Boris Johnson is facing a mounting Tory backlash over Partygate today with a dozen MPs issuing public criticism of the Prime Minister as backbenchers brand Downing Street staff ‘prats’ and tell how they have been inundated with angry emails from constituents calling for him to resign.
Tory MP Nigel Mills, who backed Johnson during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how ‘so many stupid things could have happened’.
And Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 on the eve of Prince Philip‘s funeral ‘needs to be sacked’.
Lee Anderson, a new Red Wall MP for Ashfield, even created a poll on Facebook asking voters if Johnson should stay as Prime Minister.
Amid the party’s internal fallout, one ex-minister warned that Johnson is ‘toast’, while another said the crisis now feels ‘terminal’.
One senior backbencher revealed they had received more than 200 angry emails from infuriated constituents over the parties, alongside only five supporting the PM.
The comments come amid claims that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Johnson attended.
Staff even invested in a £142 drinks fridge to keep their beer, prosecco and wine cold, with the PM urging aides to ‘let off steam’ at a time when Britons were banned from socialising indoors, sources told The Mirror.
The revelation follows five Tory MPs calling for the embattled premier to step down over his handling of the lockdown party scandal.
Andrew Bridgen submitted a letter of no-confidence in Johnson, joining Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in urging him to quit.
It is understood that up to 30 letters of no-confidence have been submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs. If more than 15 per cent of the party’s MPs submit letters, there has to be a vote on the leadership.
The growing Tory backlash over Johnson’s handling of the Partygate scandal comes as:
- Mr Johnson’s personal ratings have slumped to an all-time low of minus 52 according to YouGov, with 20 per cent viewing him favourably and 72 per cent unfavourably;
- There are claims the investigation by top civil servant Sue Gray will find no evidence of criminal behaviour, despite the growing evidence about guidance being flouted;
- The Metropolitan Police has made clear it is unlikely to launch a probe unless the Cabinet Office flags potential incidents where offences might have been committed;
- Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has warned it would be ‘entirely inappropriate and discourteous’ if the results of Ms Gray’s inquiry leak before being announced to the Commons;
- The Conservative association in ultra-safe Sutton Coldfield has voted to withdraw its support for the PM, saying that the ‘culture starts at the top’.
Tory backlash was growing towards Boris Johnson (pictured on January 12) over Partygate last night as a dozen MPs issued public criticism of the Prime Minister. It follows five Tory MPs calling for the embattled premier to step down
Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral ‘needs to be sacked’
Tory MP Nigel Mills, who backed Johnson during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how ‘so many stupid things could have happened’
Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley, told The Times: ‘These people are meant to be the brightest and the best running the country. It’s hard to conceive how so many stupid things could have happened.’
Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, said: ‘If there were people in Downing Street prior to the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral partying, well they’re prats and need to be sacked.’
Julian Knight, MP for Solihull, said he is ‘very open minded’ about the idea of Johnson resigning.
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, added: ‘I say to the prime minister, “Lead, or get out of the way and step aside”.’
Danny Kruger, Mr Johnson’s former political secretary turned MP for Devizes, accused the PM of a ‘callous disregard for the personal sacrifices that families were making’.
Former cabinet member Karen Bradley said she shares the outrage with her dismayed constituents about the revelations.
The comments come amid claims that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Johnson attended. Staff even invested in a 34-bottle drinks fridge (pictured right), which was delivered by a courier (left) through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, while indoor socialising was banned
A Downing Street official called the Palace to apologise for the latest revelations about a party on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, but aides refused to say whether Mr Johnson – who was not at the booze-fuelled event – would be speaking to the monarch personally about the issue. Pictured, one of the PM’s weekly audiences with the Queen in June last year
Downing Street staff allegedly boozed ‘excessively’ at two leaving parties the night before the Queen was forced to grieve alone her own at the Duke of Edinburgh’s Covid-secure funeral last year
The swing in the Downing Street garden used by Mr Johnson’s son Wilf (circled) is believed to have been broken amid high jinks at the leaving do
Downing Street’s pandemic parties
May 15, 2020: THE GARDEN PARTY
A leaked photo showed Boris and Carrie Johnson with 17 senior Downing Street staff, sitting around cheese and wine. This took place during the first Covid lockdown at a time when only two people from different households could mix outdoors, socially distanced
May 20, 2020: BYOB BASH
A bombshell email from Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, invited more than 100 staff to No10’s lavish gardens on May 20 to ‘make the most of the lovely weather’. He told guests to bring their own alcohol
November 13, 2020: LEE CAIN’S LEAVING DO
The PM allegedly made a leaving speech for his director of communications Lee Cain with a number of people gathered. The party is believed to have carried on upstairs that evening after Dominic Cummings unceremoniously walked out of Downing Street carrying a cardboard box.
