The main component in Ofgem’s calculations was a more than doubling of wholesale electricity and natural gas costs. These account for about 70 percent of the new price cap.

Coping with increases of such magnitude is beyond the scope of Ofgem, whose role is to protect consumers from profiteering by suppliers, Mr. Brearley said. “The truth is this is beyond the capacity of the industry and the regulator to address,” he added.

Looking to the race for the next prime minister, Mr. Brearley called on the winning candidate to intervene decisively in the energy markets.

“What I am clear about is the prime minister with his or her ministerial team will need to act urgently and decisively to address this,” he said. “The outlook for the winter without any action looks very difficult indeed.”

The leadership contest has been dominated by Ms. Truss’s promise to cut taxes, which is popular with the rank-and-file Conservative Party members who will vote for the next prime minister. But economists say it will do little to protect the most vulnerable people from the ravages of soaring energy bills.

With another hefty price increase looming in October, the public outcry over energy costs is likely to haunt the next prime minister. Unless the government develops an effective response, some analysts said, the issue could cripple the government and tilt the next election to the Labour Party.

The peculiar nature of Britain’s price cap system, analysts said, also amplifies the sticker shock from rising increases.

“We have a sort of worst-of-both-worlds system,” said Jonathan Portes, a professor of a professor of economics and public policy at Kings College London. “Household prices are related to the spot market, and we sort of save up price increases and dump them on households all at once.”

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Amazon Workers At U.K. Warehouse Stop Work To Protest Pay

By Associated Press
August 4, 2022

Amazon offered a raise of 42 cents an hour but workers in England are demanding an increase of $2.43 an hour.

More than 700 Amazon warehouse workers in England staged a protest Thursday in a dispute over pay, in the latest sign of workplace friction stoked by Britain’s cost of living crisis and a growing discontent among employees over wage and working conditions.

The GMB union said employees at the facility in Tilbury, Essex, east of London, stopped work after the ecommerce giant offered to raise salaries by 42 cents an hour.

The union said workers want a raise of $2.43 to better match the demands of their job and cope with soaring inflation. Amazon doesn’t recognize the union, which likely has one of the highest number of members at the Tilbury location out of its 28 U.K. facilities.

“Amazon is one of the most profitable companies on the planet,” said Steve Garelick, the GMB union’s regional organizer for logistics and gig economy. “With household costs spiraling, the least they can do is offer decent pay.” 

Garelick shared videos on Twitter of workers sitting down at tables, which he said showed a “withdrawal of labour” at the Tilbury warehouse.

He said Amazon’s “repeated use of short-term contracts is designed to undermine workers’ rights.”

Amazon said U.K. warehouse employee salaries will rise to between $12.78 and $13.93 an hour, which it called “competitive pay.” But its dependent on location.

As well, the company said employees get a comprehensive benefits package that includes private medical insurance, life insurance, subsidized meals, and employee discounts that are “worth thousands annually,” as well as a company pension plan.

Similar protests have been staged in the U.S., including in March, when more than 60 workers in New York and Maryland walked out on the job to call for a $3 raise and a return to 20-minute breaks the company put in place during the pandemic.

Amazon boosted its average hourly wage to $18 an hour last year.

The Amazon Labor Union, a nascent group composed of former and current Amazon workers, won its union election on Staten Island, New York partly on a platform of raising wages to $30 an hour. But getting anywhere close to that is bound to be a tough fight. Amazon has been seeking to scrap the union’s April victory and is petitioning the National Labor Relations Board for a new election.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Lufthansa cancels over 1,000 flights due to ground staff walkout

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Empty counters of German airline Lufthansa at Frankfurt Airport are pictured during a strike of security staff at various German airports, March 15, 2022. REUTERS/Timm Reichert/File Photo

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BERLIN, July 26 (Reuters) – Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) said it was cancelling more than 1,000 flights ahead of a one-day walkout by ground staff scheduled for Wednesday, just as families across Germany head off on their summer holidays.

