Boris Johnson will announce his resignation this morning after concluding that his position is untenable.
The prime minister has told allies that he wants to stay on until the Conservative Party conference in the Autumn with a new leader taking over at that point.
This morning his new chancellor told him to “go now” and warned him he is undermining his record by refusing to resign, as the education secretary quit after less than two days in the job.
Nadhim Zahawi, who became chancellor only 36 hours ago, said that he had told the prime minister to quit yesterday.
In what was effectively an open letter to the prime minister, Zahawi said: “When asked to become chancellor, I did it out of loyalty. Not to a man, but loyalty to this country and all it has given me.” He added: “If people have thought poorly of me for that decision, it is criticism I am willing to shoulder.”
Zahawi continued: “Yesterday, I made clear to the prime minister alongside my colleagues in No 10 that there was only one direction where this was going, and that he should leave with dignity. Out of respect, and in the hopes that he would listen to an old friend of 30 years, I kept this counsel private.
“I am heartbroken that he hasn’t listened and that he is now undermining the incredible achievements of this government at this late hour. No one will forget getting Brexit done, keeping a dangerous antisemite out of No 10, our handling of Covid and our support for Ukraine in its hour of need.
“But the country deserves a government that is not only stable, but which acts with integrity. Prime minister, you know in your heart what the right thing to do is, and go now.”
The extraordinary public letter was followed within minutes by the resignation of Michelle Donelan, who succeeded him as education secretary on Tuesday night. It means there is only one member of the House of Lords left as a minister at the Department for Education.
Donelan wrote: “Whilst I remain very worried about the prospect of no ministers in the department, as we approach results day – the impact on students is real – as you know, yesterday I pleaded with you to do the right thing and resign for the sake of our country and our party, both are more important than any one person.
“In life we must always do what we believe is right. Above all I am here to serve the British public. I see no way that you can continue in post, but without a formal mechanism to remove you it seems that the only way that this is only possible is for those of us who remain in cabinet to force your hand.
“You have put us in an impossible situation. I am deeply saddened that it has come to this, but as someone who values integrity above all else, I have no choice.”
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, this morning announced that he was standing down, adding that: “We are past the point of no return.”
More than 50 government ministers and aides have resigned in the space of the past 48 hours, a record, leaving swathes of government roles unfilled.