Boris Johnson was locked in an unprecedented standoff with his own cabinet on Wednesday, as he clung to power after an extraordinary day that saw more than 40 resignations, and the sacking of Michael Gove.
The prime minister appeared determined to fight on, despite a delegation of senior cabinet ministers, including the home secretary, Priti Patel, and the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, personally urging him to resign.
Instead of stepping down, Johnson responded by sacking Gove as levelling up secretary. Gove had earlier told the prime minister in a face-to-face meeting that he believed his position was unsustainable, given the number of MPs who had turned against him.
In the wake of Gove’s sacking, Johnson’s allies reportedly described him as a “snake”. They said the prime minister had no plans to step aside. A Downing Street source said: “He wants to stay and fight. The choice is a summer of navel-gazing and instability or a new partnership that finally moves forward and tackles the cost of living crisis and grows the economy.