PeppaGate: Boris Johnson 'Losing Confidence' of Tories After 'Shambolic' Speech to Business Leaders
05:41 GMT 23.11.2021 (Updated: 05:57 GMT 23.11.2021)
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been in the hot seat amid a backlash from the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal and row over MPs' second jobs, the continuing Channel migrant crisis, as well as controversial social care proposals and perceived “rail betrayal”.
Some UK Tory Party members are concerned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson
is “losing his grip over key policies”, ranging from social care issues to scaled-back rail plans for the north of the country, reported The Guardian.
Conservative MPs are purportedly beginning to question Johnson’s competence in the wake of the events of the past two weeks, marred by the fallout from the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal, among other problems.
It was suggested there has been “a lot of concern” inside Downing Street “about the PM”, with a source quoted by the BBC adding that “it’s just not working”. It was essential for the cabinet to “wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse”, underscored the report.
Boris Johnson has faced mounting anger over his proposed changes to the health and care bill, which were debated in the Commons on Monday amid fears they will hit poorer pensioners, a decision to "scale back" rail improvements for the north of the country and failure to come up with a viable way to stop the flow of illegal migrants
crossing the English Channel.
Coupled with his handling of the sleaze row, which prompted the PM to admit he had “crashed the car into a ditch” in his handling of the Paterson lobbying case
, backbenchers are said to be increasingly rebellious.
The Prime Minister’s rambling speech
at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, in Port of Tyne, northern England, on Monday, purportedly did little to assuage these concerns. At the event, Boris Johnson had seemed lost for words as he rummaged through his notes, muttering "forgive me" before launching into a bizarre discourse about Peppa Pig World, a park based on the children’s TV show, which is situated 330 miles away from South Shields, where the Confederation of British Industry took place.
“Yesterday I went, as we all must, to Peppa Pig World. I don’t know if you’ve been to Peppa Pig World? Hands up who’s been to Peppa Pig World. I love it. Peppa Pig World is very much my kind of place,” Johnson had rambled before the gathering of business executives.
The CBI speech was slammed as a “mess” by one senior backbencher, while another Tory MP was cited as saying:
“I thought today’s performance was the most embarrassing by a Conservative prime minister since last week’s PMQs. Someone needs to get a grip. He is losing the confidence of the party.”
There has been “an accumulation of things building up, really relating to his competence and that is beginning to look very shaky” after a “pretty bad bloody fortnight”, a former cabinet minister was cited by The Guardian as saying.
While speculations of any potential leadership challenge to Johnson in the near future were ruled out by the source, it was added that things might get “problematic for him” if the polls were to grow less even between the Tories and Labour ahead of an election.
“It might not only be Father Christmas’ postbag filling up towards the end of the year – Sir Graham Brady could find he needs a bigger one too,” a Tory MP told the outlet, referencing the process by which parliamentarians can submit letters of no confidence to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady.
The chilly reception that the PM’s speech on Monday was met with by UK business leaders was chiefly down to its lack of substantial policy, claimed the report. Many in attendance had questioned Johnson’s focus, as he lurched from imitating the sound of an accelerating car to likening himself to Moses over plans to help business invest in tackling climate change.
“I said to my officials the new Ten Commandments were that ‘thou shalt develop industries like offshore wind, hydrogen, nuclear power and carbon capture’”, said the prime minister.
“Last week’s HS2 announcement has left a lot of small business owners wondering if the government is already losing its way, not just in speeches but with regards to levelling-up in the round,” Mike Cherry, national chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, was quoted as saying.
After the bizarre speech, Boris Johnson defended his performance at the podium, saying:
“I think that people got the vast majority of the points I wanted to make, and I thought it went over well.”
Nevertheless, the overall sentiment shared by many Tory MPs, according to the report, is a sense of disappointment, disillusionment and discontent, particularly with the fact that Johnson appeared to be disregarding their feedback.
Conservative politicians are ostensibly under the impression that Boris Johnson has failed to live up to expectations on policies such as levelling up, rail and social care. While ministers say the £96bn integrated rail plan published on THursday will deliver improvements faster than original plans for the HS2 eastern leg and Northern Powerhouse Rail, critics in the north and Midlands slammed the "watered down version of what was promised" as a “rail betrayal”.
As to the amendments to the social care cap, including no longer letting poorer pensioners count means-tested payments by the state for their care towards a total cap of £86,000, the controversial changes passed a Commons vote on Monday evening, despite a number of Tory MPs rebelling on the issue.