The PM is expected to tour Red Wall areas this week with just 10 days until crucial local and mayoral polls that are likely to decide his fate.
Rebels are not expected to mount an all-out attack until after the elections on May 5, and Scotland Yard will not give any update on its investigation before then.
But No10 has insisted it will disclose if Mr Johnson receives another penalty notice, and allies are said to acknowledge that his prospects of survival are no better than 50-50.
There are also rumours that senior civil servant Ms Gray’s report on lockdown breaches in Whitehall could be even more damaging than previously feared.
Police decided to launch their probe after the mandarin handed them a dossier including more than 300 images and 500 pages of evidence.
Around a dozen events are being investigated by the police, including a ‘bring-your-own-booze’ garden party, a gathering in the Cabinet Office to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday and a series of leaving dos.
In an interim report published in January, Ms Gray lashed out at ‘failures of leadership and judgment’ in No10.
One official apparently familiar with the contents of the full report told The Times: ‘Sue’s report is excoriating. It will make things incredibly difficult for the Prime Minister.
‘There’s an immense amount of pressure on her – her report could be enough to end him.’
Boris Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) is waiting nervously to learn if he faces more Partygate fines
Keir Starmer’s anger at beer and pizza quiz as he accuses BBC’s Sophie Raworth of asking him ‘the same questions seven times’
Sir Keir Starmer was yesterday forced again to deny he had broken the law by drinking beer and eating pizza indoors with colleagues during lockdown.
The Labour leader reacted angrily when the BBC asked him if he felt lucky to have escaped being fined by police, given that Rishi Sunak has been penalised for being briefly present at a birthday party for Boris Johnson.
Appearing on BBC1’s Sunday Morning show, Sir Keir accused host Sophie Raworth of asking him ‘the same questions seven times’ before continuing: ‘The police looked into it, that’s the end of it.
‘I’ve got nothing to add. There’s no equivalence.’
Scotland Yard has already fined Mr Johnson, along with his wife Carrie and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, for attending his 56th birthday bash held in June 2020 when Covid rules banned indoor gatherings.
Downing Street is said to be braced for Mr Johnson to receive a second FPN after police reportedly began issuing fines relating to a ‘bring your own booze’ drinks do in the No 10 garden on May 20, 2020.
He is thought to have attended half of the 12 gatherings being probed by police.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden defended Mr Johnson yesterday, suggesting it was ‘quite a speculation’ to predict he could be hit with more FPNs.
He and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg backed Mr Johnson to lead the Tories into the next general election, which is currently scheduled for no later than January 2025.
Mr Dowden told Sky News there was a ‘very strong case for the Prime Minister remaining in office’ despite mounting pressure from his own backbenches for him to quit.
Senior backbenchers, including former minister Steve Baker, have put their head above the parapet in recent weeks to call for Mr Johnson to vacate Downing Street following his handling of the rule-breaking allegations.
According to the i, the PM’s critics have begun working in a co-ordinated fashion and are ‘holding back’ to wait for the local election results or for further FPNs to arrive in Mr Johnson’s inbox.
The paper cited other reports that some rebels have prepared no confidence letters to be submitted en masse to the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs should the party take a battering at the polls on May 5.
Mr Dowden has admitted that the council elections will be ‘challenging’.
The Guardian said allies of former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and trade minister Penny Mordaunt have been making ‘discrete preparations’ for a leadership contest should Tory MPs move to topple Mr Johnson.
A widespread Tory revolt thwarted a Downing Street bid last week to delay a Commons investigation into whether he misled Parliament with his repeated assurances that Covid rules were followed in No10.
As well as the Scotland Yard probe and the investigation by Ms Gray, the PM will be subject to a third inquiry by the Privileges Committee, which will seek to determine whether he knew about the alleged rule breaches before making his statements to MPs.
Mr Johnson attended a Christmas quiz night in No10 (pictured). It is not known which event the trio were censured for, but they all attended a party organised by Carrie for Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday in June 2020
Police decided this event at Downing Street attended by Mr Johnson, his then fiancée Carrie Symonds and staff did not warrant an investigation
This graphic shows the different alleged party venues in Downing Street and across Whitehall that are detailed in the report
Fine notices have also started landing in the email inboxes of officials who attended a ‘bring your own bottle’ drinks do in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020 during England’s first Covid lockdown when indoor and outdoor gatherings were banned.
No 10 said on Friday evening Mr Johnson, who has admitted attending but insisted he ‘believed implicitly that this was a work event’, has not received notice of a fine in relation to the gathering.
But with the Prime Minister having already been fined once for attending his own birthday bash in June 2020, there is the risk he could be fined further times, with claims that police are looking into another five possible rule-breaking events he is said to have attended.
Booze culture and ‘difficult to justify’ behaviour in No10
This is what Sue Gray already said about Boris Johnson’s government in her first interim report. Her final findings are said to be even stronger.
- Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the Government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.
- At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of Government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.
- At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public. There were failures of leadership and judgment by different parts of No 10 and the Cabinet Office at different times. Some of the events should not have been allowed to take place. Other events should not have been allowed to develop as they did.
- The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.
