Boris’s ex-communications director ‘apologises unreservedly’ for No 10 party


What WERE they thinking? Now ex-head of Covid taskforce says sorry for ANOTHER Cabinet Office bash as Boris delegates No10 minion to apologise to Queen for leaving do where staff ‘filled suitcase with booze from Co-Op’ on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral

  • No10 staff boozed at two leaving parties the night before the Queen grieved alone at Prince Philip’s funeral  
  • Government advisers and civil servants drank and danced in No10’s basement and gardens on April 16, 2021
  • The next day, Her Majesty was forced to sit on her own in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle
  • A No10 spokesman insisted PM was not in Downing Street, having left for Chequers on Thursday evening
  • A former head of Covid taskforce has said sorry for another leaving do at Cabinet Office in December 2020
  • The latest bombshell allegations have piled further pressure on the already embattled Prime Minister 

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Boris Johnson faced more Partygate chaos tonight as a former head of the Covid taskforce apologised for yet another drinks bash – hours after Boris Johnson has ordered No10 to say sorry to the Queen for a leaving do on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government 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.  

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 leaving dos took place, including for departing director of communications James Slack. 

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.   

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. 

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. 

England was in step two of the government’s roadmap in April last year, meaning there was a strict ban on any indoor gatherings of more than two people from 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. 

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’.  

Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of ‘degrading the office of PM’ in the wake of the grim revelations, saying he must resign. 

The revelations are yet another blow to the PM, who 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 Mr Johnson. 

But Andrew Bridgen has become the latest Tory MP to tell the PM to quit over ‘partygate’, insisting his position had become ‘untenable’ because of the ‘moral vacuum at the heart of our government’.

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.’    

On another toxic day for Mr Johnson and his struggling Downing Street machine:

  • 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’.

Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council

Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council

Kate Josephs, who was a director general in the unit that coordinated the government response and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  

This afternoon Kate Josephs, who headed the Cabinet Office unit drawing up Covid restrictions and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, apologised for her own leaving do on December 17

This afternoon Kate Josephs, who headed the Cabinet Office unit drawing up Covid restrictions and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, apologised for her own leaving do on December 17

This afternoon Kate Josephs, who headed the Cabinet Office unit drawing up Covid restrictions and is now chief executive at Sheffield City Council, apologised for her own leaving do on December 17

One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze

One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze

One Downing Street staffer was despatched to the Co-op on The Strand, next to Trafalgar Square, to fill a suitcase with more booze

The government guidance as of April 2021 included clear limits on socialising indoors and outdoors

The government guidance as of April 2021 included clear limits on socialising indoors and outdoors

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'

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'

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’  

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the situation today by insisting the PM had apologised and 'we now need to move on'

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss risked inflaming the situation today by insisting the PM had apologised and 'we now need to move on'

James Slack, who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the 'anger and hurt caused' by the party in April 2021

James Slack, who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the 'anger and hurt caused' by the party in April 2021

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (left) risked inflaming the situation today by insisting the PM had apologised and ‘we now need to move on’. James Slack (right), who is now deputy editor of The Sun newspaper, said sorry for the ‘anger and hurt caused’ by the party in April 2021

Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen becomes fifth Tory MP to call for Boris to quit over partygate – as true-blue local association disowns the PM 

Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen has become the fifth Tory MP to call for embattled Boris Johnson to quit over ‘Partygate’.

The MP for North West Leicestershire, who backed the PM to be party leader in June 2019, has submitted a letter of no-confidence in Mr Johnson and urged him to leave office within the next three months.

Blasting the ‘moral vacuum at the heart of Government’, Mr Bridgen joins Douglas Ross, Sir Roger Gale, William Wragg and Caroline Nokes in calling for Mr Johnson to resign over his handling of the lockdown party scandal.

Meanwhile, the Conservative association in the rock-solid seat of Sutton Coldfield said it had withdrawn support for Mr Johnson due to his failure to control the No10 ‘culture’.

Councillor Simon Ward told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘The culture starts at the top, doesn’t it? And that’s the really disappointing point.

‘We were asking people all over our country to make massive sacrifices, people in rural Sutton Coldfield to make massive sacrifices, over the last two years.

‘I think we have the right to expect everybody in Government and in those positions of leadership to follow those same rules and guidelines as well.’ 

Nobody knows how many letters of no-confidence have been submitted to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory MPs. Estimates range from just five to dozens.

If more than 15 per cent of the party’s MPs submit a letter, there has to be a vote on the leadership, giving a threshold of 54.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Bridgen thundered: ‘Sadly, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable.

‘Leadership is not just about the job title, or even making big decisions — it is equally about having a moral compass, of knowing not just right from left but right from wrong.’

Mr Bridgen, 57, added: ‘As more and more revelations have been published, and I fear more are yet to come out, it is clear that not only were rules broken in Downing Street but that the initial response was to stretch the truth about them being broken too.

