Boris Johnson appears to be on the brink of losing his prime ministership amid a mass rebellion of senior MPs who are demanding the scandal-plagued leader resign.
A delegration of cabinet ministers has reportedly descended on 10 Downing Street calling on Mr Johnson to step down, including ministers he had only appointed the previous day.
It comes after the spectacular resignation of more than 30 ministers and aides who quit in one day on Wednesday, even as Mr Johnson dug in his heels and refused to budge.
On top of the resignations, more than 100 MPs have declared they no longer support the prime minister.
Under Tory party rules Mr Johnson, who won a confidence vote last month, is protected for another 11 months from a new vote.
However, some lawmakers are seeking to change those rules and his frustrated colleagues are bringing things to a head by trying to force his departure from the top job.
The rebellion follows yet another scandal in which Mr Johnson appointed a lawmaker to a key role, even after he was briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
Media are reporting the minute-by-minute developments in London as cabinet ministers have been arriving and departing from No 10.
The BBC reports Transport Minister Grant Shapps was leading the delegation while other media reports said Nadhim Zahawi, appointed as finance minister late on Tuesday, was part of it.
Mr Zahawi had told reporters earlier on Wednesday that he fully supported Mr Johnson.
As the political drama intensifies, ITV’s deputy political editor Anushka Asthana tweeted that she was told the prime minister was “absolutely defiant and is not going to resign”.
“Sources tell me he told Cabinet colleagues that it was a choice between summer focused on economic growth or chaos of a leadership contest — followed by massive pressure for general election,” she wrote.
Earlier Mr Johnson had pledged to fight on, using a weekly question-and-answer session in parliament to try to tough it out.
But his performance was met with a muted response and, on occasion, open laughter.
One member of Mr Johnson’s own party asked if there would be any circumstances in which he should resign?
He responded that he would only quit if the government could not carry on.
Even some of his own colleagues in his cabinet struggled to contain their laughter as the main opposition Labour leader poked fun at his cabinet for being the “the lightweight brigade”.
Labour frontbencher Conor McGinn said key legislation would have to be suspended because the government “now don’t have enough ministers to attend”.
“A government that can not perform even the most basic tasks needed to govern,” said Mr McGinn.
“After all the sleaze, the scandals and the failure, it’s clear that this government is now collapsing,” Labour leader Keir Starmer said.
However Mr Johnson told parliament: “When times are tough … is exactly the moment that you’d expect the government to continue with its work, not to walk away … to get on with our job and to focus on the things that matter to the people of this country.”
Mr Johnson, a former London mayor who became the face of Britain’s departure from the European Union, won a landslide election victory in 2019 before taking a combative and often chaotic approach to governing.
His leadership has been mired in scandals and missteps over the last few months, with the prime minister fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws and a damning report published about the behaviour of officials at his Downing Street office who breached their own lockdown rules.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism he has not done enough to tackle a cost-of-living crisis, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The Times newspaper said Mr Johnson’s “serial dishonesty” was “utterly corrosive” of effective government and “for the good of the country, he should go.”
Downing Street’s narrative changed several times over what the prime minister knew of the past behaviour of the politician, who was forced to resign, and when he knew it. His spokesman blamed a lapse in Mr Johnson’s memory.
That prompted Rishi Sunak to quit as chancellor of the exchequer — the finance minister — and Sajid Javid to resign as health secretary, while others left their junior ministerial or envoy roles.
“It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership — and you have therefore lost my confidence too,” Mr Javid said in his resignation letter.
A snap YouGov poll found 69 per cent of Britons thought Mr Johnson should step down as prime minister but for the time being the remainder of his top ministerial team offered their backing.