November 27, 2020: CLEO WATSON’S LEAVING DO
Mr Johnson reportedly gives a speech at a packed leaving do for a ‘senior aide’. ’40 or 50 people’ were present. The aide was named as one newspaper as Cleo Watson, Dominic Cummings’ protégé.
December 15, 2020: CHRISTMAS QUIZ
Pictures obtained by the Sunday Mirror show Mr Johnson on a TV screen flanked by colleagues, one draped in tinsel and another wearing a Santa hat, in the No10 library. A source claimed many staff were huddled by computers in their Downing Street offices, conferring on questions and drinking alcohol while the quiz was taking place. The Mirror said a message sent by No10’s head of HR on the night of the quiz advised that those who had stayed behind to take part ‘go out the back’ when they left. The paper also unearthed the team names used that night, including ‘Professor Quiz Whitty’, ‘Rebels without a Claus’, and ‘Hands, Face, First Place’.
December 17, 2020: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, charged with probing Partygate, hosted a party after sending an email out to around 15 people in his Private Office titled ‘Christmas Quiz’.
December 18, 2020: ANOTHER CHRISTMAS PARTY Downing Street staffers allegedly hold their own festive party, with the PM not in attendance. Group size is also given as 40 to 50.
April 16, 2021: JAMES SLACK’S LEAVING DO
Advisers and civil servants drank alcohol and danced in No10’s basement and gardens to mark the departure of Boris Johnson’s press chief James Slack and one of the Prime Minister’s personal photographers. Witnesses claimed 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden, on the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.
May 26, 2021: A second, formal leaving event is held for James Slack inside No 10. More than a dozen allegedly attended.
Meanwhile, one MP told the BBC: ‘Many colleagues now believe Boris won’t be leader at next general election… for many of us this feels terminal.’
And a former minister added: ‘Johnson is toast… if you were the chief whip looking at him you’d say he’s not fit to do any other jobs in government, you wouldn’t make him a junior minister, he doesn’t work hard enough.’
A Midlands Tory MP simply said: ‘The inbox is bad, really bad.’
It follows extraordinary pictured revealing that employees took turns to stock up on drinks at the local Tesco Metro with a wheely suitcase to fill up the 34-bottle fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020.
At the time, households were not allowed to mix indoors or in most outdoor places with exemptions for people in support bubbles, and a maximum of six people were allowed to meet in some outdoor public spaces like parks and public gardens.
Despite the harsh rules, Downing Street scheduled ‘wine-time Fridays’ into the electronic calendars of 50 No 10 staff every week between 4pm and 7pm.
The end-of-week drinks are part of a long-standing tradition in government but they reportedly continued while the rest of the country were mostly confined to their homes.
They were organised by the No 10 press office but advisors from other departments would often join in, it has been claimed.
It is just the latest in a series of damning revelations about the alleged culture of drinking and partying throughout the pandemic at Downing Street amid growing calls for Johnson to resign, some from within his own party.
It was revealed on Thursday that a leaving do was held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, prompting Johnson to order No 10 to apologise to the Queen.
Sue Gray, the senior civil servant investigating the litany of claims, is said to have been ‘completely blindsided’ by the latest revelations, The Times reported.
Meanwhile cabinet ministers who publicly backed their leader this week said it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify their support, with one saying: ‘This is the last chance saloon. More revelations of parties, and a pummelling at the local elections, and the party will rise up.’
A dozen Tory MPs have now criticised the prime minister publicly, while another in a red wall constituency ran a Facebook poll asking if he should go and a senior party activist said he wished to ‘never hear of him again’.
