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Boris Johnson agrees to stand down as Tory leader

Boris Johnson will remain as Briitsh prime minister until the autumn. Picture by Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Boris Johnson has agreed to resign as Tory leader after ministers and MPs made clear his position was untenable.

He will remain as British prime minister until a successor is in place, expected to be by the time of the Conservative Party conference in October.

In a statement delivered today, the prime minister said it was "eccentric" to change governments at this stage but "I regret not to have been successful in those arguments".

A new Tory leader will now be elected who will replace Mr Johnson in No 10.

"In politics, no one is remotely indispensable," he acknowledged in a statement delivered from a lectern in Downing Street.

"I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them's the breaks," he said.

Mr Johnson intends to remain in No 10 until his successor is elected, but he faces resistance to that plan from within his own party and the Opposition.

He has already appointed new Cabinet ministers to replace MPs who quit as part of the mass ministerial exodus in protest at his leadership.

In a statement which was watched by staff, supportive MPs and his wife Carrie Johnson carrying their child Romy, the Prime Minister said: "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.

"And I've agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.

"And I've today appointed a Cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place."

But in a sign of the resentment he feels about being forced from office, less than three years after a landslide election win, Mr Johnson said: "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've seen, at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful, when the herd moves, it moves."

Early this morning, Secretary of State Brandon Lewis resigned from the Cabinet, piling further pressure on the embattled British prime minister.

Shailesh Vara has been appointed as the new secretary of state.

Mr Vara served as Karen Bradley’s junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office but resigned over Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Mr Lewis told Mr Johnson the British government requires “honesty, integrity and mutual respect” and it is “now past the point of no return”.

His resignation early this morning came just hours after former Johnson ally Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, also publicly urged the prime minister to go.

Mr Lewis' departure was soon followed by a string of other ministers as the number of MPs quitting government and party posts since Tuesday evening topped 50.

The timetable for the Tory leadership contest will be agreed between the 1922 Committee, which runs the parliamentary proceedings to whittle the candidates down to two, and Conservative headquarters.

But critics of the prime minister suggested he should not be allowed to remain in office until the autumn.

George Freeman, who quit as science minister this morning, said that now Mr Johnson had "finally done the decent thing" he should "hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty, allow her to appoint a caretaker under whom ministers can serve, so the Conservative Party can choose a new leader properly".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Boris Johnson should leave government immediately.

The Foyle MP said: "Boris Johnson has debased the office he holds, he has fundamentally and indelibly damaged public confidence in politics and public life, and his death grip on power has prolonged a period of government that will be characterised by law-breaking, scandal and sleaze.

"He should now leave government immediately.

"While the failings of this government have been aggravated by the tone, temperament and character of Boris Johnson, it runs far deeper.

"Those who have fled the sinking ship are incapable of putting the problems right, not least of all the approach to legacy and the protocol in Northern Ireland.

"This is a moment to bring an end to 12 years of Tory government.

"The current Tory administration has proven itself uniquely incapable of distinguishing between the public interest and their own narrow political interest, and their time in government is up."

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