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How Boris Johnson spent his last hours as Prime Minister

Boris Johnson’s team cried as the Prime Minister wrote his farewell speech alone having realised he would have to quit after 48 hours under siege in Downing Street, it emerged today, as MailOnline can reveal that he addressed tearful staff later without Carrie present.

The Tory leader was said to have been ‘sanguine’ when he finally decided at 8.30am that he must resign after more than 50 MPs quit the Government including several of his most loyal Cabinet ministers.

But staff were less composed and several were said to be ‘incredibly upset and in tears’ as he wrote his resignation speech that declared: ‘I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks’.

One insider told MailOnline: ‘There were tears when he admitted the game was up this morning. Yesterday there were things that looked possible… but we’d tried everything. Thinking about things overnight and this morning it was wasn’t possible.’

The Downing Street source said that the PM was ‘mainly alone’ as he wrote the resignation statement then he sent aides and Carrie out into the street to wait while he prepared himself to deliver it. ‘Before the speech you always want a few minutes by yourself’, they said.   

The Prime Minister then strode to the podium in Downing Street and revealed he would step down watched by his emotional wife, who had their baby daughter in a sling, and his staff, who gathered to watch yards away. Around 20 MPs were also outside No 10, clapping and cheering as he finished his speech that said admitted ‘no-one is indispensable’ – less than three years after he won a landslide general election victory.

An aide pointed out Mr Johnson looked – for him – relatively well-groomed at the speech, without the tell-tale baby sick marks that sometimes feature on his shoulder. His hair was also more under control than usual. ‘You’ve got to make an effort,’ one wag said. 

‘It was a lovely speech, perfect and he got the tone just right,’ said one aide, who revealed the PM did another speech in the Pillared Room in Downing Street for all staff afterwards. ‘He addressed all staff and said a massive, massive thank you for all they have done over three years, and their massive achievements’. MailOnline understands that his wife Carrie was not thought to have been present.

Then he went straight back to work making ministerial appointments, before chairing Cabinet at 3pm. ‘Cabinet was lovely,’ said one official who was present. ‘He welcomed everyone new and who’d been in it before, and there were tributes to him.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks back into No10 after addressing the press and the nation as he announces his resignation as British Prime Minister

Standing in front of the traditional podium and watched by close aides, Carrie and baby Romy (pictured), Mr Johnson pointed to his achievements since winning a huge landslide in 2019. Some staff are said to have cried before and after the speech. Mr Johnson also addressed them inside No 10

Standing in front of the traditional podium and watched by close aides, Carrie and baby Romy (pictured), Mr Johnson pointed to his achievements since winning a huge landslide in 2019. Some staff are said to have cried before and after the speech. Mr Johnson also addressed them inside No 10

Mrs Johnson kisses nine-month-old Romy who was with her to hear her husband's resignation speech today. Nadine Dorries was beside

Mrs Johnson kisses nine-month-old Romy who was with her to hear her husband’s resignation speech today. Nadine Dorries was beside

This afternoon Mr Johnson thanked the public for letting him serve them as PM

This afternoon Mr Johnson thanked the public for letting him serve them as PM

This afternoon he is lining up a ‘unity Cabinet’ as he battles to stay in Downing Street for months longer as rebels who he warned would have to ‘dip their hands in blood’ to remove him, pushed for him to leave immediately. 

In his TV address the PM tried to sound an upbeat tone as he confirmed his MPs ‘clearly’ want a change and his time in office will come to an end when a new Tory leader is installed.

Boris’s resignation speech at a glance 

PM vows to stay on until new Tory leader chosen  

‘I have today appointed a Cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place.’

He fought to stay in power out of ‘duty’ to 2019 voters

The PM hailed his ‘incredible mandate’ from the 2019 general election.

He added: ‘The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised to do in 2019.’

PM hits out at those who removed him in ‘eccentric’ rebellion

‘In the last few days I have tried to persuade my colleagues it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls.

‘Even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging.’

Boris admits ‘pain’ at leaving and attacks ‘herd instinct’ of MPs

‘Of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

‘But, as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.

‘In politics, no one is remotely indispensable.’

Pledges support to next Tory leader but urges them to cut taxes  

‘Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.

‘Not just helping families to get through it but changing and improving the way we do things – cutting burdens on businesses and families and, yes, cutting taxes.

‘To that new leader, whoever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can.’

His ‘sadness’ at giving up ‘best job in the world’

‘I know there will be many people who will be 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, but thems the breaks.’

