The BBC’s political editor Chris Mason revealed earlier this morning that Boris Johnson is set to resign as Conservative leader today – but plans to continue as Prime Minister until the autumn. A Conservative party leadership race is set to take place this summer, putting a new PM in place in time for the Tory party conference in October.
The move by Johnson follows a period of extreme tumult within the government, and the last 24 hours have seen a record number of resignations.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The prime minister will make a statement to the country today.”
The BBC reported that a No 10 source had revealed that Johnson spoke to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, to inform him of his decision.
“The Prime Minister has spoken to Graham Brady and agreed to stand down in time for a new leader to be in place by the conference in October,” the source added.
Reaction to the news has already begun.
Leader of the opposition, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Johnson’s intention to resign is “good news” for the country but added that the PM should have gone “long ago”.
“The Tory party have inflicted chaos upon the country during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades,” Starmer said. “And they cannot now pretend they are the ones to sort it out. They have been in power for 12 years. The damage they have done is profound.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says there will be “a widespread sense of relief that the chaos of the last few days (indeed months) will come to an end” when Johnson steps down as Conservative leader. However, she questioned the sustainability of Johnson staying on until the autumn, and said he was always “manifestly unfit to be PM”.
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood told the Today Programme he is glad the PM recognised the damage being done not just to the party brand but also to its international stock. He added that the party now has a “massive amount of regrouping to do”.
The BBC reported that Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on whether the Queen has had any communication with Johnson this morning. The Queen is at Windsor Castle and the Court Circular recorded that she held her usual weekly audience with Johnson by phone on Wednesday evening. ITV’s Anoushka Asthana has reported that a conversation this morning has in fact already taken place.
Commenting on the initial market reaction to Johnson’s impending resignation, Mike Owens, global sales trader at Saxo Markets, said the pound rose about 0.5% on receipt of the news.
“Although predominately driven by the strong dollar,” he said, “another less significant factor pushing the pound lower over recent weeks has been the political uncertainty, so I think we can expect to see some relief being priced into the UK currency as more details of Johnson’s plan to step down are announced.
“Financial markets prefer certainty, and this situation is no different. We also see the FTSE 250 hitting the highs of the session, although it’s a strong morning for European equities in general and difficult to attribute much of the move to the political headlines.”
Johnson has since delivered a public resignation statement in which he addressed that it is "clearly now the will of the parliamentary party" for a new PM to take his place. He noted the timetable for choosing a new PM will be announced next week.
In his Downing Street speech, he said he is “immensely proud” of the government's achievements.
“I'm immensely proud of the achievements of this government, from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in Parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout 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,”
Addressing his successor, Johnson said: “'To that new leader, I say, whoever he or she may be, I say: 'I will give you as much support as I can'.”
To those listening, he added: “To you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed.
“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world.”
He also thanked his wife Carrie, his children, the NHS, the armed forces and the Downing Street staff.