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Analysis: Another loyalty test for Johnson could shed light on a successor.


LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson has survived scandals and setbacks that would have sunk many other politicians, in part because he maintained support from his cabinet. But that changed dramatically on Tuesday night.

Two senior ministers – Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid – have tendered their resignations after the PM apologized for the latest in a series of scandals that have swallowed up his government. Their departure opens a huge crack at a time when Mr Johnson was already battling a mutiny within his Tory Party following months of uproar over Downing Street parties that breached coronavirus lockdown rules.

Several analysts said the impact of the resignations was likely to shatter whatever support Mr Johnson still had within the party. While the mechanics of forcing him out are complicated – and Mr Johnson has yet to show any indication that he is ready to step down on his own – the dynamics have become much more difficult for him.

“Javid and Sunak are teaming up to create a far bigger hole in the cabinet than would have been the case if it were either one,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London. “I don’t see how he’s going to get out of this. It really does feel like the end of the road this time.

Senior Tory lawmakers have also said the departure of Mr Sunak and Mr Javid would deal a fatal blow to Mr Johnson. Both are major party figures, with their own potential leadership aspirations, although Mr Sunak’s star has faded in recent months due to questions over the tax status of his wealthy wife.

One of the reasons cabinet support is important to Mr Johnson is that it has prevented a major figure from emerging as a rival for him. Whether Mr Sunak or Mr Javid will try to play the role is an open question – as is whether other ambitious ministers will follow them out the door.

On Tuesday evening, it emerged that several other top ministers remained, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss; Defense Minister Ben Wallace; and Michael Gove, a former rival of Mr Johnson who holds a key portfolio overseeing economic ‘race up’ policy to boost prosperity in the north of England.

Mr Johnson fended off a no-confidence vote against his party last month largely because there were no obvious successors for him. But a collapsing cabinet could bring such a figure to the stage.

nytimes Eur

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