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  • Emma Walsh

Boris Johnson resigns as prime minister, saying: 'No one is remotely indispensable'

Boris Johnson tells the British public: "I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them's the breaks."

Boris Johnson has announced his resignation as prime minister after less than three years in Number 10, saying: "No one in politics is remotely indispensable."

Speaking from Downing Street, he thanked the millions of people who voted Conservative at the last election, and said the reason he fought so long to remain in office was because "I thought it was my job, my duty and my obligation to you".

He also said he had tried to persuade his cabinet it would be "eccentric" to change prime minister now, but added: "I regret not to have been successful in those arguments.

"At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves."

Mr Johnson confirmed the process to appoint a new leader would begin now, with a timetable set out next week.

Yet it is still not clear exactly when he will leave Number 10 for the final time, and his new cabinet has met this afternoon to talk about its plans.

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major has written to Sir Graham saying allowing Mr Johnson to remain in post for three months would be "unwise, and may be unsustainable".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also threatened to call a vote of no confidence in the Commons, with the support of other opposition parties, if Tory MPs cannot oust him straight away.

Mr Johnson said he was "immensely proud of the achievements of this government", pointing towards finalising Brexit, its handling of the pandemic, and the rollout of vaccines, adding it was "painful not to see it through".

He also pledged to the people of Ukraine: "I know that we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes."

'The best job in the world'

Addressing the British public, he added: "I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them's the breaks."

And concluding his speech, Mr Johnson said: "I've travelled to every part of the United Kingdom and in addition to the beauty of our natural world, I find so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways that I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden."

There had been intense pressure on the PM to quit over the past 48 hours after more than 50 resignations from the government payroll, and waves of backbenchers appealing for him to go.

The mass rebellion began on Tuesday after Downing Street admitted the PM knew about allegations of inappropriate behaviour against disgraced former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher in 2019, but still appointed him in February and sent ministers out to defend him.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were the first to resign on Tuesday night, but over the following days, MPs from all levels of government piled in their letters and demands for him to go.

What finally forced Johnson to go?

Mr Johnson initially insisted he was staying in post, with a source inside Number 10 saying just this morning that he planned to "fight on".

But after new education secretary, Michelle Donelan - who had only been in the post for 36 hours - resigned and his freshly appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi publicly called for his exit, Downing Street confirmed the PM would be resigning today.

However, he plans to go on governing for now, already appointing new members to his cabinet - including the third education secretary in two days, James Cleverly.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss indicated she would be staying in post for the meantime, saying they needed "calmness and unity now and to keep governing while a new leader is found", and Home Secretary Priti Patel also pledged to stay onboard, saying it was her "duty to lead" her department.

Sir Robert Buckland, who was appointed Welsh secretary earlier today, told Sky News he was "here to help" govern while a new leader was found, trying to reassure the PM's critics he " no longer has the political authority to do new things".

But others in the party demanded Mr Johnson leave now, and a caretaker prime minister be put in place until a new leader is chosen.

Opponents say 'farcical' PM must go now

George Freeman, who quit his government post in protest of the PM's leadership, said a caretaker should "take over today so that ministers can get back to work, and we can choose a new Conservative leader to try and repair the damage and rebuild trust."

Chair of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Simon Hoare, agreed, tweeting: "Ministers resigned because of the PM. The party lost confidence because of the PM.

"It is beyond credulity that Mr Johnson can stay in office… he has to go and go means go"

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked: "How much more farcical is this going to get? If Johnson can't even be trusted to resign properly, the Tories need to act to end it now.

"People across the UK need and deserve better - especially now - than a badly written soap opera."

Labour's Sir Keir welcomed Mr Johnson's resignation as "good news for the country", but added: "It should have happened long ago"

"His own party have finally concluded that he is unfit to be prime minister. They can't now inflict him on the country for the next few months."

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