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Scandal-ridden Johnson resigns as UK prime minister; reactions pour in

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves after making a statement in front of 10 Downing Street in central London on July 7, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has officially announced his resignation from the post, following calls from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers in his ruling Conservative Party over a slew of highly contentious issues, including Brexit, coronavirus pandemic and successive scandals.

Johnson made the announcement outside his Downing Street residence in central London on Thursday, saying he had tried to persuade colleagues that changing the government’s leader would be “eccentric” but he failed, and that he was “sad to be giving up the best job in the world.”

"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 … 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 the new leader is in place,” the British premier said in a statement.

Following the announcement, British Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was concentrating on the job at hand. Patel said she would continue to lead the Home Office, stressing that her role demands she remains "entirely focused on the business of government and our national security.”

Johnson’s resignation came after earlier media reports said he had agreed to step down amid a growing rebellion within his Conservative party over a series of scandals and after more than 50 ministers quit.

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were the latest to resign from their posts in protest at Johnson's leadership, with Javid saying he "can no longer, in good conscience, continue serving in this government," while Sunak criticized the government's lack of competence.

The string of resignations follows months of scandals and missteps, including a damning report into parties that broke strict COVID-19 lockdowns and the resignation of Conservative legislator Neil Parish in April, after he was caught watching pornography on his mobile phone in the House of Commons. He was disqualified from sitting in parliament.

Johnson has also been grilled for not taking sufficient steps to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, with many people in the UK struggling to cope with soaring fuel and food prices.

According to economists, the UK is now heading for a sharp slowdown or possibly a recession.

The outgoing prime minister is also facing a parliamentary probe into whether he lied to MPs over the lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.

Reactions pour in over Jonson's resignation

Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, was swift to react to the premier’s resignation.

"It is good news for the country that Boris Johnson has resigned as Prime Minister,” Starmer said. "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."

The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party also took to his Twitter page and excoriated the Johnson government’s functioning.

“We are stuck with a government that isn’t functioning. The Prime Minister needs to go completely - not cling on for a few months. Britain needs a fresh start. If the Tory party doesn’t get rid of him, Labour will act in the national interest and bring a vote of no confidence,” Starmer wrote.

"What a depressing state of affairs. So much needless damage caused,” British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said. “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. The wheels of Government must continue in the meantime."

"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?" Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

“I am sad to see Boris Johnson stand down as Prime Minister. He has achieved a huge amount in office, including delivering Brexit, supporting the country through COVID, and leading the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Most importantly, he has worked tirelessly to strengthen the Union," Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "He doesn't like us, we don't like him either."

Vyacheslav Volodin, chairman of the lower house of the Russian parliament, said, "He is one of the main ideologues of the war against Russia until the last Ukrainian. European leaders should think about where such a policy leads."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, "Boris Johnson was hit by a boomerang launched by himself ... His comrades-in-arms turned him in."

"The moral of the story is: do not seek to destroy Russia ... Russia cannot be destroyed. You can break your teeth on it - and then choke on them."

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