'How long can the PM go on with ministers deserting him so fast it is hard to keep score?' ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports on the political crisis engulfing Boris Johnson and threatening to paralyse government
Boris Johnson has suffered further ministerial resignations as his loose grip on the keys for Number 10 continues to weaken after losing two of his most senior Cabinet colleagues.
Several more Tory MPs walked out of government on Wednesday, following the eight - including former chancellor Rishi Sunak and ex-health secretary Sajid Javid - who quit on Tuesday.
With Mr Johnson's day going from bad to worse, he faced an intense grilling before the Liaison Committee on Wednesday afternoon, during which he ruled out calling an election - unless people "forget" his mandate.
Over the course of a bruising interrogation, he did not deny saying "all the sex pests are supporting me" and “Pincher by name, Pincher by nature”, when asked about his handling of the Chris Pincher affair, who quit as deputy chief whip last week following claims that he groped two men.
ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains the manoeuvres going on behind closed doors in Downing Street
With the prime minister haemorrhaging support across the Tory ranks, a delegation of Cabinet ministers are preparing to tell Mr Johnson to leave Downing Street.
ITV News UK Editor Paul Brand has been told that Sir Graham Brady, the head of the 1922 Committee, which can trigger confidence votes, has gone to meet the PM to offer him "wise counsel".
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who was key to the PM's fight for survival during partygate, is among those who will demand he quits, sources claim.
Long-standing ally Brandon Lewis, who believes Mr Johnson’s position is “now untenable”, was understood to be part of the group, as was Welsh Secretary Simon Hart.
Reports even suggested Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed Chancellor on Tuesday, will join the group.
'They all think that it is over for the prime minister': ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana reveals how the flurry of junior resignations has made the PM's position untenable in the eyes of many
Meanwhile, six ministers - Kemi Badenoch, Julia Lopez, Mims Davies, Lee Rowley, Neil O'Brien and Alex Burghart - all announced they were resigning at the same time, saying that "the government cannot function" with Mr Johnson at the helm.
Victoria Atkins, minister of state for prisons and probation at the Ministry of Justice, also quit her position in protest.
Despite 38 walkouts so far, the prime minister told MPs at PMQs that he is determined to remain prime minister.
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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."
A few hours later, Mr Johnson once again insisted at the Liaison Committee he will “of course” be prime minister on Thursday.
Along with a growing number of ministerial resignations, several formerly loyal MPs have withdrawn their support from the prime minister.
One of those was Robert Jenrick, the former housing secretary, who said the PM had suffered an "irretrievable loss of trust" as he urged him to resign.
"If we continue along our present path we risk doing lasting damage to the reputation of the Conservative Party," he said, adding that he can, "no longer, in all good conscience, support this".
Liam Fox, a former international trade secretary and defence secretary, also said he wanted Mr Johnson to step down, saying he had "lost too many good people from the government who could not reconcile their loyalty to you with their conscience".
He added: "It is with a heavy heart that I am today withdrawing my support for you as I no longer have confidence in you as our leader. I urge you to do the right thing and resign."
Their interventions followed resignations from Robin Walker and Will Quince, both formerly education ministers, who quit on Wednesday morning.
The prime minister is determined to fight for his political survival, as he said when stumbling through a session of PMQs, but history suggests that time is running out on his premiership.
The resignation of senior Cabinet ministers can often prove fatal for a prime minister - as Margaret Thatcher learned following the resignation of her chancellor, John Major, who eventually replaced her as PM.
Watch the Liaison Committee as Boris Johnson was grilled
Mr Johnson has already survived a no confidence vote, as did his predecessor Theresa May, but she was forced to resign within six months as her backbench support collapsed.
In a brief reprieve for the prime minister, the 1922 Committee decided late on Wednesday afternoon not to change the rules immediately to allow a second confidence vote in Mr Johnson in as many months.
A new vote, however, could still be held within weeks after a new executive committee is voted in on Monday - if they then agree to change the rule around confidence motions, Mr Johnson's fate could once again be in the hands of his own MPs
Judging by reaction from his party over the past 24 hours, his support has likely reduced significantly since the June vote.
ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt gauges the mood among Tory MPs as once loyal allies tell Mr Johnson that his time in office is up
Three Tory MPs used their time at Prime Minister's Questions to ask Mr Johnson to quit, including Gary Sambrook, who issued a stinging attack on the prime minister.
"He always tries to blame other people for mistakes," the MP said, adding: "There's nothing left for him to do other than take responsibility and resign."
Mr Javid delivered a stinging attack on Mr Johnson immediately after PMQs, in which he said "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".
Mr Johnson appeared downtrodden as he listened to his former ally tear him apart in front of a packed House of Commons, which was full due to PMQs taking place moments before.
One MP shouted "bye Boris" as the PM swiftly left the Commons immediately after Mr Javid's speech, and a chorus of MPs repeated the farewell.
Watch Sajid Javid's resignation speech in full
The withdrawal of support from Lee Anderson, previously a fervent supporter, is an indication of how far the prime minister's popularity has plummeted among Tories.
The MP said he'd lost confidence in Mr Johnson after the Chris Pincher controversy, in which the PM eventually admitted, after days of denials, that he knew of sexual misconduct allegations against him before appointing him deputy chief whip.
"I cannot look myself in the mirror and accept this", Mr Anderson said, adding: "Integrity should always come first and sadly this has not been the case over the past few days."
Despite the loss of confidence from previous backers, the PM's press secretary said Mr Johnson is confident he still has the support of his backbench MPs.
She also said Mr Johnson would contest another confidence vote if one were held, but described last month's ballot as "clear and decisive".
