Published:

Tory MPs team up to topple Johnson over lockdown parties. Will the 54 letter threshold for a confidence ballot be reached today?

“Boris Johnson is facing a growing revolt as Conservative MPs elected in 2019 openly plot to remove him from office over No 10 lockdown parties. More than 20 Tories who won their seats at the last general election met yesterday to discuss their concerns about Johnson’s leadership as the party was gripped by infighting. A number are preparing to submit letters of no confidence this afternoon after prime minister’s questions. Johnson was holding meetings last night with groups of the 2019 intake of MPs, including one who published a poll on his future on Facebook. Tory whips are concerned that the number of letters of no confidence could exceed the threshold of 54 needed to trigger a leadership election.” The Times

Analysis:

  • How smart was Cummings’s latest move? – Daily Telegraph
  • Has Johnson been fatally wounded by Cummings or can he limp on? – The Times

Political sketch:

Nobody told me drinks event was against rules, says the PM in TV interview…

“Boris Johnson has insisted he wasn’t told it was against the rules for him to attend a gathering in the garden of No 10 during lockdown – but did not rule out resigning as he faced a mounting revolt from Tory backbenchers. Pressure mounted on the prime minister as a seventh Tory MP confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson, with 20 more reportedly set to follow suit on Wednesday in a growing mutiny emboldened by the party’s 2019 parliamentary intake. “No matter what Sue Gray decides, I think the voters have already decided,” said one MP who indicated they would not wait for findings of the Downing Street party probe before acting to end Mr Johnson’s premiership.” – The Independent

Analysis:

  • What Johnson said – and what he really meant – in excruciating 16-minute TV interview with Beth Rigby – The i Paper

…which helps to fuel the ‘Pork Pie Plot’ against him

“Several more MPs from the 2019 intake are thought to be on the brink of submitting letters. Conservative whips yesterday identified Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland & Melton, Gary Sambrook, the MP for Birmingham Northfield, and Chris Loder, the MP for West Dorset, as ringleaders of the discontented MPs, amid claims that between 15 and 20 met yesterday and today to consider their options. Kearns’s constituency of Melton led one senior Conservative MP to call the plot the “pork pie putsch”. Allies of Johnson are infuriated by the plotting. “It’s pretty sickening,” a cabinet source told The Times. “They were only elected because of him. Most of them are a load of f**king nobodies. It’s nuts.”” – The Times

  • West Dorset MP ‘deeply embarrassed’ by Downing Street party revelations – Lyme Online
  • Bishop Auckland MP Davison identified as a ringleader – Daily Mail
  • Conservative whips have accused three MPs of being the ringleaders: Loder, Sambrook and Kearns – The Times

Comment:

>Today:

Wakeford becomes latest Conservative MP to send in a letter of no confidence

“A Bury MP has joined the growing chorus of backbenchers calling for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign. Conservative Christian Wakeford who has represented Bury South since the 2019 election became the seventh MP to send in a letter of no confidence. This comes as the Prime Minister faces growing pressure to step down after a string of allegations about parties at Downing Street during lockdown. Many of the MPs who have publicly voted against Mr Johnson won their seats in slim majorities in the 2019 election, but some have said the plans to get rid of the Prime Minister go far wider. MPs from the former Red Wall allegedly met with Mr Johnson to discuss his future in a meeting nicknamed the “pork pie plot” of the “pork pie putsch”. Mr Johnson, who was reported to have spent Tuesday evening in his Commons office meeting with potential rebels, apologised multiple times in a major broadcast interview for “misjudgment that were made”.” – Bury Times

Hunt says his ambition to be Prime Minister has not completely vanished

“Jeremy Hunt has said his ambition to become Prime Minister “hasn’t completely vanished” amid turmoil over the “partygate” scandal engulfing Downing Street. Mr Hunt, a former foreign secretary who chairs the health and social care select committee, said it would “take a lot to persuade me to put my hat into the ring”, but he had not ruled it out. Speculation over Boris Johnson’s future has grown in recent weeks as six Conservative MPs have publicly called for his resignation, while further Tories are believed to have submitted letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee. Mr Hunt ran against Mr Johnson in the 2019 leadership election following Theresa May’s resignation, and reached the final two, where he received a third of the party membership’s votes.” – Daily Telegraph

PM expected to tell Cabinet to tear up Plan B lockdown restrictions today

“Boris Johnson will today summon his Cabinet to free England from Plan B restrictions. The PM will scrap working from home and vaccine passports from January 26. But he will also warn the threat is not yet over and Brits will be urged to wear masks in shops and on public transport. The PM hopes the move will buy him some much-needed support among his backbenches. Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said Britain is winning the war on Omicron. He added: “I have always said that these restrictions should not stay in place a day longer than absolutely necessary. “Due to . . . the likelihood that we have already reached the peak of the case numbers of hospitalisations, I am cautiously optimistic that we will be able to substantially reduce restrictions next week.” Scientists agree that things are heading the right way.” – The Sun

  • Calls grow to ditch compulsory Covid jabs law for NHS staff as 80,000 face the sack in two weeks – Daily Mail
  • Surgeries fear an exodus of GPs as deadline for staff Covid jabs nears – The Times

