A senior Conservative MP says Partygate could be ‘terminal’ for Boris Johnson’s leadership as the Met Police and civil servant Sue Gray continue to compile reports about alleged lockdown busting bashes.
The threat of a no confidence vote appeared to be easing today after the Prime Minister unveiled changes to his team at 10 Downing Street.
But some senior Conservatives, publicly and privately, predicted he will be tipped into a moment of danger when Sue Gray sends a second report and the Met Police give their decisions on 12 parties, reports the Mirror.
The PM’s former leadership rival Jeremy Hunt warned the PM is in “limbo”, will face a “final judgment” after the two reports, and things may not “get back to normal”.
Meanwhile, a former Cabinet minister told the Mirror it would be “terminal” if Sue Gray found the Prime Minister lied to Parliament, or if he was handed a fine by police.
Separately, senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, another future leadership hopeful, said the PM’s future depends on how the “reset” goes at Downing Street.
It came as Boris Johnson’s new spin chief declared his boss is “not a complete clown” as the Prime Minister struggles to get his leadership back on track.
In an extraordinary interview on his first day in the job, Guto Harri revealed the pair sang a defiant “I Will Survive” when they met last week.
Yet Mr Harri insisted that the Government would be more “focused on delivery” as Mr Johnson desperately tried to draw a line under the Partygate affair.
A beleaguered Prime Minister is trying to shore up support after mass resignations from No 10 last week raised further questions about his authority.
But fed-up Tory MPs were left dismayed by the tone at the top of Government after Mr Johnson had promised them real change.
One backbencher told the Mirror: “This is not the seriousness they promised us and that we so desperately need”.
Another added: “I really don’t know whether they understand that to most of us, this isn’t all a joke”.
Senior Tory Jeremy Hunt refused again today to rule out running for the leadership – and warned No10 parties were “incredibly serious”, with 700 constituents writing to him.
He told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “I think we’re in a limbo period now while we’re waiting for the unreacted Sue Gray report and the outcome of the police investigation, before we’re going to know whether we can get back to normal”.
Asked if Boris Johnson can survive he replied: “I think it depends what happens when these reports are published.
“I’m like lots of my colleagues… who are very disturbed about what happened, feel we can’t defend it, but feel we need to wait for these proper reports before we can pass a final judgment.”
One former Cabinet minister told the Mirror: “If Sue Gray finds he lied to parliament unequivocally, or depending on what action police take – that’s it. Either of those two things would be terminal.”
They urged Mr Johnson’s new advisors to rein in the PM, adding: “They just have to tell him what to do, hide him away and say, don’t walk into a big elephant trap next Tuesday. It worked in the 2019 leadership election, up to a point.”
Another senior Tory suggested it was only a matter of time before the PM was ousted, saying: “The trend is clear – it’s just a matter of the timetable.”
Downing Street has said further staffing changes will be announced “in the coming days” as it was confirmed an aide seen as close to Carrie Johnson had left No 10.
Special adviser Henry Newman is returning to work for his former boss Michael Gove.
Over the weekend Mr Johnson appointed Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay as his chief of staff.
No 10 was hoping to announce the return of Dame Emily Lawson – who oversaw the successful vaccines roll-out – as the new permanent secretary this week.
Chief Whip Mark Spencer is expected to be moved to a new role with the Tory whips office cleared out after a series of misjudgements.
Labor leader Keir Starmer claimed there was a “growing number” of Tory MPs “discontented” with the PM.
“It’s the distraction from the job in hand, which is sorting out the cost of living crisis, that is the vital, most important thing here.”
But Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Sky News: “I don’t think there is going to be a leadership election.
“We have got a leader in place who is doing an excellent job, is getting on with the job, is delivering on the commitments that we made.
“I am there to support him, along with the rest of us.”
Downing Street has already been forced to defend Mr Harri’s appointment after it emerged he had advised Chinese tech giant Huawei.
The former City Hall aide resigned from lobbying firm Hawthorn Advisers, which included Huawei as a client, to take on his new role in No 10.
Huawei technology will be stripped from the UK’s 5G network by 2027 after a Government U-turn in 2020 over security concerns.
Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former top aide, described Mr Harri’s first day in the job as a “car-crash” as he called for his access to secure papers to be limited.
Mr Johnson was yesterday putting on a united front with Rishi Sunak today after a torrid few days in which the Chancellor was accused of having ambitions on his job.
On a hospital visit, the PM told broadcasters he “absolutely does not” doubt Mr Sunak’s loyalty and that No 10 and the Treasury were “working together in harmony”.
Some 15 mutinous Tory MPs have now publicly called for the PM to resign – although not all have submitted letters of no confidence to trigger a vote.
The true number who have turned against the PM is believed to be far higher, with wide-ranging concerns about Partygate, cost of living pressures and a tax hike.
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