Strikes and staff shortages have already forced airlines including Lufthansa to cancel thousands of flights and caused hours-long queues at major airports, frustrating holidaymakers keen to travel after COVID-19 related lockdowns. read more

Germany’s flagship carrier has cancelled 678 flights at its Frankfurt hub, most of which were scheduled for Wednesday, and 345 flights at Munich, Lufthansa said on Tuesday.

More than 130,000 passengers are affected, Lufthansa said, adding that there could be a few more cancellations and delays on Thursday and Friday, after the end of the strike called by labour union Verdi in pursuit of a 9.5% pay claim. read more

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U.K. Lawmakers Select 2 Final Candidates To Replace PM Boris Johnson

By Luke Hanrahan
July 21, 2022

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will remain in office until lawmakers vote and decide on either Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss as the new leader.

Members of Parliament have selected the final two candidates in the contest to become the U.K.’s next prime minister.

Rishi Sunak, the man in charge of the country’s finances during the pandemic, was an analyst at Goldman Sachs before government.

His Achilles heel is his family’s fortune and his wealthy wife’s controversial tax record.  

If Sunak is successful, he will become the country’s first prime minister of South Asian descent.  

“The question now for our members is, ‘Who is the best person to defeat Keir Starmer and the Labour Party at the next election?’ I believe I’m the only candidate who can do that,” Sunak said. 

The second final candidate is Liz Truss, who is the country’s current foreign secretary. Before becoming a politician, she was a successful accountant. Her Achilles heel is the fact that she was once a member of another political party — the Liberal Democrats — and, a leading campaigner to keep Britain in the European Union.

“What’s important is that we hit the ground running,” Truss said. “We’ve got two years until a likely next general election. And I want to deliver for people. I want to deliver lower taxes. I want to help struggling families.”

Both candidates have argued for extreme tax cuts. Truss’ proposed cuts would go furthest, and arrive faster — a move which appeals to core Conservative voters.

Sunak has countered by claiming his government will follow the mold of Margaret Thatcher’s, perhaps the most notorious Tory tax-cutting prime minister the country has ever seen.  

Sunak may have been the most popular with MPs, but the challenge now is to win over the Conservative Party’s roughly 160,000 members. Half of that number are over 60, and 97% of them are white and live in southern England. Among members, Truss is the favorite to win, and they now decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister.  

In Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s final appearance in Parliament, he paid tribute to himself. He will remain in office until the new leader is selected in early September.

Source: newsy.com

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Sunak And Truss Face Runoff To Become U.K.’s Next Prime Minister

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
July 20, 2022

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are the two finalists campaigning to replace current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned after months of scandals.

Britain’s Conservative Party chose former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss — a fiscal moderate and a low-tax crusader — as the two finalists in an election to replace departing Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The result came on the day the divisive, unrepentant Johnson ended his final appearance in Parliament as prime minister with the words “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Sunak and Truss came first and second respectively in a secret vote by Conservative lawmakers. Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt came in third and was eliminated.

The race, which has already produced bitter Conservative infighting, pits Sunak, who steered Britain’s economy through the pandemic before quitting Johnson’s government this month, against Truss, who has led the U.K.’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two contenders will spend the next few weeks campaigning for the votes of about 180,000 Conservative Party members around the country, who will vote by postal or online ballot. The winner of the party leadership vote will be announced Sept. 5 and will automatically become Britain’s next prime minister.

Sunak won all four rounds of elimination votes by lawmakers, but is less popular with the party’s grassroots, partly because of his previous job as Britain’s chief taxman.

Truss, who has taken a tough line against Russian President Vladimir Putin — and with the European Union — is a favorite of the Conservatives’ right-wing.

Truss said if she becomes prime minister “I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the party and govern in line with Conservative values.”

Sunak’s campaign said “the choice for members is very simple: who is the best person to beat Labour at the next election? The evidence shows that’s Rishi.”

