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Johnson rejects calls to let caretaker premier take charge in London

July 8, 2022 Updated Fri., July 8, 2022 at 9:14 p.m.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement in front of 10 Downing Street in central London on Thursday.  (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a statement in front of 10 Downing Street in central London on Thursday. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Tribune News Service

By Tribune News Service

LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is refusing to heed calls to let a caretaker prime minister take over, a day after he said he would step down amid anger at multiple scandals.

The news comes as would-be successors are weighing leadership bids.

There is growing pressure from senior members of the prime minister’s Conservative Party for Johnson to step down immediately and not wait for the election of a new leader.

Former Prime Minister John Major was among those backing calls for Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab to be installed as a caretaker premier.

But Downing Street on Friday insisted that Johnson will not leave No. 10 before a new leader is installed. Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “The prime minister is acting in line with convention.

“He remains prime minister until a new party leader is in place and the work of government will continue while that takes place.”

Following the tumultuous events in Westminster, some lawmakers fear a summer of “chaos” if Johnson remains in No. 10 while a leadership contest which could run for weeks or even months plays out.

But Johnson has sought to assuage concerns by vowing not to implement new policies in his remaining time in office and to leave any major tax and spending decisions to the next prime minister.

This pledge was reiterated by his spokesperson, who said the government “won’t seek to make any large fiscal changes, nor will it seek to unpick previously agreed policy.”

But it will push ahead with trying to force through deportations of asylum-seekers to Rwanda, as well as continuing contentious talks with the European Union about trade with Northern Ireland in light of Brexit agreements that treat it separately from Britain.

“It’s not that the government cannot continue to deal with challenging or long-standing issues; it is simply the convention to stick with delivering on pre-agreed policies,” the official said.

After Johnson made clear his frustration at the way he had been forced out by an unprecedented wave of ministerial resignations, many in the party remain deeply suspicious of his intentions.

Newly installed Education Secretary James Cleverly played down such concerns and insisted the process for choosing a new leader will be done “professionally but promptly.”

“There’s no such thing as a caretaker prime minister. In our system, there is a prime minister,” he said on the morning media round. “I think the process now will be done professionally but promptly so that we can get a new prime minister who can form a new team in good time.”

In his resignation speech on the steps of No. 10, Johnson offered no contrition for the Partygate scandal – which involved parties on government property despite coronavirus lockdowns – or the appointment of Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip, despite allegations Johnson knew Pincher had been accused of sexual misconduct.

Instead he angered many members of Parliament by complaining of the “eccentric” move to oust him, accusing his tormentors of succumbing to a “herd mentality.”

George Freeman, one of the last ministers to quit before Johnson made his announcement, said the tone of his address did not suggest he would see out his time with “quiet humility and contrition.”

On Monday, elections will take place to the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee which will then set out the rules and timetable for the leadership contest.

Under current rules, lawmakers will vote in a series of secret ballots – depending on how many candidates there are with the final two going forward to a vote of the membership.

Around a dozen potential candidates to claim the Tory crown – including backbenchers as well as ministers – are thought to be assessing their support needed for a challenge.

Jeremy Hunt is highly likely to announce his bid in the coming days, PA Media understands from a source close to the senior Tory member.

The former foreign secretary and ex-health secretary was a runner-up to Johnson in 2019.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairperson Tom Tugendhat was the first contender to throw his hat in the ring, saying he was putting together a “broad coalition” offering a “clean start.”

Among the early favorites are former Chancellor Rishi Sunak – who quit on Tuesday, helping to trigger a slew of ministerial resignations – and the man who succeeded him, Nadhim Zahawi.

Elsewhere, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace are both thought to have significant support.

Other ministers considering a run include Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Attorney General Suella Braverman and Cabinet Office Minister Penny Mordaunt.

From outside the government, former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who also quit on Tuesday, and arch Brexiteer Steve Baker may also stand.

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