Tory MPs Reportedly in ‘Conversations’ on Replacing Scandal-Plagued BoJo if ‘Things Fall Down’
06:11 GMT 10.12.2021 (Updated: 06:26 GMT 10.12.2021)
With the recent Owen Paterson sleaze scandal still reverberating, Boris Johnson has found himself facing a fresh barrage of criticism, this time over the No 10 lockdown-breaching Christmas party scandal last year and reignited controversy over the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.
As embattled Boris Johnson
fends off criticism on all fronts amid the No 10 Christmas party scandal and new damning details suggesting he misled his standards adviser over funding for refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, Tory leadership contenders are starting to circle, reported the i
There are “conversations forming” behind the scenes aimed at replacing Johnson in the event that the UK Prime Minister’s position becomes dangerously untenable, Tory backbencher sources are cited as saying.
Regarding Johnson’s leadership of the Conservative Party after a scandal-plagued last few weeks, an MP said:
“Backbenchers think it’s recoverable but if it goes on more than six months then it’s difficult.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak
is named as one likely contender for the top Tory position.
“One of the PPSs (Parliamentary Private Secretary) – not one of Rishi’s, he’s smarter than that – has been going around canvassing support for him, asking: would you support Rishi if things fall down,” a source is cited as revealing.
Liz Truss is singled out as another potential frontrunner by Tory backbenchers, as the Foreign Secretary is believed to have been wooing MPs with “drinks parties” to bolster her chances in a potential bid for leadership.
“Truss is definitely trying to build up support. She has been having regular dinners with backbenchers,” said another Tory.
In response to the report, an ally of Chancellor Sunak dismissed the claims, saying it was “the first I’ve heard”.
A spokesman for Liz Truss was quoted as denying that she was “canvassing people on the leadership”, adding:
“It’s total and utter rubbish… She’s been Foreign Secretary for less than 12 weeks and is focused on getting on with the job. She meets MPs regularly to discuss foreign policy, and previously trade policy.”
Xmas Party Scandal
An inquiry was ordered by the Prime Minister in the wake of the leaked video, obtained by ITV News, showing Downing Street aides joking about a “fictional” party at No 10 on 18 December 2020.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case was originally tasked with probing footage of what is believed to have been a mock rehearsal for a TV media briefing from 22 December last year, just four days after the alleged lockdown-breaching Christmas party took place.
Senior aides, including Allegra Stratton, are heard in the video
laughingly referencing a "business meeting" and a "cheese and wine" event when London was in coronavirus Tier 3 restrictions. As of 16 December 2020, all mixing indoors between households had been banned.
In the latest fresh revelations pertaining to the scandal, Boris Johnson's senior communications adviser Jack Doyle handed out “thank you awards" awards on the night of the alleged Downing Street party last year, reported Sky News. Meanwhile, Doyle has been part of the No 10 strategy to deny that there had been such a gathering, with around 40 people in attendance, through this past week.
Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner was quoted as saying:
"As more details emerge about the Downing Street Christmas party, the government's internal investigation has been exposed as the sham it is.The investigation has only just published its terms of reference and we are already seeing more details from the media than the Cabinet Office about the parties."
9 December 2021, 05:42 GMT
Downing Street aide Allegra Stratton was the first casualty of the leaked footage, resigning
The UK government has now confirmed that Simon Case’s inquiry will also look at two prior gatherings involving government officials last year. Besides vents on 18 December, the investigation will look into events on on 27 November and 10 December.
The former was reportedly a leaving party for a member of staff in Downing Street during which the PM made a speech. The other one was a party held at the Department for Education and was reportedly attended by then-education secretary Gavin Williamson.
Earlier, during a press conference on Wednesday, Boris Johnson appeared to indicate that the Cabinet Secretary would go further than reviewing the events of 18 December, when the alleged festive bash took place, and “look at other things”.
Johnson had also apologised
, claiming he was "furious" at the footage, as he spoke at PMQs on Wednesday. He also told PMs he had been "repeatedly assured" no such festive gathering took place.
However, Tory MPs have been furious over the developments. Brexiteer Philip Hollobone suggested the Downing Street parties were “totally inappropriate and possibly criminal”.
The Labour Party's leader was cited by
The Telegraph as claiming the recent succession of scandals showed that Boris Johnson was "unfit for office".
Reignited Flat Refurb Scandal
Fuel to the fire of scandal was added after the UK Electoral Commission on Thursday announced that the ruling Conservative Party has been fined
£17,800 for breaking the rules on reporting donations, reported The Telegraph.
Publishing the findings of its investigation, the Electoral Commission said that the Conservatives had failed to fully report a donation of £67,000 from Huntswood Associates Limited. This company is said to be controlled by Tory peer Lord Brownlow
While £15,000 had been reported, a sum of £52,000 used to fund the renovation of the flat in 11 Downing Street where Prime Minister Boris Johnson lives with his family had not been reported by the Tories, said the commission.
Furthermore, ahead of the probe, in April, Boris Johnson assured Lord Geidt, his adviser on ministerial standards, he “knew nothing” of the payments until they were reported in the media in February this year.
9 December 2021, 12:07 GMT
Lord Geidt’s annual report, published in May, had exonerated
Boris Johnson of any wrongdoing, while acknowledging he had acted “unwisely”.
However now, the probe revealed Johnson sent Lord Brownlow a WhatsApp message on 29 November 2020 asking him to authorise further unspecified “refurbishment works on the residence.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner slammed the UK Prime Minister, saying:
“It is right that the Electoral Commission has fined the Conservative Party. But the Prime Minister must now explain why he lied to the British public saying he didn’t know who was behind the No 11 flat refurb – all the while he was WhatsApping the donor asking for more money.”
In response, Boris Johnson’s spokesman on Thursday afternoon insisted the PM had “acted in accordance with the rules at all times” and has “made all necessary declarations”.