The winner of the Tory contest will not have to face Britain’s general electorate until 2024, unless they choose to call an early general election.

The campaign has already exposed deep divisions in the Conservative Party at the end of Johnson’s scandal-tarnished three-year reign. Truss has branded Sunak a “socialist” for raising taxes in response to the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Sunak has hit back, saying that rivals including Truss were peddling economic “fairy tales” to British voters as the country faces soaring inflation and economic turbulence.

Johnson allies have been accused of lobbying against Sunak, whose resignation helped bring the prime minister down, and in favor of Truss, who remained loyal. That impression was cemented Wednesday when Johnson said his advice to his successor would be not always to listen to the Treasury.

All the contenders —- there were 11 to start — sought to distance themselves from Johnson, whose term in office began boldly in 2019 with a vow to “get Brexit done” and a resounding election victory, but is now ending in disgrace.

Johnson quit July 7 after months of ethics scandals but remains caretaker leader until the party elects his successor.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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The big default? The dozen countries in the danger zone

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LONDON, July 15 (Reuters) – Traditional debt crisis signs of crashing currencies, 1,000 basis point bond spreads and burned FX reserves point to a record number of developing nations now in trouble.

Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Russia, Suriname and Zambia are already in default, Belarus is on the brink and at least another dozen are in the danger zone as rising borrowing costs, inflation and debt all stoke fears of economic collapse.

Totting up the cost is eyewatering. Using 1,000 basis point bond spreads as a pain threshold, analysts calculate $400 billion of debt is in play. Argentina has by far the most at over $150 billion, while the next in line are Ecuador and Egypt with $40 billion-$45 billion.

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Crisis veterans hope many can still dodge default, especially if global markets calm and the IMF rows in with support, but these are the countries at risk.

ARGENTINA

The sovereign default world record holder looks likely to add to its tally. The peso now trades at a near 50% discount in the black market, reserves are critically low and bonds trade at just 20 cents in the dollar – less than half of what they were after the country’s 2020 debt restructuring.

The government doesn’t have any substantial debt to service until 2024, but it ramps up after that and concerns have crept in that powerful vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may push to renege on the International Monetary Fund. read more

Reuters Graphics

UKRAINE

Russia’s invasion means Ukraine will almost certainly have to restructure its $20 billion plus of debt, heavyweight investors such as Morgan Stanley and Amundi warn.

The crunch comes in September when $1.2 billion of bond payments are due. Aid money and reserves mean Kyiv could potentially pay. But with state-run Naftogaz this week asking for a two-year debt freeze, investors suspect the government will follow suit. read more

Ukraine bonds brace for default

TUNISIA

Africa has a cluster of countries going to the IMF but Tunisia looks one of the most at risk. read more

A near 10% budget deficit, one of the highest public sector wage bills in the world and there are concerns that securing, or a least sticking to, an IMF programme may be tough due to President Kais Saied’s push to strengthen his grip on power and the country’s powerful, incalcitrant labour union.

Tunisian bond spreads – the premium investors demand to buy the debt rather than U.S. bonds – have risen to over 2,800 basis points and along with Ukraine and El Salvador, Tunisia is on Morgan Stanley’s top three list of likely defaulters. “A deal with the International Monetary Fund becomes imperative,” Tunisia’s central bank chief Marouan Abassi has said. read more

African bonds suffering

GHANA

Furious borrowing has seen Ghana’s debt-to-GDP ratio soar to almost 85%. Its currency, the cedi, has lost nearly a quarter of its value this year and it was already spending over half of tax revenues on debt interest payments. Inflation is also getting close to 30%.

Reuters Graphics

EGYPT

Egypt has a near 95% debt-to-GDP ratio and has seen one of the biggest exoduses of international cash this year – some $11 billion according to JPMorgan.

Fund firm FIM Partners estimates Egypt has $100 billion of hard currency debt to pay over the next five years, including a meaty $3.3 billion bond in 2024.

