Calls for Johnson to go or face a leadership contest after election losses

Calls for Johnson to go or face a leadership contest after election losses
Conservative MP warns the party is ‘haemorrhaging’ support in parts of England

Boris Johnson should face an imminent leadership contest a senior Conservative MP has suggested after Tory losses in the local elections reignited anger over the partygate scandal.

Former Minister Tobias Ellwood warned the results showed the party was “haemorrhaging” support in parts of England and accused the prime minister of ‘breaching’ the trust of the British public. It was now time for Tory MPs to decide whether or not Mr Johnson was fit to continue as their leader, he said.

Another critic of the prime minister, Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, said he thought Mr Johnson should resign.

The calls came just hours after Mr Johnson himself admitted his party had had a “tough night” in parts of the country.

He came under fire from councillors who blamed the losses on the negative headlines which have engulfed Downing Street in recent months.

John Mallinson, the former Tory leader of Carlisle City Council, said voters no longer had “confidence that the prime minister can be relied upon to tell the truth”.

Conservative MP David Simmonds, whose Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner seat borders Mr Johnson’s, said the prime minister had “some difficult questions to answer”.

“Overwhelmingly, the message that I heard on the doorsteps was people were broadly positive about the government’s policies, but they are not happy about what they have been hearing about Partygate,” said Mr Simmonds.

He told the Independent: “People were upset about (the) parties – people are not going to move on, because they want to see it’s being taken really seriously. So the prime minister needs to respond and say how he’s going to address the shortfall in confidence.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies told the BBC it had been “a hard day at the office”. “The Welsh Conservative brand has been very strong… but it’s the national picture that people have been saying they wanted to send a message about,” he said.

Mr Ellwood, a former defence minister, had previously suggested Mr Johnson should call a confidence vote in himself if the Tories suffered a poor set of results.

He said that asking Tory MPs to potentially dump a “charismatic” leader who “got us to where we are today” was a “huge ask”.

“But it’s now a requirement because the trust has been breached with the British people. And it is the duty of every single Conservative MP to make that assessment and then act accordingly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One. Sir Roger, the MP for North Thanet, submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister in 2020, but later said the war in Ukraine meant it was not the time for a leadership election.

Earlier today he told the Press Association: “I was, as you know, not in favour of a leadership challenge in the middle of a war, but two things have happened: one, it’s now clear, I think, that the hostilities in Ukraine are going to be prolonged; and second, in a sense what Roger Gale thinks is immaterial because this movement has got a life of its own now – it may become an unstoppable tide.”

Asked if it was time for Mr Johnson to stand down, Sir Roger said: “Yes. I think so.”