British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his imminent retirement as the head of the Conservative Party on Thursday.
“To you, the British public: I know that there will be many people who are relieved and, perhaps, quite a few will also be disappointed,” Johnson said, addressing the nation outside No.10 Downing Street, his official residence. “And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world, but them’s the breaks.”
Along with “getting Brexit done,” Johnson said he is proud of “leading the West in standing up to [Russian President Vladamir] Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.”
Since Tuesday, nearly 60 members of the administration, including five cabinet ministers, have resigned in protest over how Johnson handled the departure of his former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who was accused of groping two men last week. Other controveries have also contributed to criticisms of his leadership.
Many of his party’s legislators had called for him to quit immediately, accusing him of pushing Britain into a precarious constitutional crisis after he dug in and refused to resign for days.
Johnson initially tried to ride out the crisis, declaring on Wednesday that he would not step down. However, he eventually caved on Thursday after hearing from some of his most devoted allies that he should do so.
“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore, a new prime minister,” he said.
“The process of choosing that new leader should begin now,” he added, saying the plan for replacing him will be disclosed next week.
The prime minister talked about his efforts to continue serving as the leader and how “painful” it is for him to stand aside.
“In the last few days, I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much … and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally,” Johnson said.
“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments, and of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself,” he said.
Johnson does not, however, intend to step down right away. He added that he would continue in his position until a successor is found.
He will likely continue serving as prime minister until the party’s annual conference in October. Traditionally, when a Conservative leader steps down, the party has time to organize an extensive leadership election.
Britain’s election process allows any Conservative legislator to apply for the position as long as they receive at least two nominations from other party members. The candidate receiving the fewest votes in each round of voting is eliminated as the party narrows the field. The remaining two candidates are presented to the Conservative Party’s roughly 200,000 grassroots supporters, who choose the victor.
“I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will until a new leader is in place,” he declared.
The administration can continue to run as he gets ready to leave if new cabinet ministers are appointed.
Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on social media, “We now need a new Leader as soon as practicable. Someone who can rebuild trust, heal the country, and set out a new, sensible and consistent economic approach to help families.”
British media reported Wednesday that Johnson held his weekly phone chat with the queen. However, Buckingham Palace declined to comment on Thursday regarding whether they had spoken again to discuss the end of Johnson’s premiership.