“The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances, when he’s been handed a colossal mandate, is to keep going,” a grim-face Mr. Johnson declared in Parliament, rejecting yet another call for his resignation.
The opposition leader, Keir Starmer, brushed that off, excoriating Mr. Johnson and the cabinet ministers who have yet to abandon the prime minister after a seemingly endless stream of scandals. The latest chapter of this drama kicked off on Tuesday with the resignations of two senior ministers.
“Anyone quitting now, after defending all that, hasn’t got a shred of integrity,” said Mr. Starmer, the Labour Party leader, staring balefully across a table at Mr. Johnson. “Isn’t this the first recorded case of the sinking ship fleeing the rats?”
For all the drama in Parliament, the real action on Wednesday occurred out of sight, where Mr. Johnson’s dwindling band of supporters and growing gang of adversaries maneuvered. Mr. Johnson’s dismissal of Mr. Gove was particularly charged, since in 2016, Mr. Gove had derailed Mr. Johnson’s first bid for the Tory Party leadership by unexpectedly entering the contest himself.
The latest chapter in the crisis began on Tuesday when two senior cabinet ministers abruptly resigned: the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the health secretary, Sajid Javid. The trigger was Mr. Johnson’s handling of a case involving Chris Pincher, a Conservative lawmaker who admitted having been drunk at a private members’ club in London where, it was alleged, he groped two men.