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Northern Ireland Secretary Quits As Boris Johnson Desperately Clings To Power

3 min read

The Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis, along with multiple junior ministers, has quit following last night's dramatic sacking of Michael Gove and resignation of Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, as Boris Johnson desperately clings to power in Number 10.

Lewis, a major ally of Johnson, tweeted a resignation letter in which he said that values of "honesty, integrity and mutual respect" were not longer being upheld, and that he was "now past the point of no return".

His departure had been expected – to the point of being mistakenly announced by some journalists – ever since Boris Johnson had announced he was staying on as Prime Minister last night, and gone on to sack Levelling Up Secretary Gove.

Lewis' resignation was followed by that of Treasury Minister Helen Whately, along with Security Minister Damian Hinds, who cited an “erosion” of standards, and Science Minister George Freeman, who said: "The chaos in No 10, the breakdown of Cabinet collective responsibility, the abandonment of the ministerial code, the defence of impropriety & defiance of Parliament are all insults to the Conservatism I believe in and stand for."

The number of Conservative MPs who have resigned from government positions had reached 50 at the time of writing.

In a shock move, the Prime Minister last night sacked the Levelling Up secretary Gove after he reportedly approached Johnson and encouraged him to resign. A Number 10 source told the BBC: “You can’t have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully tells the press the leader has to go."

The sacking was followed, hours later, by the resignation of Welsh Secretary Hart, who wrote "colleagues have done their utmost in public and private to help you turn the ship around, but it is with sadness I fear we have passed the point where this is possible."

It comes after a Downing Street source told PoliticsHome that Johnson is "fighting on", setting up a fresh confidence vote in his leadership – potentially as soon as next week.

The source said the PM believed Tory MPs faced a choice: either a summer of “navel gazing & uncertainty” in a leadership contest, or he and Zahawi “conquering” the cost of living together. 

Julian Smith, the former chief whip, said Johnson's refusal to resign was a "disgrace" and compared his actions to those of Donald Trump, who refused to concede the last US election to Joe Biden. 

"I think he is now at a point where he has obviously looked across the water at what Trump did last year and decided that he wants to have some mini version in the UK and that's very dangerous," Smith said.

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