Boris Johnson is clinging to power by a thread after the twin resignations of his chancellor and health secretary over the Chris Pincher scandal plunged him into his biggest crisis yet.
The disintegration of the cabinet – long seen as the event most likely to force the prime minister out of No 10 – dramatically cut the odds on his premiership ending within months, or even weeks.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, walked out telling Mr Johnson the Conservative party is “bigger than any one individual” – while Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, protested that “standards are worth fighting for”.
Earlier, No 10 had admitted the prime minister was told a misconduct complaint had been upheld against Mr Pincher when he promoted him to the whips’ office, triggering an eruption of Tory anger.
The resignations came just moments after a grovelling apology by Mr Johnson for the “mistake” of promoting the minister – a move No 10 had spent five days defending.
Keir Starmer said it was clear “clear that this government is now collapsing” and lashed out at ministers who had been “complicit” as the prime minister “disgraced his office”.
Bim Afolami, a vice chair of the Tory party resigned dramatically on air, and David Frost, the former Brexit minister, called on Mr Johnson to go.
But other cabinet ministers rallied around to stem the bleeding, including Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Nadhim Zahawi and Kwasi Kwarteng.
Jacob Rees-Mogg brushed off talk that the end was near, arguing the prime minister had only made “a minor mistake” and saying: “Losing chancellors is something that happens.” Independent.co.uk