Message of support to Ukrainians

He said: ‘Let me say now to the people of Ukraine that I know we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes.’

Promise of a ‘golden future’ for Britons

‘Even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.’

Standing at the traditional podium and watched by wife Carrie, baby Romy and close aides, Mr Johnson said the situation was ‘painful’ and branded the move to oust him ‘eccentric’. But he pointed to his achievements since winning the huge landslide – such as the vaccine rollout, Brexit and coming to the aid of Ukraine. 

He said his message to voters who delivered his 2019 landslide was ‘thank you for that incredible mandate’, adding the ‘reason I have fought so hard’ was because he felt it was his ‘job’ to deliver what he promised.

Mr Johnson blamed ‘powerful herd instinct’ for his ousting, saying: ‘In the last few days, I tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.

‘I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

‘But as we have seen at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful, when the herd moves, it moves.

‘And my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensable and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.’

Mr Johnson paid tribute to his family for ‘all they have put up with’, in a nod to the succession of scandals that have blighted his premiership.

‘Our future is golden,’ he finished. 

No10 had appealed for Conservative MPs to come and watch the speech in the street, but there only seemed to be a small crowd present.   

Mr Johnson admitted defeat in the wake of a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed on Tuesday night following Rishi Sunak’s departure. He told Mr Johnson that his situation is ‘not sustainable’.

A No10 source said Mr Johnson has spoken to Tory 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and agreed to stand down, with a new Tory leader set to be in place by the party conference in October. 

However, at the same time Mr Johnson has set about rebuilding his Cabinet, making Greg Clark the new Levelling Up Secretary and James Cleverly the Education Secretary. Robert Buckland is returning as Welsh Secretary, and Shailesh Vara takes over as Northern Ireland Secretary. 

Kit Malthouse becomes Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. 

Mr Clark was in the Cabinet under Theresa May but stepped down when Mr Johnson took over, and Mr Buckland was axed as Justice Secretary in a reshuffle last year. Mr Vara was previously a Northern Ireland minister but has been out of government.  

The others are long-standing allies promoted from other jobs.

The PM’s resignation announcement effectively fires the starting gun on what looks set to be a chaotic leadership battle. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – expected to be a candidate – is cutting short a visit to Indonesia to return to the UK.  

However, it is far from clear that Mr Johnson staying on until October – more than two months – will be acceptable to Tory MPs. 

There are rumours that Mr Johnson still wants to push key policies such as tax cuts. 

Keir Starmer threatened to call a Parliamentary confidence vote and try to force a general election if Mr Johnson does not leave immediately.

‘He needs to go completely. None of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months,’ he said. 

Former PM Sir John Major has written to the chairman of the Tory 1922 Committee warning it is ‘unwise’ for Mr Johnson to remain in office, suggesting either an interim premier or a streamlined election process ‘in the national interest’. 

In his Downing Street speech, Mr Johnson 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,’ he said.

He said his successor’s priorities would be ‘helping families to get through … cutting burdens on businesses and families, and, yes, cutting taxes because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay the great public services.

‘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 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.’

In a statement in Downing Street, the PM tried to sound an upbeat tone as he confirmed that his time in office is coming to an end

Mr Johnson said his message to voters who delivered his 2019 landslide was 'thank you for that incredible mandate', adding the 'reason I have fought so hard' was because he felt it was his 'job' to deliver what he promised

Mr Johnson said his message to voters who delivered his 2019 landslide was ‘thank you for that incredible mandate’, adding the ‘reason I have fought so hard’ was because he felt it was his ‘job’ to deliver what he promised

Mr Johnson emerged from Downing Street at 12.30pm to deliver his momentous statement to the country

Mr Johnson emerged from Downing Street at 12.30pm to deliver his momentous statement to the country

Can the PM REALLY hang on in No10 until October? 

The UK famously does not have a written constitution.

But the process for changing Prime Ministers has been well established for centuries.

Both David Cameron and Theresa May followed the standard route of resigning as Tory leader, but staying on as PM until a replacement is chosen.

That can take months, as the party’s MPs first whittle down the field to two candidates in a series of votes.

They are then meant to be put to the wider Conservative membership in a run-off – although in the case of Mrs May her opponent Andrea Leadsom pulled out avoiding the need for the last stage.

As soon as a new Tory leader is in place they will be the person who commands a majority in the Commons, and then the Queen can make them PM.  

