The United Kingdom's Trade Envoy to New Zealand has just resigned amid a bloodbath at 10 Downing St.
David Mundell, who was only in New Zealand last month, is the latest MP to resign from a government role in revolt against UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership.
More than 30 Conservative MPs holding government roles have already resigned, with Cabinet ministers demanding Johnson steps down as leader after a list of scandals. However, the Prime Minister is defiant and refusing to resign.
Mundell announced on Twitter on Thursday morning that he was "very disappointed" Johnson has "not listened to the counsel of colleagues and stood down voluntarily in the interests of the country".
"Earlier this week I wrote to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee confirming I had no confidence in the Prime Minister and asking that a further vote of confidence be held," Mundell said. "I hope this can now take place as a matter of urgency."
"Clearly such views are not compatible with holding a Government role and accordingly I have stood down as UK Trade Envoy to New Zealand."
Johnson survived a confidence vote last month and current rules mean he can't immediately face another. However, many MPs are scurrying to have those rules changed.
Mundell was in New Zealand in June for trade talks. During his visit, he met with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and deputy Mayor Bill Cashmere.
"I am delighted to finally visit in New Zealand to start meeting businesses and stakeholders across a range of sectors to unlock the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement," he said at the time.
"There is so much opportunity to boost trade and investment between our countries. More trade means more jobs - here and in the UK - and I am looking forward to a busy first visit."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was at 10 Downing St on Friday to meet with Johnson. The pair discussed the NZ-UK FTA, which was signed earlier this year, as well as an extension to visas allowing Brits and Kiwis to live in each other's countries.
She also met with Mundell, who tweeted that it was a "huge pleasure" to meet Ardern.
"I know from many constituents, who spent time on working holidays in New Zealand in their younger days, how much they enjoyed the experience and the new skills they gained," the Daily Record reports Mundell as saying.
Mundell, a former Secretary of State for Scotland, has been a Conservative MP since 2005 and was the first openly gay Conservative Cabinet member. He was selected for the unpaid trade envoy role last year and said he planned to use existing contacts in New Zealand to strengthen the two countries' ties.
"I'm delighted to take on this new challenge," he said last August. "There are many potential opportunities to increase business links between our two nations with negotiations on a free trade agreement moving forward apace."
"I will be looking to build on our shared heritage and other existing connections to expand economic links."
This latest rebellion against Johnson comes after it emerged he appointed an MP to a prominent role despite previously being briefed that the lawmaker had been subject of sexual misconduct accusations.
"The prime minister is deluded if he feels he can cling on in the face of collapsed parliamentary support," said a senior Conservative lawmaker on condition of anonymity. "He is embarrassing the Conservative Party and showing contempt for the electorate."
But culture minister Nadine Dories said she was behind Johnson and, when asked if others also still backed him, she replied: "Yes, definitely."
The dramatic resignations on Tuesday of his health and finance ministers triggered a growing swell of other ministerial departures, while many Conservative lawmakers openly said they wanted him gone, questioning his fitness to govern and his integrity.
At parliamentary questions on Wednesday some Conservatives struggled not to laugh when others poked fun at him and he took a pummelling from a committee of senior politicians over his past behaviour, his motivation and some of the scandals that have come to define much of his tenure.
The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Britain's exit from the European Union and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Since then, some Conservatives have enthusiastically backed the former journalist and London mayor while others, despite reservations, supported him because he was able to appeal to parts of the electorate that usually rejected their party.
That was borne out in the December 2019 election. But his administration's combative and often chaotic approach to governing and a series of scandals have exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.
Despite even one-time supporters saying the current crisis could only end with his resignation, Johnson vowed to fight on and his spokesperson said he was confident of winning another confidence motion.
"The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when you've been handed a colossal mandate is to keep going," Johnson told parliament. "And that's what I'm going to do."
All might change next week when the 1922 Committee that sets the rules for the Conservative parliamentary party holds an election to its executive that could usher in a rule change to allow a second confidence vote on his leadership.
Johnson has tried to reassert his authority by quickly appointing Nadhim Zahawi - a rising Conservative star widely praised for the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccines - as finance minister. But Zahawi was among the group of ministers in Downing Street who were to tell him to go.
Earlier in parliament, senior ministers struggled to contain their laughter as the opposition Labour leader poked fun at his cabinet for being in the "charge of the lightweight brigade".
"At some point, we have to conclude that enough is enough. I believe that point is now," said Sajid Javid, in his resignation speech as health minister, with Johnson listening stony-faced.
His leadership has been mired in scandals over the last few months. He was fined by police for breaking COVID-19 lockdown laws, while a damning report laid bare breaches of those rules by Downing Street officials, and a committee is investigating whether he then lied to parliament about it.
There have also been policy U-turns, an ill-fated defence of a lawmaker who broke lobbying rules, and criticism that he has not done enough to tackle inflation, with many Britons struggling to cope with rising fuel and food prices.
The latest scandal saw Johnson apologising for appointing a lawmaker to a role involved in party welfare and discipline, after being briefed that the politician had been the subject of complaints about sexual misconduct.
With no immediate way of forcing Johnson from office, one Conservative lawmaker likened his determination to cling on to the attempts by former President Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 U.S. election result.
"We could end up in a Trumpian standoff," the lawmaker said. "This could end up causing enormous embarrassment and damage to the party."
Newshub / Reuters.