Published:

Davis calls on the Prime Minister to go, but Johnson holds out for the day…

“Veteran Conservative MPs are set to follow David Davis in calling for Boris Johnson’s resignation after Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties is published, The Times has been told. The former Brexit secretary, once a Johnson loyalist, used prime minister’s questions yesterday to compare him to Neville Chamberlain as he said: “In the name of God, go.” Davis, 73, is one of only a small handful of Tory MPs openly calling for a new leader but he is likely to be joined in the coming weeks by more senior figures who were ministers under Theresa May and David Cameron. One told The Times they had already decided that Johnson had to go but felt obliged to wait for Gray’s report before going public.” – The Times

  • Anger across the generations meant I had to tell him to go, says MP – Daily Telegraph
  • Tory fury spills over as Prime Minister clings on – The Guardian
  • Health Secretary admits leader has been ‘damaged’ – Daily Mail
  • Make-or-break report into Downing Street parties ‘will not be published until next week’ – The Sun

>Yesterday:

…as Tories rally behind embattled leader

“MPs said Johnson had bought himself a reprieve until next week, when an inquiry into the “Partygate” scandal involving Downing Street events that broke coronavirus restrictions will conclude. The gatherings are being investigated by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, although Number 10 is also braced for more revelations about the parties in coming days. With some of his critics in the party pushing for a vote of no confidence in him, Johnson attempted to rally support by ending all remaining Covid restrictions in England, including mandatory face masks and working from home guidance. A total of 54 Tory MPs must send letters to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, in order to trigger the vote of no confidence. Senior MPs think around 30 letters have been sent.” – FT

  • In-fighting over pork pie plotters turns ugly – Daily Mail
  • MP plotters pull back from the brink – The Times
  • Up to seven Tory MPs withdraw letters of no confidence – Daily Telegraph
  • Was there a spy in the Davison/Kearns group? – The Times
  • Rebels struggle to deliver knockout blow – FT

>Today: Local Government: Why pressure on the Prime Minister to quit after the local elections may be less than some suppose

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson and a challenge. Shoot at the elephant and miss, and it may trample the jungle for a year.

…and Bury South MP defects to Labour

“A Red Wall Tory MP has today defected to Labour – as Boris Johnson continues to fight for his job. Christian Wakeford sensationally resigned from the Tory party and will now sit as a Labour MP – lashing out at the “disgraceful” behaviour of the PM in the wake of the party-gate scandal. But the under-fire PM told colleagues as he fought to save his political skin: “I haven’t sat here long enough, nothing like long enough in my view.” The Bury MP Mr Wakefield told his local newspaper, The Bury Times, that he was throwing in the towel with the Tories – and the PM was incapable of offering the country the leadership is deserved. In interviews later he said defecting was “the most difficult decision I have ever had to make”.” – The Sun

  • Five more Conservative MPs ‘considering defecting to Labour’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour activists revolt over Tory MP joining their ranks – Daily Mail
  • Wakeford’s defection might have helped Johnson — but for how long? – The Times

Comment:

  • I am ashamed to call the turncoat my MP – Angela Epstein, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Wakeford defects to Labour

Robert Halfon: Johnson must stand up for working people

“To be honest, I don’t care whether Sue Gray tells us the moon is made of green cheese. I know that the shenanigans and parties that have taken place in Downing Street are wrong. Like my constituents, I am angry, dismayed, but above all, I have an intense feeling of being let down. I know first hand just how many people both in Harlow, and across the country, have suffered and struggled during lockdowns. They have stoically stuck by rules and were not able to see or spend time with their loved ones at some of the darkest moments. The public have been the true Spartans. What has occurred in Downing Street is clearly unacceptable. But does this mean I am agitating for the prime minister to resign, or am planning to send in my letter to the 1922 Committee? No it does not.” – The Times

  • His fall would not change the Conservative agenda – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • Expect a showdown between Tory MPs and the party faithful – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: David Campbell Bannerman in Comment: The Tory plotters who want Johnson out should take up anger management

Covid-19: Face masks no longer required in classrooms despite union protests as curbs binned…

“Face masks will no longer be required in the classroom from Thursday, despite protests from teachers’ unions. The move, announced by the Prime Minister on Wednesday, comes alongside the immediate lifting of guidance advising people to work from home if possible. And Boris Johnson said the legal requirement for people with Covid-19 to self-isolate is set to be axed by March 24 – and earlier if possible. He said that in future, the virus would be treated like flu. It comes after Covid-19 infection levels fell in three of the four UK nations for the first time since early December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Mr Johnson said this data showed that while there were some places where cases were likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, “our scientists believe it is likely that the omicron wave has now peaked nationally”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • They accuse Prime Minister of flouting his ‘duty of care’ to teachers – Daily Mail
  • Schools to defy Johnson and keep masks – The Times

More:

  • Isolation rules for infected people set to end – The Times
  • Javid’s axing of all Covid restrictions draws warnings from NHS – The Guardian
  • Commuters head to work as WFH is scrapped – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: Instead of faux apologies about partygate, Johnson should admit that Coronavirus rules were always wrong

