PM launches ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ as minister warns he ‘needs to change his ways’
Boris Johnson is “literally in hiding” and has “lost the moral authority to lead”, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said, following a series of fresh revelations about parties in Downing Street while Covid restrictions were in place.
No 10 was forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace on Friday after reports of two parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s socially-distanced funeral, while a further report emerged alleging that regular “wine time Friday” gatherings continued in Downing Street despite coronavirus restrictions.
In a bid to save his premiership, the prime minister has launched “Operation Save Big Dog”, as he seeks to shore up his own support within his party and draws up a list of officials who can offer their resignation after Sue Gray publishes the findings of her inquiry into the matter,The Independent understands.
Ms Gray is reported to have been “completely blindsided” by the new revelations, which came as exclusive polling for The Independent found that 70 per cent of voters believe the prime minister should resign – illustrated by warnings from some Tory MPs that their inboxes are flooded with angry complaints.
Amid calls for his resignation, one voter has given a less than favourable suggestion for the necessary course of action facing the prime minister.
Boris Johnson could still mount comeback, Tory MP suggests
If anyone can turn a situation around, Boris Johnson can, a Tory MP has suggested.
Asked whether the PM is best-placed to lead the Tories into the next election, Colonel Bob Stewart said: “Right at the moment he is, because I can’t see anyone else doing it. The one thing about Boris Johnson is, if anyone can turn a situation around, he can, and he’s proved that in the past.”
Pressed on that assertion, he said constituents of varying political persuasions he had spoken to this morning had made a similar point, adding: “Look, we dropped – apparently – 10 or 11 points in the polls within the last week.
“The polls and public opinion is very volatile. It can swing the other way too. The question is, which I believe is possible, can Boris Johnson do it as prime minister? And I believe he quite possibly could change the polls back again. But what I think now is there must be no more mistakes. No more mistakes.”
Boris Johnson ‘needed puppy gate’ to keep him in isolation
One person who worked for Boris Johnson has claimed his staff were forced to go to extraordinary lengths to stop him from mixing with others during his second period in Covid isolation.
Speaking to The Times, the source said: “I remember we had to create a ‘cat run’ for him to get down from the flat to his office so he wouldn’t come into contact with people.
“The idea was we could talk to him through the open door. But he kept on coming out so we put two chairs across the door like some kind of puppy gate.
“There was a pattern throughout. He just simply did not think about following the rules. They were not for him.”
Boris Johnson has ‘lost the moral authority to lead’, Tory MP says
Conservative backbencher Andrew Bridgen said Boris Johnson has “lost the moral authority to lead” after presiding over a culture of “one rule for them and the rest of us do as we’re told”.
The North West Leicestershire MP told BBC Breakfast: “[This is] not about one isolated incident, what we are seeing with these continued revelations coming out about what’s been going on at No 10 is a pattern of behaviour, and ultimately the buck stops with Boris Johnson.
“What I’ve seen, to me it looks like Boris Johnson and those in his inner circle can do what they want and the rest of us have to do as we are told – that’s not acceptable to me, it is not acceptable to my constituents or, I believe, most people in the country.
“And what that certainly isn’t is ‘levelling up’ in my book.”
While several reports suggest that there is a general consensus among Tory MPs to wait for the findings of the inquiry into the party scandal, Mr Bridgen said he did “not need to see what Sue Gray says to know that for me Boris Johnson has lost the moral authority to lead the country”.
‘Absent’ PM is ‘literally in hiding’ and ‘has got to go’, Labour leader says
It is in the “national interest” for Boris Johnson to resign, Sir Keir Starmer has argued.
Answering questions after a speech at the Fabian Society conference in London outlining his party’s plans to “clear up the mess that Tories have made of the NHS”, the Labour leader, said: “What we’ve now got to is a situation where you have a prime minister who has lost the moral authority to lead.
“And just when you need, because we are not out of the pandemic, a government that has that moral authority to lead, we’ve lost it with this prime minister.”
He added: “The moral authority matters of course in relation to Covid, but we’ve got other massive challenges facing this country. We’ve got a prime minister who is absent – he is literally in hiding at the moment and unable to lead, so that’s why I’ve concluded that he has got to go.
“And of course there is a party vantage in him going but actually it is now in the national interest that he goes, so it is very important now that the Tory Party does what it needs to do and gets rid of him.”
The prime minister is “limiting contact with others” in line with government guidance after a member of his family tested positive for coronavirus, No 10 said this week.
Labour ‘could win majority’ with current poll lead as Tories in ‘deep trouble’
The Conservative Party is in “deep trouble” over the No 10 party scandal, a polling expert has warned, with Labour now an average of 11 points in front.
“With those kind of numbers, even though the electoral system works at the moment very heavily against Labour, we could not rule out the possibility that Labour would win an election with an overall majority,” Professor Sir John Curtice told LBC.
“So the crucial point is – last month, Partygate did a lot of damage. There were signs of recovery in the polls as it went out of the media sphere at the beginning of this month. It’s all come back again and the Conservatives are probably in an even worse position.”
He warned that Conservative voters are now “deeply divided” over the prime minister’s future, adding: “Once you reach those kind of levels of disaffection inside your own electorate, then you do have to ask yourself, ‘well, what are we going to do about it?’”
Young school pupils ‘ask MP’ about whether Boris Johnson will resign
A senior MP has told the BBC of a school visit on Friday during which they were catcalled by teenage pupils about Boris Johnson’s behaviour and asked by a group of nine-year-olds whether the prime minister would resign.
Another senior MP, told the broadcaster that MPs will hear so much concern this weekend, “it could all be over on Monday”.
Sir Keir Starmer gives speech warning PM is ‘unable to lead’
The Labour leader is currently giving his speech to the Fabian Society, in which he had planned to say: “We are witnessing the broken spectacle of a prime minister mired in deceit and deception, unable to lead.”
Sir Keir Starmer accused the Conservatives of having made a “mess” of the NHS and said he believed lives could have been saved by a “swifter” response at the outset of the pandemic.
Boris Johnson ‘planning end to Plan B’ Covid restrictions as he fights to keep his job
As he fights to save his premiership, Boris Johnson is reportedly expected to lift plan B coronavirus measures in the coming days, with a decision on the restrictions due on 26 January – by which time the report into allegations of lockdown breaches in No 10 is expected to have been published.
The restrictions are expected to be lifted – though mask rules may still remain, according to The Daily Telegraph, which quoted a source as saying: “There frankly doesn’t seem to be any other expectation at the moment.”
Health secretary Sajid Javid is reported to have already decided that Covid passes are no longer necessary, as cases have fallen from their record peak.
Tory MP Mark Harper, a prominent lockdown sceptic, recently warned Mr Johnson that he would face the largest rebellion of his premiership to date were he to seek to extend Plan B measures, the vote on the introduction of which holds that current record, following a revolt of roughly 100 Tory MPs.
My colleague Liam James reports:
Announcement could come in days, reports say
Here’s a clip of the opening of yesterday’s Newsnight programme, which compiled a series of the twists and turns in the Partygate saga this week.