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Archbishop Welby: ‘I will continue to pray for Boris Johnson’

08 July 2022

ALAMY

Boris Johnson delivers his statement of resignation outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday

Boris Johnson delivers his statement of resignation outside 10 Downing Street on Thursday

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said that he will continue to pray for the Prime Minister, who resigned on Thursday morning after losing the support of dozens of his ministers over the previous days.

On Tuesday night, the resignation of Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Sajid Javid as Health Secretary prompted more than 50 members of the Government to follow suit. Several who remained in post none the less implored Boris Johnson to resign, including his new Chancellor, the former Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi.

Speaking from a podium outside 10 Downing Street at lunchtime, Mr Johnson said: “In the last few days I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much. . . But as we’ve seen, at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves it moves. . . No one is remotely indispensable.”

His speech did not include an apology. Mr Johnson has been under pressure from MPs and the public for months, after he was fined for breaking his own lockdown rules (News, 27 May). The pressure increased with two lost by-elections, and became insupportable after No. 10 denied for several days that the Prime Minister had any knowledge of allegations of misconduct by Chris Pincher MP, who resigned as deputy chief whip last week.

Archbishop Welby said in a statement on Thursday evening: “Christians are called to pray for everyone who takes on the great responsibility of political leadership. I have prayed for Boris Johnson throughout his premiership, particularly during these times of great crisis in our nation and around the world.

“As he prepares to leave office, I will pray for him and his family in this time of transition — as I will for those contemplating taking on the serious duties of high office.

“As we go forward, let us be united around a vision of the common good where every person can flourish. As Christians we continue to pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is good news for every person, would be reflected in the common life we share together.”

The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Pete Wilcox, was less neutral. Responding to Mr Johnson’s speech, he wrote on Twitter: “It is surely a mistake for leaders to gloss over their mistakes, failings & shortcomings, when their audiences might be mindful of them.”

The recently retired Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, a former Labour councillor, was also candid. As the news broke, he wrote: “Goodbye. We won’t miss you. But now to work and pray for good government, integrity, and truth to return to the public square.”

On Friday morning, the Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, commented: “Interesting reading the various resignation letters over the past few days & see words like integrity, truth, conscience, humility, and respect re-enter our political and moral vocabulary. Hope it stays that way.”

In his Thought for the Day on Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, said that the convulsions in Westminster were typically dramatic, and that the public needed to understand what was driving the characters involved — as was the case in the Bible and the works of Shakespeare.

The Bible was “brutally frank about reality and how real people behave, what drives them, which values are to be seen as virtues. And this is where the current political dramas come in. Character and virtue are both essential to leadership and the common life of a society. So are the vision and values that drive the ordering of our society.”

He also pointed at the responsibility of the electorate: “It is not just the actors on stage who shape the story, so does the audience by its engagement.

“When things go awry or a society faces some reshaping, it is vital that these fundamental questions are addressed. Which values will drive us? Who and what are we for? Does virtue matter in public and institutional life? In these dramas no one is a mere spectator. All are responsible actors, accountable for playing their part.”

On Sunday, Mr Javid, who is one of 11Conservative MPs now running for leadership of the party, said that the resignation of Mr Pincher was the “final trigger” which prompted his decision to quit Mr Johnson’s Government, and that he had resolved to do so after hearing a sermon on integrity during the National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast that morning.

He told BBC1’s Sunday Morning Show: “It might sound a bit strange, but I was listening to the sermon by this amazing man, Reverend Les Isaac — you know, he started Street Pastors. I was listening to him talking about the importance of integrity in public life and, just focusing on that, I made up my mind. I went straight back to my office and drafted the resignation letter and went to see the Prime Minister later in the day.”

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