Cairo devalued the pound 15% and asked the IMF for help in March but bond spreads are now over 1,200 basis points and credit default swaps (CDS) – an investor tool to hedge risk – price in a 55% chance it fails on a payment. read more

Francesc Balcells, CIO of EM debt at FIM Partners, estimates though that roughly half the $100 billion Egypt needs to pay by 2027 is to the IMF or bilateral, mainly in the Gulf. “Under normal conditions, Egypt should be able to pay,” Balcells said.

Egypt’s falling foreign exchange reserves

KENYA

Kenya spends roughly 30% of revenues on interest payments. Its bonds have lost almost half their value and it currently has no access to capital markets – a problem with a $2 billion dollar bond coming due in 2024.

On Kenya, Egypt, Tunisia and Ghana, Moody’s David Rogovic said: “These countries are the most vulnerable just because of the amount of debt coming due relative to reserves, and the fiscal challenges in terms of stabilising debt burdens.”

Kenya’s concerns

ETHIOPIA

Addis Ababa plans to be one of the first countries to get debt relief under the G20 Common Framework programme. Progress has been held up by the country’s ongoing civil war though in the meantime it continues to service its sole $1 billion international bond. read more

Africa’s debt problems

EL SALVADOR

Making bitcoin legal tender all but closed the door to IMF hopes. Trust has fallen to the point where an $800 million bond maturing in six months trades at a 30% discount and longer-term ones at a 70% discount.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan struck a crucial IMF deal this week. read more The breakthrough could not be more timely, with high energy import prices pushing the country to the brink of a balance of payments crisis.

Foreign currency reserves have fallen to as low as $9.8 billion, hardly enough for five weeks of imports. The Pakistani rupee has weakened to record lows. The new government needs to cut spending rapidly now as it spends 40% of its revenues on interest payments.

Countries in debt distress at record high

BELARUS

Western sanctions wrestled Russia into default last month read more and Belarus now facing the same tough treatment having stood with Moscow in the Ukraine campaign.

Belarus bonds

ECUADOR

The Latin American country only defaulted two years ago but it has been rocked back into crisis by violent protests and an attempt to oust President Guillermo Lasso. read more

It has lots of debt and with the government subsidising fuel and food JPMorgan has ratcheted up its public sector fiscal deficit forecast to 2.4% of GDP this year and 2.1% next year. Bond spreads have topped 1,500 bps.

NIGERIA

Bond spreads are just over 1,000 bps but Nigeria’s next $500 million bond payment in a year’s time should easily be covered by reserves which have been steadily improving since June. It does though spend almost 30% of government revenues paying interest on its debt.

“I think the market is overpricing a lot of these risks,” investment firm abrdn’s head of emerging market debt, Brett Diment, said.

Currency markets in 2022
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Reporting by Marc Jones; Additional Reporting by Rachel Savage in London and Rodrigo Campos in New York; Editing by Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Boris Johnson quits as UK prime minister, dragged down by scandals

  • Cabinet ministers resigned en masse, telling Johnson to go
  • ‘Them’s the breaks’, Johnson says, blaming ‘herd instinct’
  • Aims to stay until successor named, many want him out now
  • Combative, chaotic approach to governing alienated many
  • Britain’s economy slumping in cost-of-living crisis

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) – Scandal-ridden Boris Johnson announced on Thursday he would quit as British prime minister after he dramatically lost the support of his ministers and most Conservative lawmakers, but said he would stay on until his successor was chosen.

Bowing to the inevitable as more than 50 government ministers and aides quit and lawmakers said he must go, an isolated and powerless Johnson said it was clear his party wanted someone else in charge, but that his forced departure was “eccentric” and the result of “herd instinct” in parliament.

“Today I have appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until a new leader is in place,” Johnson said outside his Downing Street office where his speech was watched by close allies and his wife Carrie.

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“I know that there will be many people who are relieved and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them’s the breaks,” he added, making no apology for the events that forced his announcement.