In contrast, if Mr Johnson decided to quit as PM immediately, the hierarchy within government would kick in. Dominic Raab would be the next in line to take the helm in No10, again until the Tory leadership contest is complete.

However, the mechanism for preventing a determined Mr Johnson from hanging on as PM during a Tory contest is less obvious.  

Senior Tories serving on the 1922 committee executive say there are no provisions in the rules for imposing a temporary leader while a permanent one is chosen. 

They believe that anyone who did serve as a caretaker PM would have to stay out of the leadership race, to avoid having an ‘unfair advantage’.

However, the 1922 executive is meeting again this afternoon and rules can be changed.

After the events of recent days, there is deep anxiety about leaving Mr Johnson in place for another two months – especially with rumours swirling that he still wants to pursue radical new policies. 

New Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark said that he will do his best to ‘provide stability’ in Government.

He tweeted: ‘We have a duty to ensure that the country has a functioning government in the weeks ahead.

‘Having been Secretary of State at the Communities department before, I will do my best to provide stability, good governance and accountability to Parliament at this important time.’

There was a similar message from Mr Malthouse, who said: ‘While my party decides on a new leader HMG must continue and we all have an overriding duty to put our shoulder to the wheel if asked to serve.

‘I hope to bring stability to the Cabinet Office at a time of political transition.’

Although he stopped short of resigning, Mr Zahawi appears to have struck the killer blow with his public call for Mr Johnson to give in. He tweeted: ‘Prime Minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now.’ 

Education Secretary Michelle Donelan, who was installed in post at the same time as Mr Zahawi, also declared she is quitting, barely two hours after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis fell on his sword. 

Up to then the PM had vowed defiance despite the overwhelming evidence of his authority draining away.

At 6.47am, Mr Lewis tweeted that he could no longer continue without ‘honesty, integrity and mutual respect’. 

Minutes later Treasury minister Helen Whately followed suit saying ‘there are only so many times you can apologise and move on’. 

Security minister Damian Hinds and science minister George Freeman had followed by 7.30am, and pensions minister Guy Opperman by 7.50am.

Meanwhile, Wales minister David TC Davies publicly announced that he had refused a promotion to take over from Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, who quit last night. The Attorney General, Suella Braverman has called for Mr Johnson to resign and said she is only staying in place to keep the government functioning. 

With the resignation tally reaching well over 50, the government was unable to find a minister willing to go on the airwaves to speak up for the PM this morning – with total silence from his team for hours. 

The chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris was seen going into Downing Street early, after the lights were seen on in the PM’s flat deep into the night. 

However, Mr Johnson’s critics were swarming to studios.

Former Cabinet minister Julian Smith warned that the premier had seen how Donald Trump behaved in relation to the Capitol riots after the US election, and was looking to have a ‘mini version in the UK’.

There were even suggestions from allies that Mr Johnson could try to force a snap general election in a desperate bid to cling to office – something that could drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis. 

Veteran Tory MP Bernard Jenkin had urged Mrs Johnson to step in a convince her husband that he should throw in the towel. 

But the stage is now set for another tussle over whether Mr Johnson should remain in place through what could be a protracted leadership struggle. 

George Freeman, who announced he was resigning as science minister this morning, said Mr Johnson must apologise to the Queen and advise her to call for a caretaker PM.

‘Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker prime minister,’ he said. ‘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.’

A former minister told MailOnline: ‘We need to be rid of the Johnson poison as quickly as possible.’

Ex-No10 chief Dominic Cummings wrote on Twitter: ‘Evict TODAY or he’ll cause CARNAGE, even now he’s playing for time & will try to stay

‘No ‘dignity’, no ‘interim while leadership contest’.

‘Raab shd be interim PM by evening.’

Another former minister, Nick Gibb, said: ‘As well as resigning as Party leader the PM must resign his office. 

‘After losing so many ministers, he has lost the trust and authority required to continue. We need an acting PM who is not a candidate for leader to stabilise the government while a new leader is elected.’ 

