Boris Johnson admitted it was “clearly now the will” of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new Prime Minister.
The beleaguered PM finally made the decision to bow out as support for his premiership collapsed around him, with upwards of 50 MPs quitting government and party posts since Tuesday evening.
He intends to remain as Prime Minister until a successor is in place, expected to be by the time of the Tory conference in October.
Johnson’s statement in full
“Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you. 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.
“And I’ve agreed with Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week. And I have today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place.
“So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019, many of them voting Conservative for the first time; thank you for that incredible mandate. The biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.
“And the reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.
“And, of course, 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. And let me say now to the people of Ukraine that I know that we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes.
“And at the same time in this country, we’ve been pushing forward a vast programme of investment in infrastructure and skills and technology, the biggest in a century.
“Because, if I have one insight into human beings, it is the genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population. But opportunity is not.
“And that’s why we must keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential of every part of the United Kingdom. And if we can do that in this country, we will be the most prosperous in Europe.
“And in the last few days, I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we are delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in mid-term, after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging.
“And when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally, and I regret not to have been successful in those arguments, then of course it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself.
“But as we’ve seen 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, not just helping families to get through it, but changing and improving the way we do things.
“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 for great public services. And to that new leader, I say, whoever he or she may be, I say, I will give you as much support as I can.
“And 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.
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. I want to thank Carrie and our children and all members of my family who’ve had to put up with so much for so long.
“I want to thank the peerless British civil service for all the help and support that you have given our police, our emergency services and, of course, our fantastic NHS, who in a critical moment helped to extend my own period in office, as well as our armed services and our agencies that are so admired around the world.
“And our indefatigable Conservative party members and supporters whose selfless campaigning makes our democracy possible.
“I want to thank the wonderful staff here at Chequers here in Number 10 and, of course, at Chequers and fantastic prop force detectives. The one group, by the way, who never leak.
“Above all, I want to thank you, the British public, for the immense privilege that you have given me. And I want you to know that from now on until the new Prime Minister is in place. Your interests will be served and the government of the country will be carried on.
“Being Prime Minister is an education in itself. I’ve travelled to every part of the United Kingdom, and in addition to the beauty of our natural world, I found so many people possessed of such boundless British originality and so willing to tackle old problems in new ways that I know that even if things can sometimes seem dark now, our future together is golden. Thank you all very much. Thank you.”