Pensions minister resigns as new chancellor tells PM 'go now'

Pensions minister resigns as new chancellor tells PM 'go now'

Pensions minister Guy Opperman has resigned, becoming the 51st MP to quit their government role as calls grow louder for the UK prime minister’s leadership to end.

Opperman was the longest serving pensions minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, having taken up ministerial office on June 14, 2017.

In his resignation letter, the now former pensions minister said the government can no longer function and has asked Boris Johnson to step down from office.

Nadhim Zahawi, who has been chancellor for two days, also said this morning (July 7) Johnson should leave office and that his leadership "is not sustainable" and "will only get worse”.

Michelle Donelan, who was appointed education secretary two days ago, has also resigned this morning.

In his resignation letter, Opperman wrote: “I have given you ample opportunity to show real change. Sadly, recent events have shown clearly that government simply cannot function with you in charge."

“In good faith, and with regret, for the good of the country, I must ask you to stand down. No one individual, however successful in the past, is bigger than the party, or this great country.”

Over the past week Johnson has been embroiled in a row over his role in appointing MP Chris Pincher as deputy chief whip earlier this year.

Pincher resigned last week after allegedly groping two men at a private member’s club in London.

But there were questions over whether Johnson was aware of a separate sexual misconduct allegation made against Pincher before he was appointed to the role of deputy whip.

A number of high-profile cabinet ministers have resigned over the last two days over the row, including former chancellor Rishi Sunak and former economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen.

At 08:50am this morning, 54 MPs had resigned from government responsibilities, with some of the more recent resignations described as ‘ultra-loyalists’ to Johnson.

Reacting to Opperman’s exit, director of public affairs at the Lang Cat, Tom McPhail, said: “I've mixed feelings aboutGuy Opperman resigning. He's been an effective pensions minister, great energy and focus so I'm sorry we've lost him. 

“However, I'm also pleased to see him disassociate himself from this failing government. I hope it helps bring change and renewal.”

Steve Webb, who was pensions minister before Opperman, said “it’s only fair to acknowledge progress in five years on some areas including the impact of pension funds on climate change and paving the way for CDC [collective defined contribution]”.

He added: “But too much pension policy has been in limbo for five years, including automatic enrolment and superfunds.”

Yesterday (July 6), Opperman blamed Steve Webb for the litany of state pension failures the Department for Work and Pensions is now dealing with.

Before taking up a career in politics, Opperman trained as a solicitor. He was called to the Bar in 1989 and spent 20 years as a barrister – 15 years of which were spent predominantly at the criminal bar.