‘Wildly incorrect’ Covid modelling bounced PM into second lockdown, Baker warns

“Boris Johnson was bounced into the second coronavirus lockdown after a “terrifying” and “wildly incorrect” model warning of 4,000 deaths a day was leaked to the press, MPs have heard. Speaking at a debate at Westminster Hall on the use of models in the pandemic, Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the Covid recovery group, described how the Prime Minister had contacted him shortly before announcing new restrictions on October 31 2020 asking for advice. Modelling from Cambridge University and Public Health England (PHE) had suggested that without immediate restrictions there could be 4,000 deaths per day by the end of December. Mr Baker said that he had told Mr Johnson to challenge the model, and Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, and Prof Carl Heneghan, of Oxford University, were called into Downing Street to go over the data.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Thousands of children have fallen off the radar during lockdown, warns Dame Rachel De Souza – Daily Telegraph
  • Deaths below average in new sign that Covid crisis is coming to an end – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

Matt Hancock: Raising interest rates is beset with danger

“As all the focus in Westminster is on the latest revelations, the story that most affects people’s lives is the recovery from the pandemic. Last week we learnt that the UK economy has recovered to its pre-pandemic size. As the Chancellor put it, this is down to the grit and determination of the British people. But it’s also down to the rapidity of the vaccine rollout, the massive uptake among the public, and the unprecedented level of economic support over the past two years. Even with any short-term bump from omicron over Christmas, the immediate prospects look good and the UK is emerging sooner and stronger than most other nations. It’s like the pandemic is a bed of hot coals we have collectively had to walk across. Britain looks about to reach the other side, with sore feet but soon to step onto the soothing wet green grass beyond.” – Daily Telegraph

Connecting Britain and France’s power grids a risk to energy security, Mordaunt warns

“A government minister has said that a £1.2 billion project to connect the British and French power grids must not go ahead. Before a decision on whether to approve the scheme this week, Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister and former defence secretary, came out against it. Aquind, the company behind the project, plans to lay a power and communications cable under the Channel. Mordaunt said that this would make Britain more reliant on France, which has threatened to interrupt supplies in disputes over fishing. “The French have already said they will turn off the power, they will use future energy supply as a bargaining chip,” she said. “That doesn’t help our energy security.” – The Times

Conservatives criticise plans for Royal Navy to handle migrant crisis

“Conservative MPs have warned that the Royal Navy will become a “taxi service” for Channel migrants and have criticised the government’s handling of the crisis as “Operation Dog’s Dinner”. Backbench MPs denounced the plan as an “embarassment” and criticised ministers for not seeking to push back small boats trying to reach England. It came as Ghana denied being in talks with Britain about hosting a migrant-processing facility — one of several populist policies announced by the prime minister this week. Ministers had said they were drawing up plans to send migrants to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda for processing and resettlement in a move to tackle the small boats crisis. The announcement formed part of the government’s attempt to offer “red meat” to Tory MPs to divert attention from allegations of Downing Street parties.” – The Times

Labour 1) Party accused of siding with ‘vandals and thugs’ after Peers vote down protests legislation to stop eco-protesters disrupting the country

“Priti Patel has accused Labour of siding with ‘vandals and thugs’ after the party voted down legislation to stop eco-protesters disrupting the country. The Home Secretary said opposition peers were not on the side of the ‘law-abiding majority’ and had backed groups which ‘bring our country to a standstill’. Measures to prevent activists from movements such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Insulate Britain from shutting roads were voted down by the unelected House of Lords on Monday night. Downing Street said it was ‘disappointed’ by the move, which would prevent it from tackling ‘guerrilla tactics’ used by protesters.” – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Labour has chosen to back vandals and thugs by blocking sensible protest laws – The Sun

Labour 2) Interview: ‘Stop talking about the problem – fix the bloody thing!’ Starmer on Johnson’s parties and his plan to win power

“There could not be a better day to meet Sir Keir Starmer than last Wednesday. A few hours earlier, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson had apologised for his presence at a Downing Street party held during lockdown in a manner that was as ludicrous as it was humiliating. When the prime minister said that he didn’t realise the 30 to 40 people gathered in his garden boozing and eating food from a long table constituted a party, Starmer told him he had run out of road. “His defence that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public,” Starmer told the Commons. “Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?” Not surprisingly, partygate has helped Labour to its biggest lead over the Conservatives since 2013.” – The Guardian

Cabinet opposition forced climbdown on ending BBC licence fee

“Rishi Sunak, Britain’s chancellor, has led a cabinet pushback against calls from culture secretary Nadine Dorries for an end to the BBC licence fee from 2027. UK government insiders said that Sunak had told Dorries there had not been proper cabinet discussion on whether the licence fee should ultimately be replaced, a view echoed by colleagues. Dorries on Monday announced that funding would be squeezed at the BBC. The licence fee, a compulsory tax that provides almost three-quarters of the broadcaster’s funding, will be frozen at £159 per household over the next two years. But the announcement was trailed in the Mail on Sunday newspaper before cabinet ministers were given a chance to discuss the measure, and Dorries on Sunday tweeted that this licence fee settlement would be “the last”.” – FT

Comment:

  • I adore the BBC but it’s like a spoilt, trust fund brat… and the writing has been on the wall for years, Sarah Vine – Daily Mail

Public accounts committee warns that Government’s manifesto pledge to improve broadband speeds is under threat

“Boris Johnson’s promise to “level up” the nation by providing next-generation-speed broadband to most homes by 2025 is under threat as rural dwellers are left behind in the internet revolution, according to a report by parliament’s spending watchdog. The report by the public accounts committee found that the government is relying too heavily on companies, most notably BT Openreach and Virgin Media O2, to achieve Johnson’s key election manifesto pledge of addressing the UK’s status as a global laggard in broadband speeds. These companies are focused on the less costly, easier to reach urban conurbations across the UK. The government plan, developed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is failing to deliver on a promise to find affordable solutions to connect those living in rural areas and remote towns and villages.” – The Guardian

News in brief: