British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to vacate Downing Street immediately as he resigned from the UK’s top office on Thursday.
Announcing his resignation in front of Number 10 Downing Street at 12:30 p.m. local time, Johnson vowed to stay in office until a new Conservative party leader is elected, as resigning prime ministers usually do.
He also said he has appointed a new Cabinet to replace those who resigned in the last three days.
But many Conservative Party members, as well as the opposition parties, called on Johnson to hand over the reins to a different interim leader.
Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, threatened to use Parliament’s vote of no confidence procedure to evict Johnson unless he steps down immediately.
Speaking to reporters in Westminster before Johnson’s formal announcement, Starmer said Johnson “needs to go completely.”
“None of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months. He’s inflicted lies, fraud, and chaos in the country,” he said.
Starmer said it had been “blindingly obvious for a very, very long time” that Johnson is “unfit to be prime minister,” adding that unless the Conservative Party ousts Johnson immediately, “Labour will step up, in the national interest, and bring a vote of no confidence because we can’t go on with this prime minister clinging on for months and months to come.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey also said Johnson “has to go today” and suggested Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should take over.
“It is quite possible to have an interim government, there is a deputy prime minister, there could be an interim Cabinet appointed,” Davey told the BBC, before going on to say, “This Conservative Party, Boris Johnson or no Boris Johnson, is not fit to lead our country.”
Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, also said Johnson “should now leave government immediately.”
The pressure also came from Johnson’s own government, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng suggesting that the resigned prime minister shouldn’t stay in office for too long.
“We now need a new leader as soon as practicable. Someone who can rebuild trust, heal the country, and set out a new, sensible, and consistent economic approach to help families,” the minister wrote on Twitter.
Aaron Bell, Conservative MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, told Sky News that he prefers a different caretaker prime minister as he’s worried that Johnson may not be able to fill all ministerial vacancies.
Johnson “has lost the confidence of the party, that’s absolutely apparent, and therefore it’s not appropriate that we have anything other than a proper caretaker administration,” he said.
According to a letter shared on Twitter, former Prime Minister John Major wrote to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, saying Johnson shouldn’t remain in office “for any longer than necessary to effect the smooth transition of government.”
But not all Conservative MPs want Johnson to pack up today.
Veteran MP David Davis, who repeatedly called on Johnson to resign, warned his colleagues against any drastic moves.
“My concern is to pick the most straightforward way through this change we have to do and every way we pick has got problems, but the one of waiting until you have got a new leader provides the least problems,” he told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme.
Robin Walker, who was among the many ministers to resign from government, said it was a matter for the Conservative Party if Johnson could stay on as a caretaker prime minister.
A total of 59 government ministers and ministerial aides have resigned since Tuesday after Johnson admitted his “mistake” of giving the job of deputy chief whip to Chris Pincher, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
Downing Street stated last week that Johnson wasn’t aware of any prior formal complaints against Pincher, only to admit this week that the prime minister was told about an investigation and had forgotten about it.
It proved to be the last straw that tipped the scale against Johnson, who narrowly survived a confidence vote over partygate last month.
The exact timetable for the party leadership contest will be decided by the 1922 Committee and the Conservative Party headquarters, with Conservative MPs and party members playing a decisive role in electing the next leader.
Johnson said in his announcement that the timetable will be announced next week.
So far, Attorney General Suella Braverman and MP Steve Baker have indicated their intention to run.
According to a new snap poll by YouGov published on Thursday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, whose name doesn’t appear in political dramas, is currently the favourite among the Conservatives as Johnson’s potential successor.