His term in office was ended by scandals that included breaches of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown rules, a luxury renovation of his official residence and the appointment of a minister who had been accused of sexual misconduct.

There were cheers and applause as he began his speech, while boos rang out from some outside the gates of Downing Street.

After days of battling for his job, Johnson had been deserted by all but a handful of his closest allies after the latest in a series of scandals sapped their willingness to support him.

“It was a short and bizarre resignation speech which didn’t mention the word resign or resignation once. There was no apology, no contrition,” Conservative lawmaker Andrew Bridgen said. “There was no apology for the crisis his actions have put our government, our democracy, through.”

The Conservatives will now have to elect a new leader, a process which could take weeks or months, with details to be announced next week. read more

POTENTIAL SUCCESSORS

A snap YouGov poll found that defence minister Ben Wallace was the favourite among Conservative Party members to replace Johnson, followed by junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt and former finance minister Rishi Sunak.

Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said on Thursday he planned to run in the leadership contest. read more

While Johnson said he would stay on, opponents and many in his own party said he should leave immediately and hand over to his deputy, Dominic Raab. Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major said it was “unwise and maybe unsustainable” for him to remain in office when he could still exert its powers.

Johnson’s office said he made clear at a meeting of his new cabinet on Thursday that the government would not seek to implement new policies or make major changes of direction, and major fiscal decisions should be left for the next leader.

The Financial Times, citing lawmakers with knowledge of the plans, said the party intended to have a new prime minister in place by the time parliament returns from its summer break in early September.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said he would call a parliamentary confidence vote if the Conservatives did not remove Johnson at once. read more

COST-OF-LIVING CRISIS

Johnson is leaving behind an economy in crisis. Britons are facing the tightest squeeze on their finances in decades in the wake of the pandemic, with soaring inflation. The economy is forecast to be the weakest among major nations in 2023 apart from Russia.

His departure also follows years of internal division sparked by the narrow 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and threats to the make-up of the United Kingdom itself with demands for another Scottish independence referendum, the second in a decade.

Support for Johnson had evaporated during one of the most turbulent 24 hours in recent British political history, epitomised by finance minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed to his post on Tuesday, calling on his boss to resign.

Zahawi and other cabinet ministers went to Downing Street on Wednesday evening, along with a senior representative of those lawmakers not in government, to tell Johnson the game was up.

Initially, Johnson refused to go and seemed set to dig in, sacking Michael Gove – a member of his top ministerial team who was one of the first to tell him he needed to resign – in a bid to reassert his authority.

But by Thursday morning as a slew of resignations poured in – including that of Michelle Donelan who he’d only appointed education secretary on Tuesday night – it became clear his position was untenable.

“You must do the right thing and go now,” Zahawi tweeted.

Some of those that remained, including Wallace, had said they were only doing so because they had an obligation to keep the country safe.

Once it was clear he was standing down, Johnson began appointing ministers to vacant posts.

“It is our duty now to make sure the people of this country have a functioning government,” Michael Ellis, a minister in the Cabinet Office department which oversees the running of government, told parliament.

FROM POPULAR TO DESERTED

The ebullient Johnson came to power nearly three years ago, promising to deliver Brexit and rescue it from the bitter wrangling that followed the 2016 referendum. He shrugged off concerns from some that his narcissism, failure to deal with details, and a reputation for deceit meant he was unsuitable.

Some Conservatives 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 the scandals exhausted the goodwill of many of his lawmakers while opinion polls show he is no longer popular with the public at large.

The most recent crisis erupted after lawmaker Chris Pincher, who held a government role involved in pastoral care, quit over accusations he groped men in a private club.

Johnson had to apologise after it emerged that he was briefed that Pincher had been the subject of previous sexual misconduct complaints before he appointed him. The prime minister said he had forgotten.

This followed months of missteps, including a damning report into boozy parties at his Downing Street residence and office that broke COVID-19 lockdown rules and saw him fined by police over a gathering for his 56th birthday.

