British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday vowed to press on in his role despite more than a dozen members of parliament, including top ministers, resigning from government within the span of 24 hours as calls mount for him to step down.
At the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament, parliamentarians from all sides rounded on Johnson. "The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you have been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going and that's what I'm going to do," Johnson told lawmakers in parliament.
Johnson has suffered an exodus of ministers in just 24 hours and later faced an hourslong grilling from the chairs of the House of Commons' most powerful committees, including some of his most virulent critics in the Tory ranks.
Johnson, who was looking increasingly isolated, used a weekly question-and-answer session in Parliament to try to tough it out, repeating his justifications for the latest scandal that triggered resignations from his government.
His finance and health secretaries had quit on Tuesday, along with several in more junior roles, saying they could no longer stay in government after the latest in a series of scandals blighted his administration.
More and more ministers resigned from the U.K. government on Wednesday, piling further pressure on Johnson following the departure of his health and finance ministers.
Britain's minister for children and families, Will Quince, resigned, saying he was going after being given an "inaccurate" briefing over Johnson's appointment of a politician who was the subject of complaints. Quince said he had "no choice but to tender my resignation," while junior transport minister, Laura Trott, said she was quitting over a loss of "trust" in the government.
"It is with great sadness and regret that I feel that I have no choice but to tender my resignation as Minister for Children and Families as I accepted and repeated those assurances in good faith."
Schools Minister Robin Walker also quit. In his letter of resignation, he said "recent events made it clear to me that our great party, for which I have campaigned all my adult life, has become distracted from its core missions by a relentless focus on questions over leadership."
With growing calls for Johnson to quit, he showed his determination to stay in office by appointing businessperson and Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi as his new finance minister, and filling some of the other vacancies.
"I suspect we will have to drag him kicking and screaming from Downing Street," one Conservative lawmaker told Reuters. "But if we have to do it that way then we will."
Johnson, a former journalist and London mayor who became the face of Britain's departure from the European Union, won a landslide election victory in 2019 before taking a combative and often chaotic approach to governing.
His leadership has been mired in scandals and missteps over the last few months, with the prime minister fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws and a damning report published about the behavior of officials at his Downing Street office who breached their own lockdown rules.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defense of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The Times of London newspaper said Johnson's "serial dishonesty" was "utterly corrosive" of effective government. "Every day that he remains deepens the sense of chaos," it said. "For the good of the country, he should go."
The latest bout of drama at the heart of British power comes as the economy deteriorates rapidly, with some economists warning that the country could tip into recession.
The latest scandal saw Johnson apologizing for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, even after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
It prompted Rishi Sunak to quit as chancellor of the exchequer – the finance minister – and Sajid Javid to resign as health secretary, while half a dozen others left their junior ministerial or envoy roles.
"It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – and you have therefore lost my confidence too," Javid said in his resignation letter.
Several of the ministers cited Johnson's lack of judgement, standards and inability to tell the truth.
A snap YouGov poll found 69% of Britons thought Johnson should step down as prime minister but for the time being the remainder of his top ministerial team offered their backing.
"I fully support the prime minister," Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said. "I am sorry to see good colleagues resign, but we have a big job of work to do."
A month ago, Johnson survived a confidence vote of Conservative lawmakers, and party rules mean he cannot face another such challenge for a year.
However, some lawmakers are seeking to change those rules, while he is also under investigation by a parliamentary committee over whether he lied to parliament about COVID-19 lockdown breaches.