…and Tory war erupts over controversial moves to sack NHS staff who refuse jabs

“A new Tory war erupted last night over controversial moves to sack NHS staff who refuse to get the Covid jab. A string of Tory MPs lined up to urge Boris Johnson to tear up the “utterly unjustifiable” policy. Under current plans, all NHS staff must be double jabbed by the end of April – meaning they will have to get their first vaccine by early February. But furious health bodies have warned that a staggering 73,000 NHS staff face being sacked within weeks because of the diktat. Opening up a new front in the war on Covid curbs, senior Tories told the PM he should axe the measure along with Plan B… Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne urged the PM to “review the need to sack domiciliary workers and NHS workers” who are unjabbed.” – The Sun

Foreign Affairs 1) Senior ministers head to Australia to cement defence and trade ties

“The UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, are to travel to Australia to try to cement security and trade ties in the aftermath of the Aukus deal involving the two countries and the US. The fact that two key cabinet figures are willing to leave the UK at a time of high domestic political tension, with Boris Johnson’s future as prime minister in doubt and amid the threat of a Russian invasion in Ukraine, shows the importance the Conservative government attaches to the relationship with Australia. The UK has made a post-Brexit tilt to the Indo-Pacific central to its foreign and security policy, arguing the area represents one of high economic growth through this century.” – The Guardian

  • As Truss flew to Australia, Sunak sat by Johnson’s side – Daily Telegraph

Foreign Affairs 2) Britain could send more weapons to Ukraine as Wallace pledges support

“Britain is open to sending more weapons to Ukraine to try to thwart any Russian invasion, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last night. He told the Daily Mail the UK may add to the 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers sent this week. It comes as Russia has amassed an estimated 127,000 troops at the border with Ukraine along with tanks and other weapons in apparent preparation for an invasion… Russia last night accused the UK of fuelling tensions in the region with the weapons deployment. Moscow’s embassy in London tweeted: ‘It is crystal clear that UK shipment of lethal weapons to Ukraine will only fuel the crisis and increase tensions.’ Ukraine yesterday demanded economic sanctions against Russia before any invasion rather than afterwards.” – Daily Mail

  • Deadly anti-tank missiles land in Ukraine amid fears Russia could invade in days – The Sun

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Ukraine, Putin, and Russia. It’s time for belligerency short of war.

Brexiteer Tory MPs call on Boris to give Lord Frost new role

“Boris Johnson is facing calls from Brexit-backing Tory MPs to give Lord Frost a new role in Government as they demand Downing Street “gets a grip”. Lord David Frost, 56, has been tipped for a return to Number 10 by members of the European Research Group in a bid to clean up Downing Street following ‘partygate’. The ERG, who heaped pressure on Theresa May, 65, during her stint as Prime Minister, met with Boris Johnson, 57, on Tuesday to demand the UK’s former chief negotiator with the European Union makes a return to Government. Lord Frost, who took on a ministerial post at the Cabinet Office, resigned from Mr Johnson’s inner circle in December in protest against the Government’s COVID-19 strategy, high tax policy and green agenda.” – Daily Express

  • Trevelyan unveils tool to strengthen business after £2.3bn deal – Daily Express

Commons backs suspension for MP who ‘undermined’ own apology for bullying

“MPs have voted to approve a one-day suspension for the Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski after he “undermined” an apology he gave in the Commons for bullying staff. The standards watchdog found that the Shrewsbury MP had indicated in media interviews that he did not fully mean the gesture, and recommended his suspension should be limited to one day as Kawczynski had committed to undertaking further work on his behaviour. Kawczynski initially apologised in the Commons in June last year after an investigation found he had ranted at one senior Commons official, called another a “snowflake” and “useless”, and denigrated a third staff member via WhatsApp. He told the Commons: “I have reflected on my behaviour, I accept it constituted bullying and as such was highly inexcusable.”” – The Guardian

Labour party is now ‘pro-business’, vows Reeves

“Britain’s Labour party now has “a totally different mentality” towards business and running the economy than during the Jeremy Corbyn era, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has declared. In an interview with the Financial Times, Reeves pledged that a government led by Sir Keir Starmer would be proudly “pro-business” and committed to fiscal discipline. “A precondition for doing anything is being trusted with public money,” she said. Reeves, an economist handed the Treasury brief last May, acknowledges that Labour has a huge fight ahead to regain voters’ trust after the party suffered a historic loss in the 2019 election. But she believes that Boris Johnson’s political meltdown and the growing cost-of-living crisis meant that people were starting to ask what Labour would be like in office — and the party had to rise to the challenge.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • How Red Wall MPs turned on Boris – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • What happened last time the 1922 Committee brought down a Tory leader? – Henry Oliver, CapX
  • How my party lost its way – David Gauke, New Statesman
  • Scruton makes today’s Tories look like grubby philistines – Giles Fraser, UnHerd
  • Conservatives need to do more than bash the Beeb – Sebastian Millbank, The Critic