Former health secretary minister Sajid Javid delivered a withering attack on Boris Johnson’s leadership on July 6, telling him and his fellow lawmakers in their ruling Conservative Party that it was time for the prime minister to resign.
Javid stepped down as health secretary on July 5, the first of a flurry of resignations of ministers who said they had lost confidence in Johnson and that he was not fit to govern.
Considered a possible contender to replace Johnson should he quit or be forced out, Javid listed a series of scandals that had embroiled the prime minister and his office in recent months, including the breaking of coronavirus lockdown rules, over which he had given Johnson the benefit of the doubt.
“At some point, we have to conclude that enough is enough. I believe that point is now,” he told parliament as lawmakers sat in silence and Johnson listened expressionless.
“I have concluded that the problem starts at the top and I believe that is not going to change. And that means that it is for those of us in a position who have responsibility to make that change.”
Just minutes earlier, an ebullient Johnson had vowed to fight on, telling his glum-faced lawmakers that he remained a vote winner.
Javid said it had not been fair to send government ministers out to defend Johnson in the media in recent months over various scandals, using lines from the prime minister’s Downing Street office “that don’t stand up and don’t hold up”.
“It’s not fair on Conservative members and voters who rightly expect better standards from the party they supported,” he added.
It was the second time Javid has left government. He quit as finance minister in 2020 after refusing to fire his political advisers as demanded by Johnson. He returned in the following year as health minister.
His damning resignation speech had echoes of one famously made by Geoffrey Howe, another mild-mannered minister who quit Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in 1990.
Howe’s courteous but pointed attack, in which he said his colleagues would have to consider their own response “to the tragic conflict of loyalties”, was seen as delivering a critical blow to her leadership.
“I wish my cabinet colleagues well. I can see they have decided to remain in the cabinet. They will have their own reasons but it is a choice,” Javid said.
“I know just how difficult that choice is. But let’s be clear – not doing something is an active decision.”