Mr Johnson made his address in front of the famous black door - where premiers often deliver key announcements to the UK

Mr Johnson made his address in front of the famous black door – where premiers often deliver key announcements to the UK  

Crowds gathered outside the security gates to watch the PM's speech from a distance today

Crowds gathered outside the security gates to watch the PM’s speech from a distance today

The PM has admitted defeat half-an-hour after a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi (pictured), who was only appointed on Tuesday night in the wake of Rishi Sunak's departure

The PM has admitted defeat half-an-hour after a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi (pictured), who was only appointed on Tuesday night in the wake of Rishi Sunak’s departure

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has resigned, telling the Prime Minister that Government requires 'honesty, integrity and mutual respect'. Minutes later Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, also quit and told the PM: 'There are only so many times you can apologise and move on'.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has resigned, telling the Prime Minister that Government requires 'honesty, integrity and mutual respect'. Minutes later Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, also quit and told the PM: 'There are only so many times you can apologise and move on'.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has resigned, telling the Prime Minister that Government requires ‘honesty, integrity and mutual respect’. Minutes later Helen Whately, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, also quit and told the PM: ‘There are only so many times you can apologise and move on’.

The exits of Lewis and Whatley is another huge blow to Boris - who is vowing to fight on

The exits of Lewis and Whatley is another huge blow to Boris - who is vowing to fight on

The exits of Lewis and Whatley is another huge blow to Boris – who is vowing to fight on

The final blows that forced Boris to quit 

6.47am: Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis – tweeted that he could not longer continue without ‘honesty, integrity and mutual respect’. 

6.49am: Treasury minister Helen Whately – said ‘there are only so many times you can apologise and move on’. 

7.15am: Security minister Damian Hinds – ‘for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership’

7.21am: Science minister George Freeman – accused Mr Johnson of ‘insults to the Conservatism I believe in and stand for’.

7.50am: Pensions minister Guy Opperman – ‘it should not take the resignation of 50 colleagues, but sadly the PM has left us no choice’

8.02am: Technology minister Chris Philp – ‘the PM should step down’. 

8.09am: Courts minister James Cartlidge – ‘The position is clearly untenable.’ 

8.43am: Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi – ‘You must do the right thing and go now.’  

8.51am: Education Secretary Michelle Donelan – ‘as someone who values integrity above all else, I have no choice’.

Labour leader Sir Keir said: ‘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. 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.’

The PM yesterday rejected pleas from a delegation of loyalists including Priti Patel and new chancellor Nadhim Zahawi for a seemly departure, vowing to fight until the bitter end. 

Despite the UK being a parliamentary democracy, he claimed to have a presidential-style mandate from the last election, apparently saying: ‘If the party wants to overthrow the elected will of the people, they have to dip their hands in blood.’

In a sensational twist late last night, Mr Johnson summarily sacked Michael Gove with No10 sources branding the Levelling Up Secretary a ‘snake’ who had tried to tell the premier that the ‘the game was up’. 

Constitutional experts have branded the ‘nuclear option’ of asking the Queen for a dissolution ‘deluded madness’ which would spark a crisis as the monarch would be obliged to turned down his request. 

In his resignation letter, Mr Lewis – a former party chairman who has been Northern Ireland Secretary since early 2020 – warned divided Conservatives cannot win elections.

He said: ‘A decision to leave Government is never taken lightly, particularly at such a critical time for Northern Ireland. I have taken a lot of time to consider this decision, having outlined my position to you at length last night.

Mr Lewis told the Prime Minister that in recent months, the Conservative Party has been ‘relentlessly on the defensive, consumed by introspection and in-fighting’.

‘A divided Party cannot win elections. It cannot deliver for those who trusted us with their votes for the first time in 2019.’

Mr Lewis told Mr Johnson he had ‘given you, and those around you, the benefit of the doubt’.

‘I have gone out and defended this Government both publicly and privately,’ the Northern Ireland Secretary told Boris Johnson in his resignation letter.

‘We are, however, now past the point of no return. I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they stand now. It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the whole country, deserve better.’

Ms Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and another loyalist, said: ‘I have argued that you should continue as Prime Minister many times in recent months, but there are only so many times you can apologise and move on. That point has been reached.’

Security minister and MP for East Hampshire Damian Hinds wrote on Twitter: ‘It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.’

In his letter of resignation, he wrote: ‘…more important than any government or leader are the standards we uphold in public life and faith in our democracy and public administration.

‘Because of the serious erosion in these, I have come to the conclusion that the right thing for our country and for our party is for you to stand down as party leader and Prime Minister.

Kwasi Kwarteng said a new leader should be installed 'as soon as practicable'

Kwasi Kwarteng said a new leader should be installed ‘as soon as practicable’

Tory MPs voiced incredulity today at the idea that Mr Johnson could hang on in Downing Street until the Autumn

Tory MPs voiced incredulity today at the idea that Mr Johnson could hang on in Downing Street until the Autumn

‘I had hoped you would take this course sooner, of your own volition. But as it has become clear that you still intend to stay, I cannot continue to serve in your administration.’

