UK partygate fallout increasing chance of Boris Johnson leadership challenge
- A damning official report last week detailed illegal parties at Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns
- It has prompted a new wave of calls from Conservatives for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step aside
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing increasing hostility from his own MPs, with Conservative Party whips said to be discussing how to fight back if rebels trigger an all-important confidence vote in his leadership.
More than 20 Conservative lawmakers have publicly called for Johnson to quit since the reports of lockdown-breaking parties began to steadily drip into the media. At least 54 are required to formally request a confidence vote for one to be triggered.
On Monday, three new names surfaced and a fourth MP resubmitted letter of no confidence he previously withdrew in light of the Ukraine crisis.
Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen emailed his North West Leicestershire constituents on Monday to say he has resubmitted his letter of no confidence in Johnson following “further revelations over the past week”, which saw the publication of the long-awaited Sue Gray “partygate” report.
He originally submitted a letter in January 2022 but withdrew it in March, arguing it was not appropriate to hold a confidence vote amid the fighting in Ukraine.
Earlier, former attorney general Jeremy Wright said events in Downing Street had caused “real and lasting damage” to the government’s authority and that he had concluded “with regret” that Johnson should go.
A spokesperson for Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn, who was elected in 2019, confirmed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.
And a fourth Tory MP, Nickie Aiken, suggested Johnson should submit himself to a confidence vote to end the “speculation” over his future.
Meanwhile, Tory chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, reportedly said he had made his position on the matter “clear to those who need to hear it”.
The backbench MP, who previously said he was open to running for the Tory leadership, was quoted as criticising Johnson, but did not appear to call for him to resign.
According to Sky News’ Tom Larkin, he said: “The PM put the governance of the UK at risk to a single, severe Covid outbreak. That is to say nothing of the lack of respect it showed for the British people or the queen.
“I have made my position clear to those who need to hear it.” In his email to constituents, Bridgen said: “I did believe that during the initial stages of the Russia/Ukraine war that it would be wrong to have a leadership contest.
“There have, however, been further revelations over the past week and there is obviously and rightly still a lot of anger about the culture in No 10 during the lockdown period.
“I and colleagues have put in a letter of no confidence over the past few days and it may well be the numbers are close to triggering a vote of no confidence.
It comes as No 10 is under renewed pressure to say if Johnson’s wife hosted a second lockdown party in the Downing Street flat on the day of the prime minister’s 56th birthday.
Earlier in the day on June 19, 2020, Johnson was present at an impromptu gathering in the Cabinet Room, which led to him being fined by the Metropolitan Police along with his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
The government had already been facing questions over another event in the flat later in the year, on November 13, when the prime minister’s wife reportedly held the so-called “Abba party” to celebrate the departure of the prime minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings in the fallout from a bitter No 10 power struggle.
In her report, Sue Gray said she had only gathered “limited” evidence on the event when she had to stop due to the police investigation, and that she did not consider it “appropriate or proportionate” to resume after officers concluded their inquiry.
Additional reporting by Reuters