Two key British ministers leave Boris Johnson’s government

LONDON — Two of Britain’s top ministers resigned on Tuesday, a move that could spell the end of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership after months of scandal.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and health minister Sajid Javid resigned within minutes of each other after a day when the prime minister was forced to admit he needed to change his narrative about how he dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct by a high-ranking member of his government .

“It is with great regret that I have to tell you that I can no longer, in good conscience, continue to serve in this government,” Javid said in his resignation letter. “I am a team player instinctively, but the British people rightly expect integrity of their government.”

Sunak said: “The public rightly expects the government to be run properly, competently and seriously. †

“I recognize that this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”

Johnson has been hit with allegations that he failed to notify a lawmaker who has been appointed to a senior position despite allegations of sexual misconduct.

Johnson was under pressure to explain what he knew about past allegations of misconduct against lawmaker Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy head whip Thursday amid complaints he had groped two men at a private club.

Minutes before the announcement of Javid and Sunak’s resignations, Johnson said Pincher should have been fired from the government after an earlier incident in 2019.

When asked if it was a mistake to appoint Pincher to the government, Johnson replied: “I think it was a mistake and I apologize for that. In hindsight, it was the wrong thing to do.”

The government’s explanation has shifted repeatedly over the past five days. Ministers initially said Johnson was unaware of any allegations when he graduated Pincher in February.

On Monday, a spokesperson said Johnson was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct that were “either resolved or did not lead to a formal complaint”.

That account did not sit well with Simon McDonald, the most senior official in the British Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, he said on Tuesday that the prime minister’s office was still not telling the truth.

McDonald said in a letter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became secretary of state. An investigation confirmed the complaint and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.

McDonald disputed that Johnson was not aware of the allegations or that the complaints were dismissed because they had been resolved or had not been formally filed.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Following is AP’s earlier story.

LONDON (AP) — A former top British government official said on Tuesday that Boris Johnson’s office was not telling the truth about allegations of sexual misconduct against a high-ranking member of the prime minister’s government.

Johnson was under pressure to explain what he knew about past allegations of misconduct against lawmaker Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy head whip Thursday amid complaints he had groped two men at a private club.

The government’s explanation has shifted repeatedly over the past five days. Ministers initially said Johnson was unaware of any allegations when he graduated Pincher in February.

On Monday, a spokesperson said Johnson was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct that were “either resolved or did not lead to a formal complaint”.

That account did not sit well with Simon McDonald, the most senior official in the British Foreign Office from 2015 to 2020. In a highly unusual move, he said on Tuesday that the prime minister’s office was still not telling the truth.

McDonald said in a letter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards that he received complaints about Pincher’s behavior in the summer of 2019, shortly after Pincher became secretary of state. An investigation confirmed the complaint and Pincher apologized for his actions, McDonald said.

McDonald disputed that Johnson was not aware of the allegations or that the complaints were dismissed because they had been resolved or had not been formally filed.

“The original number 10 rule is not true, and the change is still not correct,” McDonald wrote, referring to the Prime Minister’s office in Downing Street. “Mr. Johnson was personally briefed on the start and outcome of the investigation.

‘There was a ‘formal complaint’. Allegations were only “resolved” in the sense that the investigation was completed; mr. Pincher was not acquitted. To characterize the allegations as ‘baseless’ is therefore wrong.”

Hours after McDonald’s comments came out, Johnson’s office changed its story again, saying the prime minister forgot he had been told Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.

The office confirmed that Johnson was notified of the complaint by State Department officials in 2019, a “several months” after it took place. His office said it took a while for the briefing to take place.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Ellis told lawmakers in the House of Commons that when Johnson was notified of the matter in late 2019, he was told that the Permanent Secretary had taken the necessary action and so there was no doubt that Pincher was minister would remain.

“When new allegations emerged last week, the prime minister did not immediately recall the late 2019 conversation about this incident,” Ellis said. “As soon as he was reminded, news agency No. 10 corrected their public rules.”

The latest revelations fuel discontent within Johnson’s cabinet after ministers were forced to publicly express the prime minister’s denials, but the explanation shifts the next day.

The Times of London published an analysis of the situation on Tuesday under the headline “Claiming to lie puts Boris Johnson at risk.”

A month ago, Johnson survived a no-confidence vote in which more than 40% of Conservative Party lawmakers voted to remove him from office. The prime minister’s mixed reactions to months of allegations of party breaches in government offices that eventually resulted in 126 fines, including one against Johnson, fueled concerns about his leadership.

Two weeks later, Conservative candidates were severely defeated in two special elections to fill vacant seats in parliament, fueling discontent within Johnson’s party.

When Pincher resigned last week as deputy head whip, a key position in enforcing party discipline, he told the prime minister that he had “drunk way too much” the previous night and “embarrassed myself and other people.”

Johnson initially refused to expel Pincher from the Conservative Party, but he relented after a formal complaint about the allegations was made to parliamentary authorities.

Critics suggested Johnson was slow to act because he didn’t want to be in a position to force Pincher to relinquish his seat in parliament and train the Conservatives for another potential special election defeat.

Even before the Pincher scandal, there were suggestions that Johnson could face another no-confidence vote soon.

In the coming weeks, conservative lawmakers will elect new members to the committee that sets parliamentary rules for the party. Several candidates have suggested they support a rule change to allow for another vote of no confidence. The existing rules require 12 months between such votes.

Senior Conservative legislator Roger Gale, a long-standing critic of Johnson, said he would support a change of the Conservative Committee’s 1922 committee rules.

“Mr Johnson has been sending ministers – in one case a cabinet minister – for three days now to defend the indefensible, effectively lying on his behalf. That must not go on,” Gale told the BBC. ruined the reputation of a proud and honorable party for honesty and decency, and that is unacceptable.”

Follow all AP coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson at https://apnews.com/hub/boris-johnson

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