London (UK): British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is caught in a difficult political situation, named new UK Health Secretary and Finance Minister following the resignation of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. UK Cabinet chief of staff Steve Barclay has been appointed as the new health secretary. Meanwhile, UK education secretary Nadhim Zahawi was named as the new finance minister. In his resignation letter, Sunak said he was “sad to be leaving the government”, but has come to the conclusion that he “cannot continue like this”.
Sunak and Javid sent resignation letters to Johnson within minutes of each other in which both took aim at his ability to run an administration that adhered to standards. Signalling his intention to stay in power for as long as possible, Johnson quickly appointed former businessman and current education minister, Nadhim Zahawi, as his new finance minister. Steve Barclay, appointed to impose discipline in Johnson’s administration in February, was moved to the health portfolio.
The resignations came as Johnson was apologising for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in offering pastoral care to his party, even after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct. Economists say the country is now heading for a sharp slowdown or possibly a recession. Both Sunak and Javid had previously publicly supported Johnson, but in their letters said enough was enough.
Sunak, who had reportedly clashed with the prime minister in private about spending, said, “For me to step down as Chancellor (of the Exchequer) while the world is suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other serious challenges is a decision that I have not taken lightly.” “The public rightly expects the government to be conducted properly, competently and seriously,” he added. “I recognise this may be my last ministerial job, but I believe these standards are worth fighting for and that is why I am resigning.”
Sunak had won plaudits for a steady-handed response to the economic turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic but was badly damaged by revelations that his wife had avoided paying some taxes in Britain.
Javid said many lawmakers and the public had lost confidence in Johnson’s ability to govern in the national interest. “It is clear to me that this situation will not change under your leadership – and you have therefore lost my confidence too,” his letter said. The pound fell on the resignation of Sunak but economists said the removal of Johnson could bring needed stability and offer a boost to the sterling and the markets in the medium term.
(With Reuters input)