Boris Johnson sacks Michael Gove as ministers pile pressure on PM to resign
Having survived this impossible day Boris Johnson still has some faint vestiges of power left and he is going to use every last ounce of it, as ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports
A bullish Boris Johnson is refusing to quit as prime minister, despite several top Cabinet ministers reportedly telling him to resign.
A group of them are understood to have gathered in Number 10 to demand the prime minister's resignation.
But Downing Street sources told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana that Mr Johnson is absolutely defiant and is "not going to resign".
Later on Wednesday night it emerged the PM had sacked his Housing and Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove, who was thought to have told Mr Johnson earlier in the morning that it was time for him to quit.
Sources say he told Cabinet colleagues that it was a choice between a summer focused on economic growth or the chaos of a leadership contest.
ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt was told that Mr Gove was fired after he told the PM his position was unsustainable.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart resigned from Mr Johnson's government later on Wednesday evening.
The MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said in his resignation letter that there "was no other option left but to step down from my role".
"Colleagues have done their upmost in private and public to help you turn the ship around, but it is with sadness that I feel we have passed the point where this is possible," he wrote.
Shortly afterwards, Attorney General Suella Braverman told ITV's Peston that there is an overwhelming sense of despair among Conservative MPs, saying that “the time has come for the prime minister to step down”.
She said she will put her name into the ring if there is a leadership contest.
Remarkably, the newly appointed chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, was among those in Number 10 reportedly telling the PM to consider his position.
Which of the PM's top ministers have told him to go and how badly has the flurry of resignations damaged the Tory brand? ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains
Mr Johnson told the ministers that a leadership contest followed by a general election would lead to the break up of the UK, sources said, and he plans continue working on the "hugely important issues facing the country".
The PM will fight any vote of no confidence in his leadership, it is understood, however sources say he would accept the verdict if he lost.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Mr Johnson that he he stands little chance of commanding a majority of the parliamentary party in a second confidence vote and advised him a to take a more dignified exit, sources told ITV News.
The Cabinet minister is understood to have urged Mr Johnson to set his own timetable for an early but orderly departure.
'What happens next for Boris Johnson, and can his own MPs force him out?' ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt explains
The PM's crunch meeting with his Cabinet ministers took place shortly after the prime minister was torn apart at the Liaison Committee.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said Cabinet ministers are still backing Mr Johnson as she left Downing Street.
Asked if she is still supporting the PM, she said "definitely" and said "oh yes" when quizzed as to whether other ministers are backing him too.
Mr Johnson is expected to make further ministerial appointments tonight, replacing the dozens that quit since Tuesday evening, but sources have told ITV News he is likely to suffer further Cabinet walkouts.
How long can Boris Johnson hold on amid a wave of resignations? And - if he does go - who's primed to replace him?
In an emergency podcast outside 10 Downing Street, find out you what you need to know...
He earlier ruled out a general snap election as a way to stay in power, saying the earliest opportunity for a poll would be 2024, when speaking at the Liaison Committee.
Asked at the committee whether he would still be prime minister on Thursday, given the group of ministers hoping to oust him, Mr Johnson said "of course" he would be.
Dozens of Tories now want rid of him, including 43 who've walked out of government roles since Tuesday, but under current party rules he is exempt from a leadership challenge for another 11 months after surviving a confidence vote in June.
The rules could be changed as soon as next week, however, if the 1922 Committee agrees it is necessary to hold another confidence vote.
If Mr Johnson continues resisting pressure to resign, it is likely the Committee, which represents backbench Tories, would consider changing the rules.
Despite the political chaos, the Queen still held her weekly audience with the prime minister on Wednesday.
Daniel Hewitt gauges the mood among Tory MPs as once loyal allies tell Mr Johnson that his time in office is up
Sajid Javid, who along with Rishi Sunak resigned on Tuesday, delivered a stinging attack on the PM earlier in the Commons, telling him "enough is enough".
He told the prime minister that being one of his ministers meant he was having to chose between "loyalty and integrity" and said he "will never risk losing my integrity".
Almost all of those who left government since Tuesday cited issues with Mr Johnson's integrity, referring to scandals such as Partygate and the more recent Chris Pincher controversy.
'He will have to be dragged out of No 10': ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand explains how truth has been the underline issue at the heart of the various scandals which have dogged Downing Street for months
Mr Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary James Duddridge was among the dwindling voices still openly supporting the PM, describing him as in an "optimistic" mood and "up for a fight".
"The prime minister is actually in quite buoyant mood," he told ITV News.
"Clearly it is difficult listening to criticism - he has spoken to a large number of his cabinet but he is up for a fight. He is optimistic."
Mr Duddridge says the PM is doing a reshuffle now, filling vacant roles, adding that the newly appointed chancellor will be making a joint announcement with Mr Johnson on the economy next week, which will include tax cuts.
'The PM in quite a buoyant mood... he's up for a fight,' says Mr Johnson's parliamentary private secretary
It appears the final straw for many MPs was Mr Johnson's handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Mr Pincher, who resigned after reportedly "groping" two men last week.
Mr Johnson apologised for hiring Mr Pincher as deputy chief whip despite being aware of allegations against him on Tuesday, but moments later Mr Javid and Mr Sunak walked out.
He said sorry again on Wednesday at PMQs but by then the mood appeared to have completely turned against him.
Asked by a Tory MP whether there was any circumstance in which he would quit, the PM said: "The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when he has been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going and that's what I'm going to do."