Boris Johnson needs to go over a 'matter of trust' says Davis
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Sue Gray’s report into the “partygate” scandal is due imminently, and is being eagerly anticipated as its findings could prove damning for the Prime Minister. It follows an inquiry into allegations that there were a number of social gatherings within Downing Street while the country was under coronavirus restrictions preventing members of the public from acting in kind.
Mr Johnson has already admitted to the House of Commons that he attended one such gathering in May 2020, when Britain was still emerging from its first nationwide lockdown.
He apologised and claimed that he thought it was a work gathering at the time.
Downing Street was also forced to make a public apology to Buckingham Palace after it was revealed that a staff leaving drinks had taken place the night before the Queen sat alone at Prince Philip’s funeral.
If Ms Gray finds that Mr Johnson deliberately lied to Parliament and the public over what he knew about the alleged gatherings, one escape route is he will have to resign, insiders indicated.
However, senior members of the Conservative Party told PoliticsHome that they believe any other outcome would allow the Prime Minister to “hold on” until the next election.
A former Cabinet minister told the publication: “If it’s deliberate lying and facts emerge that [Johnson] would have known about, and he has flatly said the opposite knowingly, that’s a problem.
“Short of that I think he lives to fight another day.”
Reports emerged last week of a so-called “pork pie plot” among Red Wall Tory MPs to coordinate their letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson, as he faced calls to resign.
Around 20 MPs were believed to have met over lunch on Tuesday to work out when best to submit their formal notices to the backbench 1922 Committee.
The plot was named after Alicia Kearns, one of the alleged ringleaders and MP for Melton Mowbray.
At last count, six Tory MPs have publicly declared no confidence in the PM.
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The former Cabinet minister said that the relatively new Red Wall MPs had “not been steady under fire”.
One senior Tory told PoliticsHome: “As I’ve said to younger colleagues, if you start this in train you not only have a four month leadership election, a new leader, a new Government, we’ve lost six months of governing and then the pressure will be on for an early election.
“Is that what you want?”
Another senior Tory MP commented: “Nobody was willing to front up.
“Instead, since Wednesday, they have spent time busily briefing ‘it wasn’t me guv’. All they have done is embarrassed themselves and the party. Time they all just back off and keep quiet.”
Despite a somewhat more subdued feeling around Westminster this week, if Mr Johnson survives the Sue Gray report, he will be pressured to make changes in the way he governs.
A Government source said that Cabinet ministers were expecting a cull of Number 10 staff in exchange for continued support of the Prime Minister’s leadership.
Several potential scalps have been mentioned in the past week, but Martin Reynolds – Mr Johnson’s private secretary, who sent the now-infamous email invitation to the Downing Street garden drinks – has faced calls to resign.
Tory MPs have reportedly also floated the idea of hiring a new chief of staff to replace Dan Rosenfield – also rumoured to be facing the sack – who is an MP or former MP.
The Government source said that the new Chief of Staff would “need to be elected so they’ve got skin in the game”.
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