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UK PM Johnson blames political ‘herd instinct’ for his removal from office, hopes to stay till Oct

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British Primer Minister Boris Johnson finally announced his resignation on Thursday admitting ‘no-one is indispensable’ – but is lining up a ‘unity Cabinet’ as he battles to stay in Downing Street for months longer.

In a statement in Downing Street, the PM tried to sound an upbeat tone as he confirmed his MPs ‘clearly’ want a change and his time in office will come to an end when a new Tory leader is installed.

Standing at the traditional podium and watched by wife Carrie, baby Romy and close aides, Mr Johnson said the situation was ‘painful’ but pointed to his achievements since winning the huge landslide – such as the vaccine rollout, Brexit and coming to the aid of Ukraine.

He said his message to voters who delivered his 2019 landslide was ‘thank you for that incredible mandate’, adding the “reason I have fought so hard” was because he felt it was his ‘job’ to deliver what he promised.

“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks,” he said.

Johnson blamed ‘powerful herd instinct’ for his ousting, saying: ‘At Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful, when the herd moves, it moves.

“And my friends in politics, no one is remotely indispensable and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times.”

Johnson paid tribute to his family for ‘all they have put up with,” in a nod to the succession of scandals that have blighted his premiership.

“Our future is golden,” he finished.

No10 had appealed for Conservative MPs to come and watch the speech in the street, but there only seemed to be a small crowd present.

Johnson admitted defeat in the wake of a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed on Tuesday night following Rishi Sunak’s departure. He told Mr Johnson that his situation is ‘not sustainable’.

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A No10 source said Mr Johnson has spoken to Tory 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady and agreed to stand down, with a new Tory leader set to be in place by the party conference in October.

However, at the same time Mr Johnson has set about rebuilding his Cabinet, making Greg Clark the new Levelling Up Secretary and James Cleverly the Education Secretary. Robert Buckland is returning as Welsh Secretary, and Shailesh Vara takes over as Northern Ireland Secretary.

Kit Malthouse becomes Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr Clark was in the Cabinet under Theresa May but stepped down when Mr Johnson took over, and Mr Buckland was axed as Justice Secretary in a reshuffle last year. Mr Vara was previously a Northern Ireland minister but has been out of government.

The others are long-standing allies promoted from other jobs.

The PM’s resignation announcement effectively fires the starting gun on what looks set to be a chaotic leadership battle. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – expected to be a candidate – is cutting short a visit to Indonesia to return to the UK.

However, it is far from clear that Mr Johnson staying on until October – more than two months – will be acceptable to Tory MPs. More than 50 government members have resigned, and there will be questions over whether they can simply be reappointed, or would even agree to that. There are rumours that Mr Johnson still wants to push key policies such as tax cuts.

Keir Starmer threatened to call a Parliamentary confidence vote and try to force a general election if Mr Johnson does not leave immediately.

‘He needs to go completely. None of this nonsense about clinging on for a few months,’ he said.

In his Downing Street speech, Mr Johnson said he is ‘immensely proud’ of the Government’s achievements.

‘I’m immensely proud of the achievements of this Government, from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in Parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown, and, in the last few months, leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine,’ he said.

He said his successor’s priorities would be ‘helping families to get through … cutting burdens on businesses and families, and, yes, cutting taxes because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay the great public services.

“To that new leader, I say, whoever he or she may be, I say: “I will give you as much support as I can.”

“To you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed.

“I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world.”

Although he stopped short of resigning, Zahawi appears to have struck the killer blow with his public call for Johnson to give in. He tweeted: “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 installed in post at the same time as Zahawi, also declared she is quitting, barely two hours after Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis fell on his sword.

Up to then the PM had vowed defiance despite the overwhelming evidence of his authority draining away.

At 6.47 am, Lewis tweeted that he could no longer continue without “honesty, integrity and mutual respect.”

Minutes later Treasury minister Helen Whately followed suit saying “there are only so many times you can apologise and move on.”

Security minister Damian Hinds and science minister George Freeman had followed by 7.30am, and pensions minister Guy Opperman by 7.50 am.

Meanwhile, Wales minister David TC Davies publicly announced that he had refused a promotion to take over from Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, who quit last night. The Attorney General, Suella Braverman has called for Mr Johnson to resign and said she is only staying in place to keep the government functioning.

With the resignation tally reaching well over 50, the government was unable to find a minister willing to go on the airwaves to speak up for the PM this morning – with total silence from his team for hours.

The chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris was seen going into Downing Street early after the lights were seen on in the PM’s flat deep into the night.

However, Mr Johnson’s critics were swarming to studios.

Former Cabinet minister Julian Smith warned that the premier had seen how Donald Trump behaved in relation to the Capitol riots after the US election and was looking to have a “mini version in the UK.”

There were even suggestions from allies that Mr Johnson could try to force a snap general election in a desperate bid to cling to office – something that could drag the Queen into a constitutional crisis.

Veteran Tory MP Bernard Jenkin had urged Johnson to step in a convince her husband that he should throw in the towel.

But the stage is now set for another tussle over whether Johnson should remain in place through what could be a protracted leadership struggle.

George Freeman, who announced he was resigning as science minister this morning, said Mr Johnson must apologise to the Queen and advise her to call for a caretaker PM.

“Boris Johnson needs to hand in the seals of office, apologise to Her Majesty and advise her to call for a caretaker prime minister,’ he said. ‘To take over today so that ministers can get back to work and we can choose a new Conservative leader to try and repair the damage and rebuild trust.”

A former minister told MailOnline: “We need to be rid of the Johnson poison as quickly as possible.”

Ex-No10 chief Dominic Cummings wrote on Twitter: ‘Evict TODAY or he’ll cause CARNAGE, even now he’s playing for time & will try to stay

“No ‘dignity’, no ‘interim while leadership contest.”

“Raab shd be interim PM by evening.”

Another former minister, Nick Gibb, said: ‘As well as resigning as Party leader the PM must resign his office.

“After losing so many ministers, he has lost the trust and authority required to continue. We need an acting PM who is not a candidate for leader to stabilise the government while a new leader is elected.”

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