Regardless, it appears voters have made up their minds, with seven out of ten believing Mr Johnson has not been telling the truth about his involvement in the BYOB garden party while 63 per cent said he should resign, a poll has revealed.
Eight in ten also believe the event was illegal according to the PM’s own Covid legislation.
Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government Covid response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, said she was ‘truly sorry’ for a gathering held in the Cabinet Office to mark her leaving the civil service on December 17, 2020.
Ms Josephs said she and colleagues who had been working assembled for drinks in the evening. Dozens of staff are reported to have attended – even though London was in Tier 3 lockdown at the time and the rules prohibited households socialising indoors.
Earlier, the PM’s spokesman admitted an apology had been made to Buckingham Palace over ‘regrettable’ behaviour in Downing Street on April 16 last year – when two other leaving dos took place, including for departing director of communications James Slack. The lockdown rules at that point banned indoor social mixing.
However, it is understood an official made the grovelling call, and aides refused to say whether Mr Johnson – who was not at the booze-fuelled event – will be speaking to the monarch personally about the issue.
Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen submitted a letter of no-confidence in Johnson, joining Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in urging him to quit
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, added: ‘I say to the prime minister, “Lead, or get out of the way and step aside”‘
Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull since 2015, said he is ‘very open minded’ about the idea of Johnson resigning
Danny Kruger (pictured left), Johnson’s former political secretary turned MP for Devizes, accused the PM of a ‘callous disregard for the personal sacrifices that families were making’, while William Wragg (right) has urged Johnson to quit
All three leaving events have now been referred to Sue Gray’s investigation, which is not expected to report before the end of next week.
One of the regular attendees at the Friday drinks is said to be Mr Johnson’s defence advisor Captain Steve Higham, who now commands the HMS Prince of Wales.
Sources said the weekly drinks often carried on until midnight with up to two dozen aides drinking and playing games including Pictionary.
The drinks were especially popular between autumn 2020 and spring 2021 after staff became ‘fatigued’ with the Covid measures, it has been claimed.
But when socialising recommenced after the easing of the rules, the popularity of the weekly government drinks faded, with staff no longer having to rely on them for their Friday night revelry, sources said.
The Prime Minister allegedly attended a ‘handful’ of the weekly drinks, including one on November 13, 2020, the day Dominic Cummings left No 10.
Lee Anderson, a new Red Wall MP for Ashfield, ran a poll on Facebook asking voters if Johnson should stay as Prime Minister
Former cabinet member Karen Bradley said she shares the outrage with her dismayed constituents about the revelations
Johnson faced open revolt from one wing of his party, as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross urged him to quit, with almost all Tory MSPs supporting the call
In Westminster, three Tory MPs have publicly said the PM should go, including Caroline Nokes (left) and Sir Roger Gale (right)
A suitcase full of booze, music and a broken child’s swing: The No10 leaving dos on the eve of Philip’s funeral
The details of the latest Downing Street ‘parties’ to rock Boris Johnson’s government are another hammer blow.
The revelry allegedly began on April 16 last year when the PM’s director of communications James Slack finished his final day of work, and gave a speech.
Some colleagues were there in person, while others joined in by video link. Alcohol was consumed and the group later went into the garden, according to the account given to the Telegraph.
Meanwhile, another leaving event was reportedly happening for an official photographer.
That gaggle of mainly younger staff apparently spent much of the evening in the poorly-ventilated basement of the building.
A laptop balanced on a photocopier supplied music, with Shelley Williams-Walker, Mr Johnson’s head of operations, allegedly involved in overseeing the music.
According to a witness at one point someone was delegated to go to the Co-op nearby on the Strand with a suitcase, filling it with bottles of wine.
The groups eventually seem to have merged in the garden, with claims there were concerns too much wine had been spilling on the carpet inside as they danced.
Some partiers allegedly tried out – and broke – the swing in the garden used by Mr Johnson’s young son Wilfred as the frivolity went on past midnight.
Then, England was in a second national lockdown but Mr Johnson stayed with colleagues for a glass of wine and a chat.
A source said: ‘Boris used to stop by for a chat while they had a drink. It was on the way up to his flat and the door was usually open. He knew about it and encouraged it.’