- The use of the garden at No 10 Downing Street should be primarily for the Prime Minister and the private residents of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street. During the pandemic it was often used as an extension of the workplace as a more covid secure means of holding group meetings in a ventilated space. This was a sensible measure that staff appreciated, but the garden was also used for gatherings without clear authorisation or oversight. This was not appropriate. Any official access to the space, including for meetings, should be by invitation only and in a controlled environment.
- Some staff wanted to raise concerns about behaviours they witnessed at work but at times felt unable to do so. No member of staff should feel unable to report or challenge poor conduct where they witness it. There should be easier ways 8 for staff to raise such concerns informally, outside of the line management chain.
- The number of staff working in No 10 Downing Street has steadily increased in recent years. In terms of size, scale and range of responsibility it is now more akin to a small Government Department than purely a dedicated Prime Minister’s office. The structures that support the smooth operation of Downing Street, however, have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands of this expansion. The leadership structures are fragmented and complicated and this has sometimes led to the blurring of lines of accountability. Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the Prime Minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority.
ANDREW PIERCE: What on earth do the Tory rebels think they are doing? This is an outburst of madness that could hand Keir Starmer keys to No. 10
Even as treacherous Tory MPs demanded the scalp of Boris Johnson in the Commons last week, the mood in No 10 was upbeat.
Focus groups of floating voters had indicated in the previous days that Partygate was fading as an issue.
There was also growing support for the Rwanda plan to process ‘off-shore’ the claims of asylum seekers who have crossed the Channel illegally.
Focus groups of floating voters had indicated in the previous days that Partygate was fading as an issue
Yesterday a poll found that lead had fallen to just 2 per cent, while Tory canvassers were reporting back to No 10 that Party-gate was not a big issue on the doorstep when they were campaigning for the local elections on May 5.
And yet in defiance of this positive news for the Conservatives, it has emerged that 46 Tory MPs have sent letters calling for a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee.
That’s just eight letters short of the number needed to trigger the vote.
Panic is in the air. The rebels have post-dated their letters for after the local elections, fearing a bloodbath. But they are conveniently forgetting that incumbent parties rarely do well in mid-term elections, while the majority of seats up for grabs are in strong Labour-held areas anyway.
In Downing Street, there is not just exasperation but genuine anger with the rebels – including former Brexit minister Steve Baker who was backing Boris on Tuesday but twisting the knife in his leader by Thursday. What on earth do they think they are doing? Should they even get the requisite 54 letters, at least 50 per cent of Tory MPs will then have to vote against Boris to force a change of leader.
And even though Labour was averaging an 8 per cent lead in the polls, the party’s leader Sir Keir Starmer was making no impact with those floating voters
Boris will win a confidence vote, and even if the win is only by a handful of votes, he’s going nowhere. All the rebels will have done is paralyse the Government during a national and international crisis.
At the very time they should be united, some sections of the Tory party seem to be beset by a kind of madness.
The Government has undoubtedly made mistakes, not least the Whips’ Office’s appallingly clumsy handling of last week’s attempt – abandoned at the last minute – to delay a vote on whether the PM should be investigated over Partygate by a Commons committee.
But Boris has apologised for Partygate – no fewer than 35 times in the Commons on Tuesday – and shown genuine remorse. To get rid of the leader who secured the Tories their biggest majority for decades, simply because he happened to be present at an impromptu birthday gathering for less than ten minutes, would be absurd.
Boris may be infuriating, shambolic and economical with the truth on occasions, but it is only Boris who can hold the vital Red Wall seats where so many Labour loyalists voted Tory for the first time in 2019.
The voters there knew instinctively that no other politician could steam-roller Brexit through the way he did.
They will surely recognise, too, that on all the big decisions he has been right so far.
The vaccine roll-out was an extraordinary triumph which led the world. Could anyone seriously imagine Sir Keir Starmer turning down an invitation from the EU to join its disastrous vaccine roll-out as Boris did?
Britain’s emergence from Covid restrictions was faster and better handled than in most countries. He defied the doom-mongers to get the economy going again.
On Ukraine, his leadership has been exemplary. He is President Zelensky’s favourite European leader, and has shown mature resolve and gumption, ensuring that the UK was sending military help long before other countries. And in any case, however many of the rebels fantasise about a post-Boris future, there is simply no heir apparent in the Conservative Party.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak was the runaway favourite, but his fall from grace has been swift after he misjudged mini-Budget, the revelations about his US green card status, and his tetchy response to legitimate questions about his wife’s non-dom tax status.
Other wannabe leaders include former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt whose acolytes were on manoeuvres in the Commons last week. An arch Remainer, he conspired with Theresa May to try to impose her deal – a fake Brexit – on Britain.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss fancies her chances but she is a charisma-free zone and simply does not have what it takes to be prime minister.
The plotters should be careful what they wish for. Without the Red Wall, the Tories will not win the next election. And waiting in the wings is Sir Keir Starmer, a man who tried to subvert democracy by overturning Brexit, and who campaigned for Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister. He is furthermore a man who refuses to say if he thinks a woman can have a penis and who leads a party with zero economic credibility.
The latest poll shows Boris’s approval ratings rising again. Tory MPs should get behind him and remember that guerrilla warfare against John Major by Tory malcontents in the last years of his government contributed to the Tony Blair landslide 25 years ago this week, pushing the Tories out of power for 13 years.
If ever there was a time for Tory MPs to hold their nerve, it is now.
Source: Daily Mail