is how it should be.

"Of course, Boris is not perfect, but then who is? Over the past few months I have weighed up his pros and cons. His achievements and his mistakes. Until this week I took the view that the former out-weighed the latter.

"But the fiasco surrounding the Chris Pincher resignation pushed the scales heavily in the other direction.

"Rather than coming out immediately and saying he had been wrong to appoint Pincher in the first place, Boris tried to pretend he knew nothing about Chris’s past behaviour. We all knew the Deputy Chief Whip’s record and it was inconceivable that Boris did not know as well.

Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson
Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP, Gordon Henderson

"Eventually the PM was forced to admit he was aware of the allegations. This was one lie too many, and it soon became apparent the PM would have to go.

"However, rather than going with good grace voluntarily, Boris had to be forced to resign, dragging out the inevitable and bringing himself and the Conservative Party into disrepute. That’s what I find most sad.

"Looking ahead, Conservative members of Parliament will now need to consider carefully the merits of the various candidates who no doubt will put themselves forward to take over as Leader. We will then have to put forward two names from which Conservative members nationally can choose a Leader.

"I currently have no preference, except I do want to see somebody as Prime Minister who will not betray the thousands of my constituents who voted for Brexit."

Gillingham and Rainham's Rehman Chishti said: "As we look to elect a new leader, as equals all MPs must consider over coming days how we can serve our country and party in these difficult times. We must champion aspirational conservatism and equality of opportunity for all."

Dartford MP Gareth Johnson said: "It had become clear that the PM’s position was no longer tenable and he had to resign. We shouldn’t forget his achievements though such as delivering Brexit, securing the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe and winning a landslide at the last general election.

"People just want us to get on with the job of running the country and that is precisely what we must do whilst choosing his successor. I want to thank Boris Johnson for his service in what is the toughest job in the country. "

Medway Council's leader said he was "sad to see Boris Johnson be brought down by minutia".

The scandal-hit Prime Minister has quit as Tory leader, following dozens of ministerial resignations over the past couple of days.

Councillor Alan Jarrett, Conservative Leader of Medway Council, said Mr Johnson has done a great job so far.

He said: "It's a real shambles at the moment. It's quite sad because Boris has done some really good stuff, in my opinion.

"He delivered the Brexit referendum, which wasn’t easy, there were difficulties with the Northern Ireland protocol. I think he did as well as anyone could have done with the Covid pandemic. I think he’s handled the Ukraine situation well.

"All those big issues he seems to me to have done as well, if not better, than anyone could have done.

"But in between, he basically appears to have been a bit of a fool, really, getting himself enrolled in allegations about parties, and now this latest business with Chris Pincher.

"It’s all a bit sad. He’s done a lot of big strategic stuff and being brought down by, really, minutia."

He added: "I just worry about who's advising him and what advice he's getting. He’s either doing all this stuff off his own back, or he is getting really bad advice because some of the stuff that he's got embroiled in, a Prime Minister shouldn't get in that situation at all.

Cllr Jarrett also mentioned how Mr Johnson's actions could have impacted the reputation of the Conservative Party.

"I don't want to trivialize what's happened, but in the great scheme of things, these are fairly minor things. And what it's done, it's damaged the credibility of the conservative party in the eyes of some," he said.

"In 2019 he won a fantastic election victory, and many seats that we never won before or hadn’t won for decades, and I suspect it won't take much for those to turn back to the historical roots of voting for Labour. So that's the worry: damaging the credibility of the party."

Mr Jarrett told KentOnline his local government is very well-placed, especially looking ahead to next year's elections.

He said: "I think we're still very well placed. We’ve had a fantastic record since the year 2000, we’ve run Medway very well and very confidently for 23 years next year. We've done an enormous amount of good, whereas the opposition have just opposed everything and I don’t think they have much to offer. So we'll fight on our record, which is great. We have changed Medway beyond all recognition in a lot of ways. And we've got a lot of work left to do so that's the case we’ll put before the electorate."

Labour MP Rosie Duffield
Labour MP Rosie Duffield

Canterbury's Labour MP Rosie Duffield said: “Having been an MP for five years, I am about to see my third Prime Minister in office. Britain needs strong and stable leadership to tackle the serious crises that we now face. But we have no functioning government, after nearly 60 resignations, and we have a dethroned Prime Minister squatting in Number 10 as a caretaker.