Mr Freeman said ‘the chaos in your Cabinet and No 10 this month is destroying our credibility’ and ‘it can’t go on’. 

Pensions minister and Hexam MP Guy Opperman wrote on Twitter: ‘I resign with great regret, given there are serious ongoing issues that need addressing ranging from cost of living support, to legislation, & parliamentary debates.

‘It should not take the resignation of 50 colleagues, but sadly the PM has left us no choice. He needs to resign.’

Tory peer and pollster Lord Hayward said that he thinks there may be pressure for Boris Johnson to stand aside and for Dominic Raab to become acting prime minister.

He also said there will likely be ‘up to 10 people’ openly considering putting themselves forward to be Conservative leader.

Lord Hayward told BBC News: ‘There is a possibility, I would have thought, that because many of the ministers have resigned over integrity and decency issues, that there might be pressure for Boris Johnson to stand aside and Dominic Raab act as Deputy Prime Minister, acting prime minister pro tem.’

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon waded in saying Mr Johnson hanging on is ‘not sustainable’.

‘There will be a widespread sense of relief that the chaos of the last few days (indeed months) will come to an end, though notion of Boris Johnson staying on as PM until autumn seems far from ideal, and surely not sustainable?’ she said.

Deputy PM Dominic Raab is thought to have warned the PM that he risked putting the monarch in an intolerable position if he tried to call a snap election. 

It is understood that senior Conservatives had been told by the Cabinet Office that the head of the civil service, Simon Case, would warn against asking for a dissolution – which the Queen would have been obliged to reject. 

The Queen, 96, was yesterday pictured being driven from Wood Farm near Sandringham, Norfolk, to her helicopter which flew her back to Windsor Castle. 

She typically holds a weekly meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesdays, which have frequently taken place over the phone since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, but it is not clear whether it occurred yesterday amid the pandemonium surrounding Mr Johnson’s leadership. 

Two days of drama erupted when Sajid Javid announced his resignation, quickly followed by Rishi Sunak. 

Home Secretary Priti Patel, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis joined a delegation telling Mr Johnson to stand down last night.

Behind the famous black door of No10, the PM also struggled with backbench chief Sir Graham.

But an unapologetic Mr Johnson shocked his ministers by telling them he is going nowhere, effectively daring them to call another confidence vote and saying he will focus on the ‘hugely important issues facing the country’. There were claims he told friends ‘if you are going to die, go down fighting’. 

Meanwhile, he took revenge on Mr Gove. Their relationship has long been troubled, with Mr Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2016 derailed when his former friend withdrew support and decided to run himself.

Mr Johnson phoned the Levelling Up Secretary yesterday evening to tell him he was being removed from his Cabinet job, accusing him of ‘treachery’.

One Cabinet source told MailOnline the sacking showed No10 was not thinking straight.

‘Obviously Michael has been openly plotting against him and undermining the PM for months… but that’s the price for having him in government,’ the source said.

‘I don’t think anyone has taken a moment to pause and reflect at this point. Not one single moment, at least not in No10.’

The source said No10 comms chief Guto Harri had to take responsibility for much of the chaos.

‘He thinks he is a character in the play rather than a backstage floor manager,’ they swiped.

One senior Tory told The Sun: ‘He has lost it. He has become like Caligula — the Roman emperor who wanted to make a horse a consul. Michael was one of the best ministers in the Cabinet.’ 

The sacking came after the minister went alone to see Mr Johnson in his Downing Street study shortly before 10.30am yesterday and tried to persuade him to stand down.

Mr Gove warned the PM his position was ‘no longer sustainable’, telling him: ‘The party will move to get rid of you’.

‘It is better to go on your own terms,’ he urged him.

Despite his pleading, at the end of the amicable five-minute conversation, Mr Johnson told Mr Gove: ‘Thank you, but I am going to fight on.’

Attorney General and leadership hopeful Suella Braverman later joined the calls for the Prime Minister to quit as she launched a bid to replace him.

Powerful 1922 committee chair Graham Brady was seen going into the Cabinet Office on Wednesday night - another access point to Downing Street

Powerful 1922 committee chair Graham Brady was seen going into the Cabinet Office on Wednesday night – another access point to Downing Street

Boris Johnson’s resignation speech in full 

‘Good afternoon.

