LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government faced a new crisis on Tuesday after two of his top Cabinet ministers resigned within minutes of each other.
Treasury Chief Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned, saying the government under Johnson was no longer competent or “acting in the national interest”.
The seemingly coordinated exits came after Johnson was hit with allegations that he lied about how he handled allegations of sexual misconduct by a senior appointed lawmaker.
Both Javid and Sunak are key Cabinet members and both are seen as potential successors to Johnson, leaving his perilous position.
A look at who Sunak and Javid are:
RISHI SUNAK, HEAD OF THE TREASURY
In his resignation letter, Sunak told Johnson “it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”
“The public rightly expects government to be run properly, competently and seriously. I recognize that this may be my last ministerial post, but I believe these standards are worth upholding and that is why I am stepping down,” he wrote.
Sunak was, until recently, widely seen as the party’s brightest rising star, the best-known of the potential leadership candidates – and the bookmakers’ favorite to succeed Johnson.
Sunak, 42, was thrust into the limelight when he became head of the Treasury in 2020, charged with the unenviable task of steering the economy through its worst economic crisis on record due to the pandemic. He has spent billions of pounds in emergency spending to help businesses and workers, and his policies have generally been viewed in a positive light.
But “partygate” changed those fortunes. Like Johnson, he was fined by police for attending a lockdown-blighted birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020. He has also come under heavy criticism for his slow response to the severe crisis the cost of living in Britain.
Sunak has also come under pressure following revelations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, avoided paying UK tax on her overseas earnings and that the former investment banker kept his US green card while serving in the government.
Born to Indian parents who moved to the UK from East Africa, Sunak attended the exclusive private school of Winchester College and studied at Oxford.
Some see his elite upbringing and past work for investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund as a deficit because he appears out of touch with mainstream voters.
SAJID JAVID, HEALTH SECRETARY
In his statement, Javid said he could “no longer, in good conscience, continue to serve in this government.”
Javid, 52, has been Health Secretary since June 2021, leading Britain’s response to COVID-19.
Prior to that, he served as Treasury chief but stepped down in early 2020 after clashing with Johnson over his order to fire his team of advisers.
That Johnson brought him back to government to handle the coronavirus response reflects his reputation for competence.
Javid, a father of four, was first elected in 2010 and has served in a variety of government positions including home secretary and head of the business, culture and housing departments.
He ran in the 2019 Conservative leadership election but was knocked out in the fourth round and lost to Johnson.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Javid has presented himself as a mainstream alternative to his privately-educated rivals – although he had a lucrative career in investment banking before entering politics.