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 the cost-of-living crisis.

In his resignation speech, Johnson highlighted his successes – from completing Brexit to overseeing the fastest COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Europe. But he said his attempts to persuade colleagues that changing leader while there was war in Ukraine and the government was delivering on its agenda had failed.

“I regret not to have been successful in those arguments. And of course, it’s painful not to be able to see through so many ideas and projects myself,” he said.

“But as we’ve seen at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful – when the herd moves, it moves and, my friends, in politics no one is remotely indispensable.”

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Reporting by Kate Holton, Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smout; Additional reporting by William James, Kylie MacLellan, Andrew MacAskill, William Schomberg, Muvija M, Farouq Suleiman and Sachin Ravikumar; Writing by Michael Holden; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Toby Chopra, Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool

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UK Conservatives say ‘toxic’ Boris Johnson should be replaced now

  • Johnson resigns but resists stepping down immediately
  • PM wants to remain in power until a successor is found
  • Former PM Major said Johnson must be removed quickly
  • Conservative lawmakers call for him to go now

LONDON, July 7 (Reuters) – Former British Prime Minister John Major said Boris Johnson should be replaced immediately rather than be allowed to remain as a caretaker leader because his cabinet may struggle to “restrain him”, amid wider calls for him to be removed now.

Johnson announced his resignation as prime minister on Thursday after he was deserted by cabinet ministers and many Conservative Party lawmakers who said he was no longer fit to govern. read more

Speaking outside his Downing Street office, Johnson announced his “painful” resignation but defied pressure to step down immediately, insisting he planned to stay on as prime minister while his party picks his successor.

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Major released a letter saying it was “unwise, and may be unsustainable” for Johnson to remain in power for several months.

That call was echoed by several Conservative members of parliament, who said Johnson’s behaviour this week when he refused to resign, means he should be forced out before the leadership contest, a process that could take months.

“The proposal for the prime minister to remain in office – for up to three months – having lost the support of his cabinet, his government and his parliamentary party is unwise, and may be unsustainable,” Major said in a letter.

“Some will argue that his new cabinet will restrain him. I merely note that his previous cabinet did not – or could not – do so.”

The prime minister’s decision to quit marks the end of a rollercoaster political career in which he led Britain out of the European Union and took his Conservative Party to the largest election victory in three decades.

It follows three years of scandals, including anger over parties held at his Downing Street office during coronavirus lockdowns, accusations of breaking international law over his threat to override parts of the treaty governing Britain’s exit from the European Union and, most recently, his handling of sexual harassment allegations against a lawmaker.

‘GO MEANS GO’

Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London, said that British prime ministers ousted outside of general elections are normally allowed to remain in power until a successor is chosen.

But Bale said there was a lack of trust between Johnson and his members of parliament (MPs) after he refused to step down this week even after several cabinet ministers told him to quit.

“A lot of MPs simply don’t want to risk him saying and doing anything over the summer that will tarnish the party’s reputation further,” Bale said.

Simon Hoare, a Conservative member of parliament, said Johnson’s behaviour meant he had forfeited the right to remain as a caretaker leader.

“Ministers resigned because of the PM. The party lost confidence because of the PM. It is beyond credulity that Mr Johnson can stay in office … He has to go and go means go.”

Another Conservative lawmaker said: “We need to be rid of Boris as soon as possible. He’s too toxic.”

Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, would be a suitable temporary replacement, Major and several Conservative lawmakers said.

A third Conservative lawmaker said if Johnson tried to stay on as caretaker premier, he would ask the executive of the 1922 Committee, an influential group of Conservative lawmakers, to tell the prime minister to go now.

Chris Bryant, a member of parliament for the opposition Labour Party, said Britain needed an established government to deal with the twin challenges of a cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine.

Bryant said, for example, that a caretaker government would be unable to deploy troops. “A caretaker government can’t do that. It simply can’t, the rules forbid them from doing that. So can we please, please have a proper government soon.”

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