'Operation Save Big Dog': BoJo May Fire Some No 10 Officials to Avoid Quitting Over 'Partygate' Row
06:04 GMT 15.01.2022 (Updated: 06:11 GMT 15.01.2022)
Earlier this week, UK government ministers warned that embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson has two weeks to implement a number of urgent tasks in order to save his career, tarnished by a host of scandals, including those related to the Downing Street social gatherings held amid COVID-19 lockdowns.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
is drawing up a list of government officials to offer them resignations in a bid to save his job amid the "partygate" scandal, The Independent
The newspaper cited unnamed Whitehall sources as saying that Johnson dubbed the plan "Operation Save Big Dog", which purportedly stipulates the possible departures of the prime minister's Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield and Private Secretary Martin Reynolds.
The sources told The Independent that the goal of Johnson's plan is to tackle the damage that may be caused by the potentially bombshell report on a number of lockdown-breaking parties at Downing Street between 2020 and 2021, currently being investigated by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
One of the insiders underscored that even though government ministers support Johnson, they believe that a "root and branch" overhaul of No 10 and parts of the Cabinet Office would prove essential to move on from the "partygate" scandal. According to the source, it would be a "bare minimum to translate contrition into action".
"Operation Save Big Dog" also reportedly envisages a communications "grid" to emphasise a contrite prime minister and list his achievements amid the difficult choices posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, the plan ostensibly includes sounding out support among backbenchers for possible leadership rivals, among them Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, and even former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
'Wine-Time Fridays' at Downing Street?
The sources' claims come after Johnson faced renewed calls on Friday to step down following fresh reports that Downing Street staff held parties on 16 April 2021, on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral and when England was still under strict COVID-19 rules banning people from different households from gathering indoors.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Johnson's advisers and civil servants gathered after work for two separate staff leaving events as the country was in a period of mourning after the death of Queen Elizabeth II's husband.
In a separate report, The Mirror quoted unnamed sources as saying that Downing Street staff held "wine-time Fridays" throughout the pandemic in 2020 and that the PM regularly witnessed the gatherings, encouraging staffers to "let off steam" despite indoor socialising being strictly banned at the time.
The newspaper also published a photo of what it claimed was a 34-bottle capacity wine fridge being delivered to Downing Street.
The reports were preceded by Johnson apologising on Wednesday for participating in a party that was held in the garden of his official residence on 20 May 2020, but did not explicitly admit any wrongdoing as he claimed that he had assumed the gathering was a work event.
In another development on Wednesday, government ministers reportedly called on Johnson to grapple with a number of challenges in order to save his scandal-plagued career.
According to The Sun, the ministers specifically urged the PM to lift the mask mandate and COVID vaccine passports, scrap the booze culture on Downing Street, as well as "take a broom to No 10" and "clear out the metropolitan elites" in order to reconnect with the Conservative Party and voters.
The past few months have seen Johnson facing a host of scandals
, including a Tory sleaze furore, a backbencher rebellion over the nation's COVID-19 rules, allegations of lockdown-breaching No 10 social gatherings in 2020, and a Tory by-election loss in Shropshire.
The scandals have already prompted speculation that Johnson's resignation is just a matter of time, amid media reports that Chancellor Sunak is "the favourite to replace Johnson", according to bookmakers and opinion polls.