Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi tells Boris Johnson 'you must go now'

Boris Johnson Credit: PA

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointment to the post just two days ago by Boris Johnson, has told the prime minister he must do "the right thing and go now".

Mr Zahawi, who was given the keys to No 11 on Tuesday evening, said in a tweet accompanying a letter written on Treasury headed notepaper: "Prime minister: this is not sustainable and it will only get worse: for you, for the Conservative Party and most importantly of all the country. You must do the right thing and go now."

Education secretary Michelle Donelan, who was only appointed to the role two days ago has also resigned.

The chancellor became the latest member of Mr Johnson's top team to call for him to go and comes after a wave of resignations on Thursday morning. Despite more than 50 ministers stepping down and repeated calls for him to quit, including some ultra-loyalists, Mr Johnson continues to cling on to power a day.

Speculation had been high on Wednesday the prime minister would resign after he took a drubbing at PMQs and later during a Commons Liaison Committee hearing, after which members of his Cabinet met with him and told him he had lost the confidence of the Tory party and should not continue in office – but the PM refused to listen.

The only people that did go were levelling up secretary Michael Gove, who the PM sacked, after telling Mr Johnson he should go on Wednesday morning, while third Cabinet minister - Welsh Secretary Simon Hart - resigned.

After a record number of resignations on Wednesday - 46 ministers and aides - the departures began again before 7am on Thursday, with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis standing down and telling Mr Johnson that government requires "honesty, integrity and mutual respect".

He was swiftly followed by Treasury minister Helen Whately who told Mr Johnson there "are only so many times you can apologise and move on".

Security minister Damian Hinds became the third minister to quit on Thursday before 7.30am, saying: “It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.”

Pensions minister Guy Opperman also joined the exodus, telling Mr Johnson "recent events have shown clearly that the government simply cannot function with you in charge".

His resignation was swiftly followed by technology minister Chris Philp announcing he was stepping down. An ultra-loyalist to Mr Johnson, Mr Philp's quit saying the "PM should step down given public and Parliamentary confidence has clearly gone, and given the importance of integrity in public life".

Courts' minister James Cartlidge became resignation number 53, telling Mr Johnson: "The position is clearly untenable."

Science minister George Freeman wrote to Mr Johnson on Thursday morning to tell him he no longer has confidence in his leadership, but did not explicitly say he was quitting.

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Amidst the resignation, Tory leadership contenders began to emerge with former staunch supporter Attorney General Suella Braverman telling ITV News' Political Editor Robert Peston that she would throw her hat into the ring.

Despite the calls from colleagues that he should seek a “more dignified exit”, Mr Johnson is instead fighting for his political future.

A No 10 source said: “The prime minister has a mandate from 14 million people to get a job done. He’s very conscious of his commitment to them

“If the party wants to stop him they have to take that mandate away.”

The PA news agency understands that home secretary Priti Patel spoke to the prime minister to convey the “overwhelming view” of the parliamentary party.

Transport minister Grant Shapps is thought to have told Mr Johnson that he stood little chance of winning another confidence vote and should instead set out a timetable for a departure on his own terms.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed chancellor on Tuesday, was also thought to be among those taking part in the showdown with Mr Johnson.Other ministers who quit on Wednesday were Will Quince, Robin Walker, John Glen, Victoria Atkins, Jo Churchill, Stuart Andrew, Kemi Badenoch, Neil O’Brien, Alex Burghart, Lee Rowley, Julia Lopez, Mims Davies, Rachel Maclean and Mike Freer.

(Suzan Moore/PA) Credit: Suzan Moore/PA

Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Tory 1922 Committee, spoke to Mr Johnson on Wednesday to set out the level of backbench opposition.

A new executive for the committee will be elected on Monday which could change the leadership rules, allowing for another confidence vote just a month after the last one – which Mr Johnson may lose given the way MPs have deserted him since Tuesday.

But a No 10 source said: “He has called Graham Brady’s bluff. All Graham could say is that there will be an election on Monday.

“A new 1922 committee on Tuesday could change the rules – but it’s not a given.

“The party could then demand a re-run of the no-confidence vote – but not a given.

“And the party could then decide to ditch the PM – but not a given.”

The source warned that “the choice is not Boris or no Boris.

“The choice is a Conservative government with a new Chancellor who will soon outline a new economic programme of tax cuts, deregulation and the benefits of Brexit, or three months of tearing each other apart to elect a leader with no mandate.”

Allies including Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg remained supportive of Mr Johnson.

Ms Dorries said the prime minister’s priority was to “stabilise the government”.

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab also remained loyal to Mr Johnson and defended him at a session of the backbench 1922 Committee.

The leadership crisis followed the scandal surrounding former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who quit after allegedly assaulting two men while drunk at London’s Carlton Club.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Downing Street initially said Mr Johnson had no knowledge of previous allegations against Mr Pincher, but the prime minister later acknowledged he had been informed of inappropriate behaviour dating back to 2019, and said he regretted keeping him in government beyond that point.

The prime minister’s authority had already been damaged by a confidence vote which saw 41% of his own MPs withdraw their support in June.

The loss of crunch by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton later that month triggered the resignation of party chairman Oliver Dowden, while there is still lingering resentment over coronavirus lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street.