‘It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister.

‘I have agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader will begin now.

‘The timetable will be announced next week and I have today appointed a Cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place.

‘So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019 – many of them voting Conservative for the first time – thank you for that incredible mandate.

‘The biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.

‘The reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.

‘Of course I am 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 roll-out 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.

‘Let me say now to the people of Ukraine that I know we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes.

‘At the same time, in this country, we’ve been pushing forward a vast programme of investment in infrastructure, skills and technology – the biggest in a century.

‘Because if I have one insight into human beings, it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distrubuted throughout the population, but opportunity is not.

‘That’s why we must keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential of every part of the UK.

‘If we can do that in this country, we will be the most prosperous in Europe.

‘In the last few days I have tried to persuade my colleagues it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls.

‘Even in mid-term after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.

‘I regret not to have been successful in those arguments and, of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.

‘But, as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.

‘My friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable.

‘Our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.

‘Not just helping families to get through it but changing and improving the way we do things – cutting burdens on businesses and families and, yes, cutting taxes.

‘Because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay for great public services.

‘To that new leader, whoever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can.

‘And to you, the British public, I know there will be many people who will be 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, but thems the breaks.

‘I want to thank Carrie and our children and all the members of my family who have had to put up with so much for so long.

‘I want to thank the peerless British civil service for all the help and support you have given.

‘Our police, our emergency services and, of course, our fantastic NHS who – at a critical moment – helped to extend my own period in office.

‘As well as our armed services and our agencies that are so admired around the world.

‘And our indefatigable Conservative Party members and supporters who selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.

‘I want to thank the wonderful staff here at Number 10 and, of course, at Chequers and our fantastic Prot. Force detectives – the one group, by the way, who never leak.

‘Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, the immense privilege that you have given me.

‘I want you to know that, from now on until the new prime minister is in place, your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.

‘Being prime minister is an education in itself – I have travelled to every part of the UK and, in addition to the beauty of our natural world, I have found so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways.

‘So I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden.’

And they’re off… Leadership contenders jostle for position as Ben Wallace tops Tory poll and Liz Truss flies back early from Indonesia with Rishi Sunak emerging as bookies’ favourite to succeed Boris as PM 

The resignation of Boris Johnson as Tory leader after ministers and MPs made clear his position was untenable has led to much discussion over who could replace him.

Bookmakers are currently making Rishi Sunak – who quit as Chancellor only two days ago – and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab joint favourites at 4/1.

But there are a series of other potential frontrunners to replace Mr Johnson as Prime Minister, such as Penny Mordaunt and Ben Wallace who are both at 5/1.

Others on the list include Sajid Javid – the most experienced candidate having served as Home Secretary and Chancellor – and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss at 7/1. Also in the running is Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi at 8/1 and Jeremy Hunt at 10/1. 

It comes as a YouGov survey of 716 Tory party members shows a diverse field in the race to replace Mr Johnson – but Mr Wallace the clear favourite in head-to-heads.

Mr Wallace tops the overall list in the snap poll at 13 per cent, just ahead of Ms Mordaunt at 12 per cent, Mr Sunak at 10 per cent and Ms Truss at 8 per cent.

But Mr Wallace then wins all of his match-ups by wide margins – with his closest competitor being Mr Sunak, whom he sees off by 51 per cent to 30 per cent.

Find out more here about the top eight candidates in the race to become PM:

=1. RISHI SUNAK (4/1)

The former Chancellor’s rise from relative obscurity to household name over a few years came as he turned on the spending taps to protect jobs through the furlough scheme when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

His calm and measured delivery during televised Covid briefings, and his viral declaration of being a ‘total coke addict’ when talking about Coca-Cola, will have endeared him to those perhaps not always plugged in to the political goings-on, as well as his resignation on matters of principle on Tuesday.

He said that the British public ‘rightly expect government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously’.

Mr Sunak was also praised for his Covid economic rescue package, including the costly furlough jobs retention programme that averted mass unemployment. But he later faced criticism for not giving enough cost-of-living support to households.

And his stock was also damaged by disclosures that his wife had non-dom status for tax purposes, and a fine he received along with the PM for breaking lockdown rules.

In addition, his tax-and-spend budget last year put the country on course for its biggest tax burden since the 1950s, undermining his claims to favour lower taxes.

=1. DOMINIC RAAB (4/1)

Dominic Raab – who is the joint favourite with Mr Sunak to take over as PM – was appointed Deputy Prime Minister last September, having been first elected as a Conservative MP in May 2010.

