“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister, and I’ve agreed with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of our backbench MPs, that the process of choosing that new leader should begin now and the timetable will be announced next week.
“And I’ve today appointed a cabinet to serve, as I will, until the new leader is in place.
“So I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019, many of them voting Conservative for the first time: ‘Thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Conservative majority since 1987, the biggest share of the vote since 1979.’
“And the reason I have fought so hard in the last few days to continue to deliver that mandate in person was not just because I wanted to do so, but because I felt it was my job, my duty, my obligation to you to continue to do what we promised in 2019.”
“And of course, I’m immensely proud of the achievements of this government: from getting Brexit done to settling our relations with the continent for over half a century, reclaiming the power for this country to make its own laws in parliament, getting us all through the pandemic, delivering the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, the fastest exit from lockdown, and in the last few months, leading the West in standing up to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
“And let me say now, to the people of Ukraine, that I know that we in the UK will continue to back your fight for freedom for as long as it takes.
“And at the same time, in this country, we’ve been pushing forward a vast programme of investment in infrastructure and skills and technology, the biggest in a century.
“Because if I have one insight into human beings, it is that genius and talent and enthusiasm and imagination are evenly distributed throughout the population but opportunity is not.
“And that’s why we must keep levelling up, keep unleashing the potential in every part of the United Kingdom. And if we could do that, in this country, we will be the most prosperous in Europe.”
“And in the last few days, I’ve tried to persuade my colleagues that it would be eccentric to change governments when we’re delivering so much and when we have such a vast mandate and when we’re actually only a handful of points behind in the polls, even in midterm after quite a few months of pretty relentless sledging and when the economic scene is so difficult domestically and internationally.
“And 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. But as we’ve seen at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves.
And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable, and our brilliant and Darwinian system will produce another leader, equally committed to taking this country forward through tough times, not just helping families to get through it but changing and improving the way we do things, cutting burdens on businesses and families and yes, cutting taxes, because that is the way to generate the growth and the income we need to pay for great public services.
“And to that new leader, I say wherever he or she may be, I say I will give you as much support as I can.”