London, July 7: Moments after the news broke on Thursday of Boris Johnson's decision to step down as Conservative Party leader and therefore as the British Prime Minister after days of high political drama, the overwhelming reaction from different quarters was that of relief.
The opposition Labour Party led the jubilant reaction to the imminent end of the Johnson-led Tory government, declaring it “good news for the country”. The party pointed to recent scandals of COVID law-breaking parties in Downing Street and mis-steps over MP misconduct cases that ended in a wave of resignations from within the UK Cabinet, which ultimately made Boris Johnson's position as Prime Minister untenable. Boris Johnson Resigns as UK Prime Minister, Says He Will Stay As Caretaker PM Until New Leader is in Place.
“It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister. But it should have happened long ago. He was always unfit for office,” said Labour Leader Keir Starmer.
“He has been responsible for lies, scandal and fraud on an industrial scale. And all those who have been complicit should be utterly ashamed. The Tory Party have inflicted chaos upon the country during the worst cost of living crisis in decades 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. Enough is enough,” he said.
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted there would be "a widespread sense of relief" that the "chaos" was coming to an end.
"[The] notion of Boris Johnson staying on as PM until autumn seems far from ideal, and surely not sustainable," she added, with reference to Johnson's proposed exit plan to stay in power until the Conservative Party conference scheduled for October.
Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper said Johnson would "go down in history as a lying law-breaking Prime Minister, who abused the trust and patience of the British people." "He will leave a stain on the Conservative Party that can't be removed," she added.
But it wasn't just the Opposition benches that were vociferous in expressing their relief at the latest developments, which had threatened to spill over into a serious constitutional crisis for the country if Johnson refused to voluntarily step aside.
Former science minister George Freeman, who quit his role earlier in protest against Johnson's leadership, is among a group of Tory MPs who believe a caretaker Prime Minister should be put in place rather than letting Johnson continue to lead the party until a new leader is elected.
“Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a Caretaker Prime Minister to take over today, so that ministers can get back to work and we can choose a new Conservative Leader to try and repair the damage and rebuild trust,” he tweeted.
Conservative MP Robert Buckland said "the views of colleagues" will have pushed Johnson to resign, adding "he has bowed to the inevitable". "I am glad he recognised the damage that was being done not just to the party brand but also our international stock," said another Tory backbencher Tobias Ellwood. UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng called the situation a "depressing state of affairs", saying: "So much needless damage [has been] caused."
"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," he said.
The mass Tory rebellion began on Tuesday after Downing Street admitted Johnson knew about allegations of past inappropriate behaviour against Chris Pincher when he appointed him Deputy Chief Whip in charge of party discipline in February.
Before the admission, government ministers had been briefed to defend their boss and say that he was unaware of "specific" allegations. But minutes after Johnson apologised for his “mistake” in appointing the now-suspended Pincher, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced their resignations in quick succession.
This made way for an initial trickle and then an avalanche of exits from government, with ministers openly voicing their lack of confidence in Johnson's leadership and demanding for him to go.