Boris Johnson should “leave with dignity” and “go now”, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said as the Prime Minister’s refusal to quit triggered another wave of ministerial resignations.
Mr Zahawi, who was only appointed on Tuesday, said he had made clear privately to Mr Johnson that he should go but “I am heartbroken that he hasn’t listened and that he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this Government at this late hour”.
The Chancellor’s extraordinary statement said the country “deserves a Government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity”.
Mr Zahawi has not resigned but Michelle Donelan, who was also only appointed on Tuesday night, quit as Education Secretary.
She told Mr Johnson “I can see no way that you can continue in post” but without a formal mechanism to remove him the Cabinet must “force your hand”.
Brandon Lewis quit his Cabinet post as Northern Ireland Secretary, telling the Prime Minister the Government requires “honesty, integrity and mutual respect” and it is “now past the point of no return”.
His departure was soon followed by a string of other ministers as the number of MPs quitting government and party posts since Tuesday evening topped 50.
Helen Whately quit as a Treasury minister, telling Mr Johnson: “I have argued that you should continue as Prime Minister many times in recent months, but there are only so many times you can apologise and move on. That point has been reached.”
Damian Hinds resigned as security minister, telling Mr Johnson there has been a “serious erosion” in standards in public life and “faith in our democracy and public administration”.
He said on Twitter: “It shouldn’t take the resignation of dozens of colleagues, but for our country, and trust in our democracy, we must have a change of leadership.”
Science minister George Freeman wrote to the Prime Minister to say he no longer has confidence in his leadership.
In his resignation letter, he told Mr Johnson “the chaos in your Cabinet and No 10 this month is destroying our credibility” and “it can’t go on”.
Guy Opperman left his role as pensions minister, telling Mr Johnson that “recent events have shown clearly that the Government simply cannot function with you in charge”.
Courts minister James Cartlidge quit, saying “the position is clearly untenable”.
Wales Office minister David Davies said he would not take a Cabinet role in place of his departed boss Simon Hart.
“We should not be in the position of losing decent and hard working ministers,” he said. “I made clear last night that I will not take the role.”
Despite the exodus from his Government and a delegation of Cabinet ministers telling him he should go on Wednesday, Mr Johnson remains in office.
Because of his refusal to resign, the Prime Minister faces the prospect of another confidence vote, orchestrated by the Tory 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
A new executive for the committee will be elected next Monday and could change the leadership rules, allowing for another confidence vote just a month after the last one – which the Prime Minister is expected to lose given the way MPs have deserted him since Tuesday.
While Mr Johnson remains in post, jostling for the leadership has already begun.
Attorney General Suella Braverman is still in the role despite calling for the Prime Minister to quit and saying she will stand in the contest to replace him.
Ms Braverman said the Government was “technically” still functioning but told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The facts are undeniable, he can’t command the confidence of sufficient numbers of people to serve in his government, he can’t engender the support of the parliamentary party.”
The departure of Mr Lewis and Ms Donelan means five Cabinet ministers have quit – Mr Hart resigned as Welsh secretary on Wednesday night, while chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid stepped down on Tuesday, triggering the leadership crisis.
Michael Gove was fired as communities secretary, with No 10 sources describing him as a “snake” who had briefed against Mr Johnson.