Britain's new Finance Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign Thursday, 36 hours after Johnson appointed him, as calls mount for him to step down.
"This is not sustainable and it will only get worse, for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country," Zahawi said on Twitter, adding that the crisis engulfing the government would only get worse.
Zahawi did not say he had resigned, but said he went to the prime minister's office in Downing Street with Cabinet colleagues on Wednesday evening to tell Johnson to "leave with dignity."
"I am heartbroken that he hasn't listened and that he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this government," Zahawi said in a letter.
"The country deserves a government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity. Prime Minister you know in your heart what the right thing to do is, and go now."
Johnson on Thursday was defiantly hanging onto power despite four top ministers and several other members of parliament resigning from government, and a seemingly unstoppable revolt by his own lawmakers, threatening to paralyze the United Kingdom government.
More than 50 ministers have quit the government in less than 48 hours, saying Johnson was not fit to be in charge after a series of scandals, while dozens in his Conservative Party are in open revolt.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has become one of the Cabinet ministers to quit early on Thursday, following the resignations of the finance, health and Welsh ministers.
"I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now," Lewis said. It is clear that our party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better," Lewis said.
Lewis' resignation was followed by Treasury Minister Helen Whately, Courts' Minister James Cartlidge, Minister of Technology Chris Philp, Pensions Minister Guy Opperman.
A delegation of senior ministers and a senior figure representing Conservative lawmakers who are not in government went to Downing Street on Wednesday evening to tell Johnson he needed to go and to make a dignified exit.
But he refused to budge, and even sacked Michael Gove, one of his most effective ministers who, according to media reports, had told the British leader he should quit.
"I am not going to step down," Johnson told a parliamentary committee. The Sun newspaper quoted an ally of the prime minister as saying that rebels in his party would "have to dip their hands in blood" if they wanted to get rid of him.
Johnson has suggested that he had a mandate to govern from the almost 14 million voters who voted for the Conservatives in December 2019 when he swept to power with a promise to sort out Britain's exit from the European Union after years of bitter wrangling.
He says it would not be responsible to walk away from the job in the middle of an economic crisis and war in Europe. Johnson has been a visible supporter of Ukraine following Russia's invasion in late February.
He has also refused to say if he would try to stay in the job even if he lost a confidence vote from his own lawmakers. That could come next week if they agree to change the party's rules, which only allow one such challenge a year. He narrowly won a similar vote last month.
Opposition lawmakers said the chaos meant government could not function. Committees due to meet on Thursday to scrutinize legislation, including the National Security Bill, were being cancelled because there was no minister available.
"I do think the time has come for the prime minister to step down," Suella Braverman, the attorney general for England and Wales, told ITV late on Wednesday, although she said she herself would stay in post. "If there is a leadership contest I will put my name into the ring."
There have also been suggestions Johnson might try to call a snap national election if rebel lawmakers tried to force him out, although he said such a vote was "the last thing this country needs."
"The prime minister is deluded if he feels he can cling on in the face of collapsed parliamentary support," said a senior Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity. "He is embarrassing the Conservative Party and showing contempt for the electorate."
The crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher who held a government role involved in pastoral care was forced to quit over accusations he groped men in a private member's club.
Johnson had to apologize after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister defended his move by saying he had forgotten.
The issue followed months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke strict COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police.