He was also Brexit Secretary from July to November 2018, Housing Minister from from January to July 2018, and Justice Minister from June 2017 to January 2018.

Before going into politics, the father-of-two worked as a business lawyer at City law firm Linklaters, focusing on project finance and competition law.

He did not quit the Cabinet amid the series of resignations this week, with a source close to him saying he was ‘loyal’ to Boris Johnson.

After it emerged the PM would quit, Tory peer and pollster Lord Hayward said he thinks there may be pressure for Mr Johnson to stand aside now and for Mr Raab to become acting prime minister. 

Dominic Cummings, formerly Mr Johnson’s right-hand man but now one of his most fierce critics, also suggested that Mr Raab should stand in as a caretaker premier.

He said the Cabinet should give Mr Johnson an ultimatum and tell him that if he does not go, the Queen will appoint Mr Raab and ‘cops escort you from building’.

=3. PENNY MORDAUNT (5/1)

Another frontrunner with the bookies – currently third favourite – Ms Mordaunt made waves in 2019 as the UK’s first female defence secretary.

But she was fired by Boris Johnson shortly after he became Prime Minister, after she endorsed his rival Jeremy Hunt during the last leadership contest.

Ms Mordaunt is also a Royal Navy reservist, the current trade minister and a former reality television contestant, having appeared on the Tom Daley-fronted diving show Splash.

She played a prominent role in the Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and has previously reportedly enjoyed the backing of Dame Andrea Leadsom among others.

Currently a junior trade minister, Mordaunt called the lockdown-breaking parties in government ‘shameful’. She had previously expressed loyalty to Mr Johnson.

=3. BEN WALLACE (5/1)

The Defence Secretary has won admirers in Westminster for his straight-talking and straightforward approach, particularly among Conservative MPs who pressed for the UK to increase its defence spending, although cuts to the size of the Army remain a cause for concern.

Mr Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, remains a key voice in the UK’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and this increased exposure could assist any leadership bid.

He has consistently supported Mr Johnson, but has pressed the case for increased defence spending.

The former soldier was mentioned in dispatches in 1992 for an incident in which the patrol he was commanding captured an Irish Republican Army guerrilla unit suspected of trying to carry out a bomb attack on British troops.

He began his political career as a member of Scotland’s devolved assembly in May 1999, before being first elected to the Westminster parliament in 2005.

He was security minister from 2016 until taking on his current role three years later, winning plaudits as his department evacuated British nationals and allies from Afghanistan last year, and for sending weapons to Kyiv.

=5. SAJID JAVID (7/1)

Like Mr Sunak, Mr Javid’s resignation on Tuesday caused chaos in Number 10, as the Health Secretary from famously humble beginnings left the Government.

State school-educated Mr Javid – known as ‘The Saj’ in some circles – is the son of a bus driver who arrived in England from Pakistan in the 1960s.

He held ministerial roles in housing, business and culture before becoming Chancellor, and then Health Secretary in the middle of the pandemic.

Mr Javid made it to the final four in the contest to replace Theresa May as Tory leader in 2019, but dropped out and subsequently endorsed Mr Johnson. 

He told reporters after his resignation on Tuesday evening that he was looking forward to spending time with his family – but that was before Mr Johnson also decided to quit. 

A former banker and a champion of free markets, Mr Javid is also a known admirer of Margaret Thatcher.

6. LIZ TRUSS (7/1)

The Foreign Secretary has made little secret of her leadership ambitions, with a series of high-profile interventions and photo opportunities in which she appeared to be channelling late prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Among these was when she was photographed in a tank last year, echoing a famous 1986 photo of Britain’s first female prime minister.

Her hard line on Ukraine, insisting Russian forces must be driven from the country, and threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol with the EU, play well with sections of the party.

The 46-year-old spent the first two years of Mr Johnson’s premiership as international trade secretary, championing Brexit, and last year was appointed as Britain’s lead negotiator with the European Union. 

Away from politics, Ms Truss’s flair for social media has seen her offer an insight into life outside of Westminster by updating her Instagram account with pictures of her relaxing at the beach, or behind the scenes at official events, though her passions combined to bizarre effect in 2014 when her improbably enthusiastic speech about opening pork markets in Beijing went viral.

She is seen as the darling of the Conservative Party’s grassroots and has regularly topped polls of party members carried out by the website Conservative Home.

