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Former PM Sir John Major warns it is 'unwise' to let Boris remain in office

Sir John Major has warned it would be ‘unwise and may be unsustainable’ to allow Boris Johnson to remain in office while his successor is chosen.

The former prime minister said Mr Johnson would continue to have the power of patronage and the ability to make decisions affecting the lives of people across the country despite losing the support of his MPs and ministers.

Mr Johnson quit as Tory leader on Thursday, but said he intends to remain in Number 10 until his successor is elected – a suggestion which has been met with resistance within his own party and the Opposition.

Sir John warned the new interim Cabinet appointed by him in the wake of a wave of resignations this week may not be able to ‘restrain him’.

He wrote: ‘The proposal for the Prime Minister to remain in office – for up to three months – having lost the support of his Cabinet, his Government and his parliamentary party is unwise, and may be unsustainable.

‘In such a circumstance the Prime Minister maintains the power of patronage and, of even greater concern, the power to make decisions which will affect the lives of those within all four nations of the United Kingdom and further afield.

‘Some will argue that his new Cabinet will restrain him. I merely note that his previous Cabinet did not – or could not – do so.’

Sir John suggested Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab could be an acting prime minister until a new leader was elected.

Or he said Tory MPs could elect the new leader who would become prime minister, with party members then asked to endorse the decision.

Sir John said: ‘Neither of these options is ideal, but the interests of the country must be given priority over all else and, with so many long-term and critical issues before us, an imaginative response even at the risk of some bruised feelings within the party – is most definitely in the national interest.’

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Mr Johnson has already appointed new Cabinet ministers to replace MPs who quit as part of the mass ministerial exodus in protest at his leadership.

He is due to hold a meeting with them this afternoon, despite announcing his own resignation.

Tory leadership hopefuls had already begun setting out their stalls before Mr Johnson made his announcement.

Attorney General Suella Braverman and arch-Brexiteer Steve Baker have both indicated they will run.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also hinted that he will throw his hat in the ring.

‘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,’ he said.

The key events that led to Boris Johnson’s resignation

The news that Boris Johnson is set to resign as prime minister follows a tumultuous few days in British politics.

After surviving a vote of no confidence in June, the government’s handling of the Chris Pincher scandal marked the end of Mr Johnson’s time in office.

Here’s a run down of the key events which have led us here.

Monday, July 4

Downing Street confirmed Mr Johnson was aware of concerns about the conduct of Mr Pincher when he made him deputy chief whip. His spokesperson later conceded he had known of ‘speculation’ surrounding the MP, but ‘no formal complaint at that time’.

Tuesday, July 5

  • Lord Simon McDonald, former permanent secretary in the Foreign Office, publishes a bombshell letter claiming Mr Johnson was briefed ‘in person’ about a formal complaint regarding Mr Pincher.
  • 12.30pm: Labour is granted an urgent question in Parliament to address the Pincher scandal and what the prime minister knew.
  • Tory MPs line up in the House of Commons to publicly condemn Mr Johnson’s handling of the affair.
  • 1pm: Downing Street said Mr Johnson had forgotten he had been told Mr Pincher was the subject of an official complaint.
  • Tory backbenchers start publicly calling for Mr Johnson’s resignation.
  • Shortly before 6pm: Mr Johnson is forced to issue an apology over his handling of the Pincher scandal.
  • At 6.02pm Sajid Javid resigns as health secretary, saying the British people ‘rightly expect integrity from their government’.
  • 6.11pm: Chancellor Rishi Sunak resigns.
  • What will become a steady stream of resginations begins.
  • 9.40pm: Nadhim Zahawi is appointed chancellor, Michelle Donelan becomes education secretary and Steve Barclay is made health secretary.

Wednesday, July 6

  • 8.25am: Will Quince becomes the first minister of the day to resign while backbenchers including Lee Anderson and Robert Halfon publicly withdraw their support for Mr Johnson.
  • 12pm: Mr Johnson defies calls to resign during PMQs citing his ‘colossal mandate’ in 2019. He vows to keep going.
  • 2.25pm: Ministers Kemi Badenoch, Julia Lopez, Mims Davies, Lee Rowley, Neil O’Brien and Alex Burghart announced their resignations via a group letter and call on the prime minister to go.
  • 2.40pm: The Daily Mail reports that cabinet minister Michael Gove has told the prime minister he must step down.
  • 3pm: Amid unfolding chaos, the prime minister appears before the Liaison Committee to answer questions about his handling of the Pincher affair.
  • A delegation of ministers, including some of Mr Johnson’s longest-standing allies meet with him to urge him to resign.
  • 8.15pm: Mr Johnson rejects calls for his resignation after meeting with ministers.
  • 9pm: Mr Johnson sacks Michael Gove as Levelling Up, Communities and Housing Secretary.
  • 10.30pm Simon Hart resigns as Welsh Secretary.
  • 11pm: Attorney General Suella Braverman says it’s time for the prime minister ‘to go’.

Thursday, July 7

  • The Tory party exodus continues and by 9am 27 resignations have been filed, five at cabinet level, and 22 below cabinet level.
  • Among them are Brandon Lewis the Northern Ireland secretary and Michelle Donelan, the newly appointed education secretary.
  • Nadhim Zahawi publishes a blistering open letter calling on the prime minister to resign.
  • Shortly after 9am the news breaks that Mr Johnson has agreed to resign as British prime minister.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who cut short an official trip to Indonesia to return to Westminster, said: ‘We need calmness and unity now and to keep governing while a new leader is found.’

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said: ‘Now we need a clean start.’

The caretaker administration appointed by Mr Johnson ahead of his resignation announcement included Greg Clark as the new Levelling Up Secretary, replacing Michael Gove who was sacked on Wednesday, while James Cleverly has been made Education Secretary – the third person to hold that role in as many days.

Who has been appointed to Boris Johnson’s new cabinet?

Thursday

Greg Clark – Levelling up, Housing and Communities Secretary

James Cleverly – Education Secretary

Sir Robert Buckland – Wales Secretary

Kit Malthouse – Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Shailesh Vara – Northern Ireland Secretary

Andrew Stephenson – Minister without portfolio

Tuesday

Nadhim Zahawi – Chancellor

Steve Barclay – Health Secretary

Michelle Donelan – Education Secretary (resigned on Thursday)

Robert Buckland returns to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, following the resignation of Simon Hart.

Kit Malthouse is the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the most senior minister in the Cabinet Office after the Prime Minister.

Shailesh Vara is the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, replacing Brandon Lewis who quit early on Thursday morning, while Andrew Stephenson has been appointed Minister without Portfolio, and will attend Cabinet.

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