Six Boris Johnson blunders as anger mounts from Tory MPs after nightmare week

Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure from his own party after a string of chaotic U-turns and political blunders

Boris Johnson visiting a Network Rail hub as he was accused of breaking his promises on rail reform
Boris Johnson visiting a Network Rail hub as he was accused of breaking his promises on rail reform

It’s been a torrid few weeks for Boris Johnson.

A disastrous attempt to tear up sleaze rules to protect a Tory MP prompted a wave of sleaze allegations – and led to questions about his judgement from his own party.

Conservative MPs were angered by being ordered to vote to save Owen Paterson from sanction after he was found to have breached lobbying rules – only for the PM to U-turn the next day.

Weeks of negative headlines on “Tory sleaze” were then replaced by anger over the PM’s decision to water down his promises on rail reforms and social care.

After a disastrous speech to business leaders where he lost his place, rambled about Peppa Pig and impersonated a car, a reporter asked the PM “Is everything ok?”.

Mr Johnson’s decisive election victory in 2019 secured him the loyalty of his MPs but nearly two years on, some are privately angry and bruised by the endless U-turns.

Boris Johnson has been under pressure from his own party


Getty Images)

In a sign that all is not well, gossip was spreading in Westminster this week that some MPs had written letters of no-confidence in the PM to the 1922 Committee.

While no one except the 1922 Committee boss Graham Brady know how many letters have gone in, if enough MPs do express no confidence in the PM then a Tory leadership contest is called.

Here we look as the issues stirring up anger among Tory MPs – and the public.

Rail ‘betrayal’

The Prime Minister’s central commitment to “level up” the country was dealt a major blow by stripped back plans for rail – dubbed a “betrayal of the North”.

Two long-planned rail projects – HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail – were downgraded in the PM’s long-awaited Integrated Rail Plan.

The Leeds leg of the HS2 high speed line has been scrapped, while Northern Powerhouse Rail has been scaled back.

Amid fears the projects could cost up to £185bn, tens of billions of pounds have now been cut leaving a bill of £96bn.

Mr Johnson was accused of breaking his promises to the Midlands and the North – key electoral battlegrounds for the Tories since 2019.

Watering down the social care cap

Boris Johnson suffered a Tory rebellion on plans to water down his promised cap on social care costs, which were snuck out with little fanfare.

MPs backed the reform by 272 votes to 246 – a majority of just 26 – meaning plenty of Tories failed to vote, while 19 openly rebelled.

The changes mean poorer people who receive state help will take longer to reach the £86,000 cap on lifetime care costs.

That is because only the amount they personally pay, not the state assistance they receive, will count towards the cap.

People with high care needs but cheaper homes will be harder hit – such as in parts of the North.

The decision provoked disquiet among northern Tory MPs in the former Red Wall, many of whose constituents will be affected.

Small boats crisis

The Government has been pressure over failures to curb the numbers of desperate asylum seekers arriving in the UK in small boats.

The tragic deaths of 27 people who drowned while attempting the perilous Channel crossing on Wednesday sparked an outcry – and a major diplomatic spat with France.

A record 1,000 people arrived in a single day earlier this month.

Asylum seekers launching an inflatable boat and setting off for the UK


Steve Reigate Daily Express)

Concern is mounting among Tory MPs over the situation, which is said to be a major concern among some constituencies.

It also casts doubt on Boris Johnson ‘s central Brexit pledge, which was to “take back control of our borders”.

Increasingly wild ideas have been briefed to newspapers from Government sources in recent months, ranging from sending asylum seekers to Ascension Island in the south Atlantic, to processing arrivals on disused ferries.

Owen Paterson and Tory sleaze claims

The PM’s botched attempt to save Tory Owen Paterson from sanction for breaking lobbying rules caused a major public backlash.

Mr Johnson ordered his MPs to vote to overhaul Parliament’s sleaze rules and block Mr Paterson’s proposed 30-day suspension from the Commons.

But the PM U-turned the next day in the face of widespread public anger, leaving his MPs humiliated.

Mr Paterson resigned as MP for North Shropshire after the PM withdrew his support.

Attempts to draw a line under the row were foiled by Tory backbencher Christopher Chope, who objected to the Government’s bid to quietly overturn the move in the Commons – forcing another embarrassing debate.

Owen Paterson stood down as an MP after Boris Johnson withdrew his support



Mr Johnson also angered his own MPs by skipping a debate on sleaze in the Commons to visit a hospital in Northumberland.

The Paterson row shone a fresh light on allegations of Tory sleaze, with weeks of damaging headlines.

The PM was eventually shamed into proposing a ban on MPs from working as paid political consultants or lobbyists.

Sewage row

The Government was forced into an embarrassing climbdown earlier this month after a massive public backlash over levels of raw sewage being dumped into our waterways.

Untreated sewage was pumped into coastal waters and rivers in England more than 400,000 times in the last year, according to figures from the Environment Agency.

MPs had resisted accepting an amendment from the Duke of Wellington to compel firms to improve their sewage systems “as soon as reasonable” as ministers were worried it would cost up to £660billion to upgrade the Victorian system overnight.

Southwick beach in East Sussex is a site used to dump raw sewage into the sea – one of hundreds across the UK


Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

But No10 appeared to be caught out by the scale of public anger, with some Tory MPs being forced to take to social media to defend voting against the amendment.

Environment Secretary George Eustice swiftly came forward with a concession to cut the amount of sewage being dumped in waterways.

Planning reforms

Plans to tear up planning rules to speed up housebuilding in England were put on hold in September after anger from Tory MPs.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, who was handed the housing brief earlier this year, was said to want to address concerns from fuming backbenchers.

The shake-up was designed to tackle housing shortages and boost home ownership in new Tory strongholds in the North and the Midlands.

But the plans enraged Tories in the party’s traditional heartlands amid concern it would water down local communities’ say over developments.

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