politics

Pressure mounts on Boris Johnson to quit as rival Rishi Sunak lays low in Treasury


Boris Johnson hunkered down after a member of his family tested positive for Covid-19 a day after his grovelling apology for attending a ‘bring your own booze party’

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson apologised for attending a party during lockdown

Humiliated Boris Johnson left an angry nation in limbo today as calls for him to quit grew louder.

A day after his grovelling apology for attending a “bring your own booze party”, the Prime Minister hunkered down after a member of his family tested positive for coronavirus.

Astonishingly, it emerged that he had told the Commons tearoom that he believed he was “taking a hit for something we don’t deserve”.

And crony Jacob Rees-Mogg made matters worse as he defended his boss by saying lockdown rules were “very hard for people to obey”.

Former minister Caroline Nokes became the fourth Tory MP to publicly call on the PM to go, declaring: “He looks like a liability.”







Jacob Rees-Mogg said lockdown rules were too hard to obey
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AFP/Getty Images)

She added to ITV today: “He either goes now or he goes in three years’ time at a general election. It’s up to the party to decide which.”

Fellow Tories Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale and William Wragg also called for his resignation while Tory police and crime commissioner for Cumbria, Peter McCallm, said: “If it were me I would be considering my position.”

Meanwhile Rishi Sunak – the bookies’ favourite to succeed Mr Johnson – was keeping a low profile at the Treasury today.

Sources said the Chancellor was in Whitehall meetings all day and some senior Tories believe that if plotting Mr Sunak opts to quit and publicly challenge the Tory leader, he could win enough support to topple Mr Johnson.







Rishi Sunak was keeping a low profile
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Daily Mirror)

The Chancellor was in Devon on Wednesday when Mr Johnson was forced to apologise for attending the May 2020 Downing Street garden bash.

Mr Sunak offered the PM only lukewarm support, tweeting: “The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.”

The senior Whitehall civil servant’s report is due late next week. As the scandal dragged on, Mr Johnson scrapped a trip to a vaccination centre in Burnley after a family member living at Downing Street tested positive.

His spokesman refused to confirm if it was wife Carrie or their children – 21-month-old Wilf or five-week-old Romy but said: “He will follow the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others.”

The legal requirement to self-isolate does not apply to vaccinated contacts but they are urged to take daily tests and “limit close contact with other people outside your household”.







The PM attended a BYOB party on May 20, 2020, in the garden of Downing Street
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Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard/REX/Shutterstock)

Further doubts were cast on the sincerity of the PM’s apology. After addressing the Commons, he was accused of telling Tory MPs in the tearoom: “Sometimes we take the credit for things we don’t deserve and this time we’re taking hits for something we don’t deserve.”

Downing Street insisted Mr Johnson retained the Cabinet’s full support. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewisdismissed claims the PM told Tory MPs he had nothing to apologise for. He insisted Mr Johnson’s apology was “very, very sincere”.

Cabinet Minister, Mr Rees-Mogg, urged MPs to wait for Ms Gray’s report but raised eyebrows by saying: “I think everybody understands, on all sides of the House, that people were obeying the rules, and that these rules were very hard for people to obey.”







Angela Rayner pointed out the PM is the arbiter of the ministerial code
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Getty Images)

Labour deputy Angela Rayner pointed out that matters uncovered by the probe would be dealt with under the ministerial code, of which the PM is the ultimate arbiter.

She said: “So is the Prime Minister going to act as the judge and jury, even though he’s also the man in the dock?”

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey urged the police to investigate Mr Johnson’s behaviour. He told the Mirror: “It is ludicrous to pretend that we can leave it to a civil servant appointed by Boris Johnson to get to the bottom of this.”

Sue Gray spent six years leading the Cabinet Office’s Propriety and Ethics teams. She once ran a bar in Northern Ireland.

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