Over 50 people working in his government resigned before Boris Johnson finally stepped down from his role as prime minister of the UK. Image: Number 10 / Flickr
After two days of chaos and turmoil, Boris Johnson has finally stepped down as prime minister.
The downfall of the UK government – and the way it’s taking place – has people across the country glued to the news, and while we’ve all been distracted from our work, so have they.
Whether you’ve been filled with glee or horror at the implosion of the government, let’s not forget that these are people who were supposed to be working, and are paid handsomely to do so. Instead, they have been drafting resignation letters and will be receiving payouts for doing so.
With more than 50 MPs – 30 of them ministers – resigning since the former chancellor Rishi Sunak and former health secretary Sajid Javid set the ball rolling, bill committees set to take place on Thursday were adjourned because there was no one to attend.
By Thursday morning, the Department for Education had zero ministers.
“The government has cancelled important bill committees in parliament tomorrow because they now don’t have enough Ministers to attend, meaning key legislation has effectively been suspended. A government that cannot perform even the most basic tasks needed to govern.” said Labour MP Conor McGinn.
What is the taxpayer bill for the Conservative’s chaos?
When a minister resigns they are entitled to severance pay, at 25 per cent of their full ministerial salary.
Five members of the cabinet (chancellor Rishi Sunak, health secretary Sajid Javid, Welsh secretary Simon Hart, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis and education secretary Michelle Donelan), 25 ministers, 23 parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) and five trade envoys had all resigned by the time Boris Johnson finally stepped down.
Donelan, who resigned 36 hours into her new role, earned herself a £16,876.25 pay out, though to be fair she has now said she will donate the sum to charity.
Boris Johnson himself is in line for a taxpayer handout of £18,860 when he eventually leaves.
Even Chris Pincher, the MP whose whose alleged inappropriate behaviour triggered the government meltdown in the first place, is entitled to a £7,920 pay-off for leaving his job as deputy chief whip.
And parliamentary private secretaries are entitled to £5,594 each, according to The Independent.
The total payout could be as high as £245,000, according to the independent fact-checking organisation Full Fact.
And those still in their jobs are urging ministers to give the money back
As a cost of living crisis and rising inflation are forcing many Brits to make difficult choices on how to spend their paypackets, opposition MPs have questioned whether it’s fair to reward those stepping down.
Labour MP Rupa Huq raised the issue in the House of Commons with Michael Ellis, the paymaster general, a few hours before Johnson resigned.
“At the same time we’ve got a government gripped by paralysis, and we have a cost of living crisis,” she said.
“Can he [Ellis] confirm now from that despatch box that they will be forfeiting their right to this? Because we do not reward failure.”
The payout applies for every minister who voluntarily resigns from the government, even if they do so for political reasons.
“Conservative MPs spent months defending Boris Johnson and failed to get rid of him when they had the chance,” said Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain.
“The public won’t forgive them for keeping him in place for so long.
“Now Conservative infighting and sheer incompetence has cost the taxpayer yet more money during this cost of living crisis.
“Conservative ministers who resigned should do the decent thing and pass up their payoffs for the good of the country.”
Correction: This article has been updated to show the total figure for severance pay is estimated at £245,000, not £420,000. Ellis did not dispute the earlier figure, calculated by the Liberal Democrat party, when asked about it directly in parliament by Labour MP Rupa Huq. However Full Fact and the Liberal Democrats have since revised the figure to £245,000. The Big Issue is happy to correct the figure.