Mr Johnson will look to move on from so-called Partygate by lifting Plan B measures, such as the guidance to work from home, at the end of the month, the Telegraph reported.
The restrictions, which were designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, are due to expire on January 26, subject to a review.
Levelling-Up Secretary Michael Gove hinted that there could be sackings as part of a shake-up at the top of Government, but rejected a suggestion that Mr Johnson should be one of those to go.
For the leaving party held in April 16, the night before Prince Philip’s funeral, England was in step two of the government’s roadmap, meaning there was a strict ban on any indoor gatherings of different households, and the limit was six people outdoors.
Mr Slack, who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the ‘anger and hurt caused’, which he said ‘should not have happened at the time that it did’. ‘I am deeply sorry, and take full responsibility,’ he said.
Any larger gatherings for work purposes had to be ‘reasonably necessary’, according to the regulations at the time. And there was a potential £10,000 fine for people who organised such events.
On December 17 2020, London was in Tier 3 with guidance that people ‘must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with’.
The allegations of rule-breaking have left Boris Johnson ‘unable to lead’, Sir Keir Starmer is due to say.
In a speech at the Fabian Society conference, the Labour leader is preparing to accuse the Conservatives of running down the health service and the PM of being ‘too preoccupied defending his rule breaking’ to turn it around.
On Saturday, Sir Keir is due to set out his ‘personal crusade’ for NHS reform, accusing subsequent Tory-led administrations of allowing the health service to fall into a ‘critical condition’.
Sir Keir is set to say: ‘Rather than concentrating on getting through the pandemic and bringing down waiting lists, this self-indulgent Tory party is instead having a fight about a leader who they should have known from the start is not fit for office.
‘We are witnessing the broken spectacle of a Prime Minister mired in deceit and deception, unable to lead. When we left office 12 years ago, the Conservatives inherited a strong NHS.
One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze
A YouGov poll for the Times has laid bare the scale of the damage being suffered by the government, showing the Tories slumping five points to just 28 per cent in less than a week
What were the lockdown rules during the latest ‘Partygate’ events?
December 17 2020 – Kate Josephs leaving do at the Cabinet Office
London was in Tier 3 with guidance that people ‘must not meet socially indoors, in a private garden or most outdoor public venues with anybody they do not live with or have a support bubble with’.
Meetings in offices were allowed, but only for work purposes.
April 16, 2021 – James Slack and photographer leaving dos at Downing Street
England was in step two of the government’s roadmap in April last year, meaning there was a strict ban on indoor gatherings of different households, and the limit was six people outdoors.
Any larger gatherings for work purposes had to be ‘reasonably necessary’, according to the regulations at the time. And there was a potential £10,000 fine for people who organised such events.
‘Waiting times were the shortest on record. Today, NHS waiting lists are the highest since records began. And it is not good enough to blame all this on Covid – this mess has been much longer in the making.
‘This Government has to bear the responsibility. Why have we got to this point, where the NHS itself is in a critical condition?’
The opposition leader will use the conference speech to describe his vision of a ‘contract for better health’ in order to provide people with the ‘security, prosperity and respect they deserve’ under a Labour government.
Those changes will include ensuring ‘a health system that is a bit less about the system and a lot more about the patient’, with health care moving towards prevention to reflect Britain’s ‘older society’, according to party officials.
Sir Keir will make commitments on mental health, promising that the next Labour administration will treat mental health as seriously as physical health and guarantee mental health support in under a month.
He is expected to add: ‘It is obvious that the NHS needs more money. But that is not all it needs.
‘When we were in government, we started to reform the NHS – so that it was pointed more towards the patient, so that it answered the needs of the time.
‘That reform process has stalled because this Government doesn’t care if the NHS falls behind. Boris Johnson is too preoccupied defending his rule breaking.’
The PM stands accused of failing to stamp out a party culture in government at a time when millions of Britons were making huge sacrifices through the pandemic.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the situation further by telling the public to ‘move on’. ‘He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues,’ she told reporters.
Another close ally, Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit ‘agenda’ behind the attacks on Johnson.
A former Cabinet minister told MailOnline the latest claims were ‘awful’. ‘It is the cumulative effect. The parties are piling up with gay abandon. The timing of this latest one is devastating,’ they said.
