Boris Johnson is currently under a parliamentary investigation into whether he misled MPs over being unaware of No 10 lockdown-busting parties in 2020 and 2021.
The UK prime minister denies the claims, but numerous MPs have accused him of being personally involved in boozy socialising at Downing Street, and have called on him to resign.
Rebel Tory MPs have reacted angrily to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s shift to pursuing right-wing nationalistic policies in recent weeks as his future remains in the balance amid the “Partygate” tumult.
The policies pertain to plans to reinstate imperial measurements and override the Northern Ireland Protocol, as well as a hint about expanding grammar schools and a review of fracking.
Chair of the Commons Defence Committee and former Tory minister Tobias Ellwood told Sky News that the Conservative Party “will lose the next election on the current trajectory as reflected in recent elections”, a nod to the UK’s local elections earlier in May, when Tories lost hundreds of seats to Labour and Lib Dems.
“There is not only just a concern on the conduct of behaviour in No 10, because that has breached the trust with the British people, it is now concerns about No 10 thinking what our policies are,” Ellwood said.
Referring to No 10’s plans to revive the imperial weights and measures policy, he argued that “there will be some people” in the Conservative Party, “which will like this nostalgic policy in the hope that it’s enough to win the next election but this is not the case”. According to him, “this is not one-nation Conservative thinking that is required to appeal beyond our base.”
The Guardian in turn cited an unnamed Tory cabinet source as saying that the imperial measures policy was “absolutely bananas”, while another insider cabinet source claimed that No 10 had “no idea which muppet had come up with that idea”, as “this is not what the government’s overall strategy is about”.
One more source told the Guardian that he represented a seat in the “heart of middle England” and that about half of the core Conservative voters there had lost faith in Johnson.
The insider was echoed by Carl Les, the Conservative leader of North Yorkshire county council, who blamed the UK prime minister for his party’s heavy losses in the local elections and insisted that it was time for a leadership vote.
“I am very disappointed that the strong majority we had in North Yorkshire has diminished down to a working majority, but only just, and a lot of the comment we were getting on the doorstep was about the impact of ‘Partygate’,” Les pointed out.
The remarks came after four more MPs urged Johnson to resign over the “Partygate” row, including former attorney general Jeremy Wright. In his letter to withdraw support for BoJo, Wright wrote that Johnson had done “real and lasting damage” to the institution of government, and while he could not be sure that the PM had misled parliament on “Partygate”, Johnson had been at best “negligent” in how he had approached the issue.
This was preceded by several unnamed Tory MPs telling the Guardian that they believed the threshold of 54 letters withdrawing support for Johnson was close to being crossed, or even may have been already. This is something that that allows the lawmakers to trigger a secret ballot on whether they still have confidence in the PM.
Sue Gray’s ‘Partygate’ Report
The MPs remarks followed Tuesday’s release of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s full report on the “Partygate” scandal, a document that was delayed until the conclusion of a Metropolitan Police probe into the matter, which resulted in 126 small Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) fines being issued, including one for Johnson.
Gray’s report focused on 16 events where government staff allegedly socialised with food and drink at Downing Street in breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules in 2020 and 2021, something that included going away parties for three members of staff. The senior civil servant wrote that “what took place at many of these gatherings and the way in which they developed was not in line with COVID guidance at the time.”
“There were failures of leadership and judgement by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did,” she added.
According to her, “the public have a right to expect the very highest standards of behaviour in such places, and clearly what happened fell well short of this.”
She also stressed that “the excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time” and that “steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”
In a statement to Parliament following the report’s publication, Johnson denied deliberately misleading Parliament when he said he was unaware of rule-breaking at his office, insisting that he had believed the leaving parties and other social gatherings at Downing Street were legitimate workplace events. The PM thanked Gray for her report, reiterating his previous apologies to the nation for the scandal.
“I take full responsibility for everything that took place on my watch. Sue Gray’s report has emphasised that it is up to the political leadership to take ultimate responsibility, and of course I do,” BoJo said.