“These are serious times, and we need a serious Prime Minister and government to provide the necessary leadership, whether on Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, the 'backlog Britain' crisis facing public services, to rebuild trust in our public institutions, or to resolve the many ongoing issues resulting from the Government's abysmal and shambolic Brexit deal.

“We have had 12 years of a stagnant economy, broken public services, a mental healthcare crisis, growing NHS waiting lists, and so many empty promises. Enough is enough. Britain needs a fresh start.”

How did we get here?

On Tuesday, Mr Javid said: "It has been an enormous privilege to serve in this role, but I regret that I can no longer continue in good conscience."

He added: "I served for you loyally and as your friend. We all serve the country first. When made to choose between those loyalties there can be only one answer."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak then resigned saying: "The public rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously. I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning."

But Liz Truss then said she was "100% behind" Mr Johnson.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has resigned
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has resigned
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has resigned
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has resigned

This morning, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi also called on him to go as a further nine stepped down from their roles.

Yesterday, dozens of ministers quit and levelling up boss Michael Gove reportedly told Mr Johnson he must leave before PMQs. He was later sacked.

During PMQs Mr Johnson repeatedly said he would be "getting on with the job" despite members of his own party taking the opportunity to call on him to go.

One Tory backbencher told the House Mr Johnson had yesterday blamed other MPs for Chris Pincher inappropriate behaviour last week, saying the Prime Minister said seven MPs who were present should have stopped him drinking so much.

Last night, a delegation of cabinet ministers, reported to include staunch loyalist Priti Patel and newly-appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, arrived at Downing Street to tell the PM to quit.

But a rival contingent, including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, were also there to urge him to fight on and he told them he would not be quitting.

ITV reported he told colleagues it was a choice between a summer focused on economic growth or the chaos of a leadership contest and possible general election.

Mr Pincher is accused of groping two men at the Carlton Club – a private members' club popular with Tory politicians.

The MP was suspended after resigning from his post.

He's said to have been so drunk he couldn't remember his address and was bundled into a taxi at 1am, handing in his resignation the following day and saying he "drank too much".

Mr Johnson at first said he knew nothing of previous claims against former deputy chief whip Mr Pincher.

It has since transpired Mr Johnson was aware of past allegations of improper conduct levelled at Mr Pincher but appointed him anyway.

Chris Pincher in Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)
Chris Pincher in Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)

Downing Street at first denied he knew anything before saying he didn't know about any "specific incidents" but was aware of new reports and "unsubstantiated" claims.

But earlier a cabinet minister said the PM "forgot"he'd been told about an upheld complaint against Mr Pincher in 2019.

It's the latest scandal to rock the PM's tenure.

He seemed to have weathered the Partygate storm and previous issues around Owen Paterson and revamping his Downing Street flat.

Analysis from Political Editor Paul Francis

Boris Johnson isn’t the first Prime Minister to resist being turfed out of office and won’t be the last.

But his resistance to handing over the keys to Downing Street was remarkable, given the backdrop.

More than 50 members of his party resigned and multiple MPs publicly declared they no longer can support him.

He has been living on borrowed time but his fate was sealed after the stunning resignations of two of his cabinet ministers.

The continuing saga concerning what he knew or did not know about the allegations against the former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher has proved to be the last straw – many thought he should have gone in the wake of the damaging investigation into Partygate.

The tipping point and the moment he finally ran out of road came with the intervention of a senior civil servant who had to remind him that he had indeed been briefed about the allegations against Mr Pincher.

Yet again the Prime Minister had to to do a u-turn and acknowledge he had indeed been told.

Clearly cabinet colleagues felt they could no longer support the PM and the sense of frustration at being diverted by these personal issues was palpable.

Every time the party seemed to take one step forward it took two steps back. The mood among activists and party members has been dark for some time but they have judged he was no longer an asset but a liability.

Having reached that verdict there really has been no alternative but for him to quit.

The implosion of his leadership after two years in the job, played out in real time thanks to social media and 24-hour news, has been a macabre but compelling spectacle.

The ticker-tape announcing the latest ministerial resignation took on an importance entirely disproportionate to the relative anonymity of the holder of the post.

The word ‘trust’ cropped up in resignation letters, along with ‘integrity’ and ‘decency’ - values many MPs felt had been junked by the party.

The most destructive event was the ‘Partygate’ scandal which lifted the lid on a culture in which there was a casual disregard among Downing Street aides for the restrictions on social gatherings during Covid-19.

The Prime Minister, like a football manager, lost the dressing room.

More as we get it.

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