‘Even if Johnson wasn’t present and didn’t know, what it says about the culture at No10. He’s already got form as someone who is indifferent to the rules, they don’t apply to him. He’s clearly allowed a culture in No10 to say anything goes.’
The government guidance as of April 2021 included clear limits on socialising indoors and outdoors
The legal regulations at the time of the leaving do in April last year had much broader restrictions on indoor and outdoor social gatherings. Work gatherings were only exempt if they were ‘reasonably necessary’
Ms Josephs said in a statement on Twitter that she was cooperating with Ms Gray’s inquiry.
‘As people know I previously worked in the Cabinet Office Covid Taskforce where I was Director General from July 2020 to December 18, 2020,’ she said.
‘I have been cooperating fully with the Cabinet Office investigations and I do not want to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.
‘However as Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council I am responsible for leading the organisation and working with partners across the city and region to support our Covid response and recovery.
‘That is why I have decided to make a statement.
Last night’s bombshell allegations — the first that any lockdown-busting parties took place in 2021 — will pile further pressure on the embattled PM, who is fighting for his political life over the ‘Partygate’ scandal. Pictured, an image of an alleged lockdown-busting party in No10 on May 15, 2020
‘On the evening of 17 December, I gathered with colleagues that were at work that day, with drinks, in our office in the Cabinet Office, to mark my leaving the Civil Service.
‘I am truly sorry that I did this and for the anger that people will feel as a result. Sheffield has suffered greatly during this pandemic, and I apologise unreservedly.
‘The specific facts of this event will be considered in the context of the Cabinet Office investigation. I did not attend any events at 10 Downing Street.
‘I am grateful for the ongoing support of colleagues and partners and need now to ask that people allow the Cabinet Office to complete its investigation.
‘I will not be able to respond to any further questions until the Cabinet Office investigation is complete.’
On your way to No10, Rishi? Chancellor Sunak breaks cover after lukewarm backing for Boris Johnson over Partygate as bookmakers make him favourite to succeed him as Prime Minister
Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street yesterday, hours after giving his boss Boris Johnson only lukewarm support in the wake of his Partygate humiliation
Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street yesterday, hours after giving his boss Boris Johnson only lukewarm support in the wake of his partygate humiliation.
The Chancellor was more than 200 miles rom Westminster as the Prime Minister apologised for attending a drinks event in his back garden while they were banned in May 2020.
And while other ministers went public with their support for the PM after his 3pm Commons appearance, the bookies favourite to succeed him left it until after 8pm to offer any sort of endorsement.
More than 20 ministers including Health Secretary Sajid Javid, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Communities Secretary Michael Gove were despatched to the airwaves and social media to publicly support the PM after his statement to the Commons failed to quell anger among Tory backbenchers.
But the Chancellor spent the day in Ilfracombe, north Devon, before taking to Twitter late on Wednesday to say that Mr Johnson was ‘right to apologise’ over the lockdown party scandal and call for ‘patience’ while Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray conducted an inquiry into the affair.
Mr Johnson told the Commons he thought the bring-your-own-booze party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was a ‘work event’.
Mr Sunak’s comments were in contrast to those posted by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, another minister said to have eyes on the top job, although she took longer than other ministers to row in behind the PM.
She wrote: ‘The PM is delivering for Britain – from Brexit to the booster programme to economic growth. I stand behind the Prime Minister 100 per cent as he takes our country forward.’
One Cabinet minister yesterday told the Times the two were engaged in ‘obvious game playing’, adding: ‘Rishi and Liz have overplayed their hands. They have lost the subtlety plot.’
Ladbrokes yesterday cut their odds on Mr Sunak becoming the next PM to 7/4 favourite, with Liz Truss at 4/1.
Mr Sunak raised eyebrows yesterday by continuing with an engagement in Devon while Mr Johnson endured a bruising session of Prime Minister’s Questions. Miss Truss sat alongside Mr Johnson in the Commons.
One senior Conservative said the Chancellor had ‘done himself a lot of damage’ by trying to distance himself from the row while others pitched in to help. But other MPs stepped up pressure on the PM after he admitted spending 25 minutes at a boozy staff party in the No10 garden on May 20, 2020.