Ms Truss had said on Monday that Mr Johnson had her ‘100 per cent backing’ and she urged colleagues to support him.

Sources close to her today said that she is cutting short an official trip to Indonesia and will issue a statement shortly.

7. NADHIM ZAHAWI (8/1)

The former education secretary is regarded by some as a ‘safe pair of hands’ if other candidates prove too divisive – indeed he was the man trusted to take on the broadcast round of interviews yesterday morning, on his first full day in his new job as Chancellor.

But asked if he will run for leader when there is a vacancy, he said: ‘There is no vacancy.’

Mr Zahawi, whose personal story as a former refugee from Iraq who came to Britain as a child sets him apart from other contenders, was a successful businessman before entering politics.

He came to wider prominence as vaccines minister during the pandemic where he was credited with playing a key part in the successful rollout of the jab, which was one of the world’s fastest schemes.

He co-founded polling company YouGov before entering parliament in 2010. Mr Zahawi said last week that it would be a ‘privilege’ to be prime minister at some stage.

This morning, he urged Boris Johnson to resign, saying on Twitter: ‘Prime Minister, you know in your heart what the right thing to do is, and go now.’

8. JEREMY HUNT (10/1)

The former foreign secretary and ex-health secretary has been a persistent backbench critic of Boris Johnson and had called on the Prime Minister to quit.

Mr Hunt, 55, is widely expected to make a fresh bid for the leadership, having been runner-up to Mr Johnson in 2019, and is among the early favourites with bookmakers.

As chairman of the Commons Health Committee, he has used his position to make a number of critical interventions on the Government’s handling of the pandemic, although his strong support for lockdown measures will not have pleased all Tory MPs.

Observers believe Mr Hunt would offer a more serious and less controversial style of leadership after the turmoil of Mr Johnson’s premiership.

He has not been tarnished by having served in the current government – and earlier this year, he said his ambition to become prime minister ‘hasn’t completely vanished’. 

Mr Hunt said he voted to oust Johnson in a confidence vote last month that the prime minister narrowly won.

Ben Wallace tops an overall YouGov survey of Tory party members today at 13 per cent, just ahead of Penny Mordaunt at 12 per cent, Rishi Sunak at 10 per cent and Liz Truss at 8 per cent

Ben Wallace tops an overall YouGov survey of Tory party members today at 13 per cent, just ahead of Penny Mordaunt at 12 per cent, Rishi Sunak at 10 per cent and Liz Truss at 8 per cent

Ben Wallace then wins all of his match-ups in the YouGov survey by wide margins – with his closest competitor being Rishi Sunak, whom he sees off by 51 per cent to 30 per cent

Ben Wallace then wins all of his match-ups in the YouGov survey by wide margins – with his closest competitor being Rishi Sunak, whom he sees off by 51 per cent to 30 per cent

And here are three other potential candidates further down the bookmakers’ list, who have all said or suggested that they would like to run for Conservative leader:

STEVE BAKER (10/1)

Prominent Brexiteer and former minister Steve Baker, a senior Tory backbencher, confirmed today that he is seriously considering putting himself forward for the top job.

He told Times Radio that people are asking him to do it, and it would be ‘dismissive and disrespectful’ if he did not heed expressions of support, though he said he regards the prospect with ‘something akin to dread’.

Mr Baker successfully plotted to oust Theresa May as prime minister but, despite his credentials as a Brexit die-hard, he is not a household name.

TOM TUGENDHAT (12/1)

The polyglot chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee became the first to announce his intention to stand for leader should Mr Johnson be turfed out – with his declaration made in January.

A Remainer in 2016, the former soldier has been a trenchant critic of Mr Johnson – a stance that would appear to have cost him any chance of ministerial preferment under the current leadership.

He recently sought to distance himself from a call by his fellow Remainer, Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood, for the UK to rejoin the EU single market.

SUELLA BRAVERMAN (40/1)

The Attorney General launched an unlikely leadership bid as support for Mr Johnson crumbled around him last night.

Previously loyal to the departing premier, she told Peston on ITV that he had handled matters ‘appallingly’ in recent days and ‘the balance has tipped now in favour of saying that the Prime Minister – it pains me to say it – but it’s time to go’.

Ms Braverman, who was first elected as an MP in 2015, is regarded as something of an outsider for the leadership given the party grandees already tipped to be in the running.

The odds above are the best price available across all major UK bookmakers as of 10am today, taken from Oddschecker 

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