Boris Johnson’s attempts to battle for his job came under further pressure after more resignations and a leadership challenge from former ally Suella Braverman.
The Prime Minister rejected calls to quit on Wednesday and dramatically sacked Cabinet rival Michael Gove, but was later hit with the departure of a third Cabinet minister – Welsh Secretary Simon Hart – and further demands to go from the Attorney General.
Mr Johnson met ministers in No 10 on Wednesday, where he was told he had lost the confidence of the Tory party and should not continue in office – but refused to listen.
Mr Gove was thought to have told the Prime Minister on Wednesday morning that it was time for him to quit.
That was followed by a delegation of Cabinet ministers going to No 10 to tell Mr Johnson he should stand down after losing the trust of his MPs.
No 10 sources confirmed Mr Gove had been sacked, with one telling the BBC: “You cannot have a snake who is not with you on any of the big arguments who then gleefully briefs the press that he has called for the leader to go.
“You cannot operate like that.”
Time to go
Mr Johnson’s relationship with Mr Gove has long been troubled, with the Prime Minister’s leadership campaign in 2016 derailed when his rival withdrew support and decided to run himself.
But it was not only Mr Gove who sought to persuade Mr Johnson that his time in No 10 should end.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and Welsh Secretary Mr Hart were among the Cabinet ministers telling Mr Johnson to stand down.
Ms Braverman later joined the calls for the Prime Minister to quit as she launched a bid to replace him.
The Attorney General, previously a Mr Johnson loyalist, told Peston on ITV that he had handled matters “appallingly” in recent days and that “the balance has tipped now in favour of saying that the Prime Minister – it pains me to say it – but it’s time to go”.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis became the latest MP to resign his role in the Cabinet at around 7am this morning, telling the Prime Minister that Government requires “honesty, integrity and mutual respect”.
Minutes later, Treasury minister Helen Whately also stepped down, writing that there “are only so many times you can apologise and move on” in her resignation letter.
And only moments ago, Security minister Damian Hinds resigned, saying: “It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.”
One Tory MP won the internet with comments relayed to PoliticsHome reporter John Johnston.
Bravo, sir. Bravo.