Asked if the PM is confident he has the support of his backbenchers, she said simply: "Yes."
This morning's walkouts mean the new education secretary, Michelle Donelan - who replaced Nadhim Zahawi after his promotion to chancellor - has lost two of her five ministers.
Boris Johnson's day is getting worse
The headache continues for Mr Johnson on Wednesday, as he was on the end of a grilling by MPs at a Commons Liaison Committee hearing.
The committee interrogation pursued a line of brutal questioning, with the body - which scrutinises the government - chaired by Sir Bernard Jenkin, peopled with a host of Tory MPs far from sympathetic to his leadership.
He has admitted he “probably” met ex-KGB Alexander Lebedev in Italy as foreign secretary and without officials. Mr Lebedev has had a murky relationship with Putin and is the father of Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Evening Standard.
Huw Merriman, meanwhile, tweeted his letter confirming he is withdrawing his support for the prime minister - while he was sat on the committee questioning Mr Johnson.
Even before the resignations, the Liaison Committee would have been a tough session for the PM, who was always likely to be questioned about why he appointed Mr Pincher to the position of deputy chief whip despite knowing of a sexual misconduct allegation against the MP, and later denying this was the case.
Coupled with the resignations which were scathing of his leadership, it is likely to get a whole lot worse for the PM.
Could there be another no confidence vote?
Mr Johnson's woes do not stop there, with the elections to the Tory backbench 1922 Committee Executive taking place on Monday.
Following a meeting of the full committee at Westminster, nominations will open on Wednesday and close at midday on Monday.
Voting will take place on Monday afternoon and the result announced in the evening.
Should enough who support it be elected on to the committee, they could change the rules on when a confidence vote in the prime minister can be held and if enough Conservative MPs support one, there could be a second vote before summer recess begins on July 21.
After Mr Johnson survived a vote in June, the current rules mean another cannot be held until June 2023.
He won that vote with the support of 211 MPs but 41% of his party voted to get rid of him and it's much more likely the 50% threshold to remove him would be passed if another poll was announced in the coming weeks.
Might Boris Johnson step down?
Seven in 10 Britons say Mr Johnson should resign, according to a snap YouGov poll of more than 3,000 people, however newspapers are reporting his determination to stay on.
He told friends he is "going anywhere", according to the Daily Mail, and he plans to "smash on and deliver for the people who gave us a massive mandate".
But The Times newspaper, which has supported Mr Johnson in the past, used an editorial to call on Mr Johnson to go.
“Every day that he remains deepens the sense of chaos. For the good of the country, he should go,” it said.
However, Mr Johnson still retains the support of several Cabinet ministers including Dominic Raab, Liz Truss, Michael Gove, Therese Coffey and Ben Wallace.
Many of those loyal ministers, who will need to re-shuffle various government roles following the resignations, rallied round him following the Tuesday night resignations.
Speaking on Tuesday, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said he “consistently gets all the big decisions right”, while Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the mandate won at the 2019 general election “should not be taken away from him because a number of people resign”.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who spoke to Mr Johnson on Tuesday night, said he remained “unflappable”.
It remains to be seen if Mr Johnson, who has established a reputation for escaping controversy, will survive the coming days and weeks.
What happened last night?
In a nail-biting 10 minutes for the PM on Tuesday evening, Sajid Javid quit as health secretary, followed shortly after by Rishi Sunak resigning as chancellor, just minutes after Mr Johnson was forced into a humiliating apology to address the row over scandal-hit former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.
While it had seemed like an avalanche of Cabinet resignations could follow, the rest of Mr Johnson's top team backed him and he avoided being immediately toppled.
But there were several resignations from more junior government roles on Tuesday evening.
Bim Afolami quit as vice chair of the Tory party shortly after, Jonathan Gullis quit as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Northern Ireland secretary and Andrew Murrison stepped down as a government trade envoy.
Saqib Bhatti, the MP for Meriden and parliamentary private secretary in the health department, was also among others to resign.
Mr Sunak and Mr Javid were swiftly replaced, with Mr Zahawi promoted to be the new chancellor and Steve Barclay becoming health secretary.
Former education secretary Mr Zahawi has been replaced by former universities minister Michelle Donelan.
In their resignation letters, Mr Sunak and Mr Javid, both potential leadership rivals, offered sharp criticisms of Mr Johnson.
What is the Chris Pincher controversy?
The controversy stemming from the resignation of Mr Pincher had engulfed Downing Street in recent days, as the prime minister faced questions about how much he knew of the allegations and rumours surrounding the Tory MP before he was appointed as deputy chief whip.
Mr Pincher quit as deputy chief whip last week following claims that he groped two men at the upmarket Carlton Club, but Mr Johnson knew about allegations against him as far back as 2019.
The prime minister acknowledged he should have sacked Mr Pincher when he was found to have behaved inappropriately when he was a Foreign Office minister in 2019, but instead Mr Johnson went on to appoint him to other government roles.
Asked if that was an error, Mr Johnson said: “I think it was a mistake and I apologise for it. In hindsight it was the wrong thing to do.
“I apologise to everybody who has been badly affected by it. I want to make absolutely clear that there’s no place in this government for anybody who is predatory or who abuses their position of power.”
MPs were told that Mr Johnson had not recalled being told about the earlier 2019 allegations.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, the then foreign secretary, gave Mr Pincher a dressing down over his “inappropriate” conduct “in no uncertain terms” at the time and the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team was also involved.
No 10 had initially claimed Mr Johnson had not been aware of any “specific allegations”, after Mr Pincher’s dramatic resignation.
By Monday that line had evolved to acknowledge the prime minister was aware of “allegations that were either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint”.