BoJo Reportedly Grilled in ‘Partygate’ Probe Amid ‘Save Big Dog’&'Red Meat’ Premiership Rescue Plans
06:01 GMT 17.01.2022 (Updated: 08:09 GMT 17.01.2022)
The UK Prime Minister has been facing backlash for a series of alleged parties that took place on Downing Street at a time when the United Kingdom was under strict coronavirus restrictions, with a probe underway into the events led by senior civil servant Sue Gray.
has already been grilled by Sue Gray, the senior civil servant carrying out an investigation into alleged COVID-19 rule breaking in Downing Street and government departments, reported The Telegraph.
The UK Prime Minister has shared what he knows about the so-called “party culture” ostensibly rampant amid staff at a time when the country was under strict coronavirus restrictions, according to Whitehall sources cited by the outlet. The publication of Gray’s report is anticipated as early as this week.
has set Boris Johnson firmly in the crosshairs, fending off attacks from a broad spectrum of critics. However, Oliver Dowden, chairman of the UK Conservative Party, defended the PM and attempted to explain how the Government was “seeking to move forward” through the scandal.
Dowden revealed that he was appalled that parties allegedly took place the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
“I was disgusted at the fact that there were parties taking place before this profound event of national mourning in our nation’s history. It shouldn’t have happened and it was wrong, they’ve already apologised for doing so. It was just wrong and it shouldn’t have happened,” Dowden told Sky News' Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme.
Nevertheless, the party co-chairman insisted that embattled Boris Johnson should remain in his position. He underscored that first of all, the ongoing probe needed to “establish all of the facts of what happened”.
“… And then the Prime Minister will be held to account in Parliament for what happened,” he added.
Last week, Boris Johnson issued an apology to Buckingham Palace after reports of two No10 parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.
The Prime Minister has been under a barrage of criticism from the opposition Labour Party, as its leader, Keir Starmer, has insisted
that Johnson had broken the law by ostensibly attending lockdown parties and then lying about the fact.
The Tory PM is also perilously close
to being forced into a leadership contest by his own backbench MPs, with Tim Loughton becoming the sixth Conservative parliamentarian to publicly call for Boris Johnson to quit amid the ongoing row.
According to the former children's minister and East Worthing and Shoreham MP, the PM’s position had become "untenable" and stepping down would be "the only way to bring this whole unfortunate episode to an end".
"The reason for my conclusion in calling for him to stand down is the way that he has handled the mounting revelations in the last few weeks. Obfuscation, prevarication and evasion have been the order of the day when clarity, honesty and contrition was what was needed and what the British people deserve," said Loughton in a statement on social media.
Andrew Bridgen, William Wragg, Douglas Ross, Caroline Nokes and Sir Roger Gale are among the other Tory MPs who had earlier called on the PM to quit.
A number of Tory MPs are allegedly poised to demand Johnson’s resignation, with varying reports suggesting from 20 to 35 of the 54 letters required to trigger a vote of no confidence have already been submitted to the 1922 Committee. A backbencher cited by The Guardian said there were “a lot of letters written but not necessarily sent yet”.
Operation ‘Save Big Dog’
In a bid to save the Prime Minister from a possible leadership challenge and to shore up his tattered reputation, a plan dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” is believed to be under way to “shift the blame” from Johnson.
Thus, the Prime Minister is allegedly gearing up for a "mass clearout" of his advisers, reported The Sunday Times, with Martin Reynolds likely to be the first to exit.
Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, had invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a "bring your own booze" drinks party on 20 May 2020, during the first lockdown in the country, in a leaked email made public earlier by ITV News.
His deputy, Stuart Glassborow, has also been targeted for booting out, according to the outlet. It was added that Downing Street Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield' might also be at risk.
Operation ‘Red Meat’
Furthermore, a plethora of policy announcements are reportedly in the pipeline to help the Prime Minister save his tenuous position.
These, according to UK media reports, include lifting plan “B” COVID-19 restrictions amid “encouraging” signs.
Imposed in early December amid the spread of the Omicron variant of the respiratory disease, current measures in England include guidance to work from home, widespread use of face coverings, and NHS COVID passes to get into nightclubs and large events. They are set to be reviewed on 26 January. Coronavirus cases continued to fall on Sunday. While 70,924 lab-confirmed cases were recorded, the figure represented a 50% fall from 141,471 reported the previous Sunday.
Furthermore, another reportedly “populist” measure mulled by the Prime Minister is sending in the military to tackle the English Channel migrant boat crisis.
According to plans, defence chiefs will purportedly take charge of efforts to stop the perilous crossings that have soared to record levels this year, with the Royal Navy boats possibly sent to reinforce the Border Force fleet.
In the first week of February, as part of Johnson’s much-touted “levelling up” agenda, a document is expected to be unveiled, currently being prepared by Michael Gove. It will reportedly lay out the government’s strategy to improve lives in “neglected” towns.
Also, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil measures to support families with rising fuel bills ahead of an announcement on the expected rise of the energy price cap
. Extra funds will allegedly be set aside by the goverment for jobs and skills training to help those out of work.
Also seen as part of the plan to deflect attention from the scandal that Johnson has been mired in, the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, confirmed on Sunday
the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)’s licence fee will be abolished in 2027, with broadcaster’s funding frozen for the next two years.
Dorries tweeted on Sunday morning to say that it was time to “discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content”.
Amid these latest reports, some Boris Johnson allies were cited as being upbeat about the PM’s chances of political survival.
“He is a fighter. He will go on fighting... You don’t spend your life trying to become Prime Minster, it’s your one great ambition, and then throw it away like that.”,” a source was cited as saying by The Telegraph.
The Prime Minister admitted to the House of Commons that he attended the May 2020 gathering which is part of the Cabinet Office probe, speaking at PMQs on Wednesday (12 January). He also offered a "heartfelt apology", but said he had believed it to be a "work event," asking people to wait until the findings of the investigation ahead of any further statements from him.