‘Claims by the Prime Minister that he did not know that he was attending a party seem at best misguided and at worst cynical. So today I’m calling on the Prime Minister to stand down — there is time yet to do the right thing.’ 

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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.

‘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 the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, where Her Majesty was set apart from her family because of social distancing, Downing Street staff danced in the basement and drank in the garden, boozing so ‘excessively’ that one person was sent to a nearby Co-op with a suitcase on wheels to fill with wine, beer and spirits.

There was even a disco where staff DJed and it became so raucous that one attendee broke baby Wilfred Johnson’s swing set, according to the Telegraph.  

Witnesses claimed that around 30 people attended the two gatherings, which were held in different parts of the Downing Street complex before combining in the garden.

It is alleged that one of the groups moved outside at around midnight because of a fear that too much wine was spilling on the basement carpet as they danced. 

The paper reported that a No10 figure even ‘had a go’ on a child’s swing belonging to Mr Johnson’s son Wilf — and snapped it.

That Friday, Britain was in a period of public mourning over the death of Prince Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort and the Queen’s husband of more than 70 years. The heartbreaking picture of her sat looking at his coffin, alone in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, has become one of the defining images of the pandemic.

Mr Johnson is bunkered down in No10 for the weekend, keeping contacts to a minimum after a close family member tested positive for Covid.

But there appears to be no escape from the slew of allegations about lockdown breaches in Downing Street. 

A spokesman for the PM told a briefing this afternoon that Mr Johnson had ‘recognised No 10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for things we did not get right’.

‘It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No10 has apologised to the Palace,’ the spokesman said of the April 16 event. 

It is understood the apology was made through ‘usual channels’ – between officials in Downing Street and the Palace – rather than personally. The spokesman refused to be drawn on what the PM would say at his regular weekly audience with the Queen. 

Asked if the apology amounted to an admission that the leaving do was a social event, the spokesman merely said: ‘It is right that we do not preempt the findings of the Sue Gray inquiry.’ 

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 any indoor gatherings of more than two people from 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.   

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Turning the screw on Mr Johnson, Sir Keir said: ‘This shows just how seriously Boris Johnson has degraded the office of Prime Minister.

‘The Conservatives have let Britain down. An apology isn’t the only thing the Prime Minister should be offering the palace today.

‘Boris Johnson should do the decent thing and resign.’

With the country in Step 2 of a strict lockdown roadmap which barred indoor mixing, mourners were told not to leave flowers and a book of condolence was set up online to ‘reduce the risk of transmission’ of Covid from physical signings.

That Saturday, Her Majesty was forced to sit alone in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle while wearing a black face covering while bidding farewell to the duke. Just 30 mourners were allowed to attend, and all had to keep two metres apart.

Covid restrictions in place in England at the time clearly stated: ‘You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble. You can meet outdoors, including in gardens, in groups of six people or two households.’

A No10 spokesman insisted that Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day, having left for the Chequers country estate on Thursday evening and staying there through to Saturday.

Any defence will likely rely on the claim that the gatherings were for work rather than socialising. 

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove suggested changes will need to be made in Government once Sue Gray has finalised her report, but denied that Mr Johnson should resign as part of the shake-up.

Speaking to ITV News during a visit to Manchester today, Mr Gove said: ‘These stories are terrible and I can completely understand the sense of exasperation and anger that people feel.

‘But we’ve got an investigation going on now, and rather than a sort of drip, drip, drip of revelations, we need to have a complete, full, candid account of everything that went on – lay out all those facts, then, if there is a specific need for disciplinary action or for responsibility to be taken, let’s do that, let’s do it quickly, but let’s also do it with all the facts in front of us.’

The Cabinet minister said the public ‘deserve the truth’, adding: ‘I think what they are owed is a proper and full account of what went on and then an appropriate acknowledgement of what needs to change.’

Asked whether that change should be the Prime Minister quitting, Mr Gove replied: ‘No, I think the most important thing is to give people the truth.’

At a stormy PMQs on Wednesday, Mr Johnson confessed that he spent 25 minutes at a ‘BYOB’ party on May 20, 2020 during the first national lockdown, but insisted that he thought it was a ‘work event’ and was allowed under the rules in place at the time.

But Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen became the fifth Tory MP to call openly for the embattled premier. 

The MP for North West Leicestershire, who backed the PM to be party leader in June 2019, has submitted a letter of no-confidence in Mr Johnson and urged him to leave office within the next three months.

Blasting the ‘moral vacuum at the heart of Government’, Mr Bridgen wrote in the Telegraph: ‘Sadly, the Prime Minister’s position has become untenable.

‘Leadership is not just about the job title, or even making big decisions — it is equally about having a moral compass, of knowing not just right from left but right from wrong.’ 

Conservative MP Sir Roger Gale, another who has sent a letter of no confidence, told Sky News: ‘I don’t think that the image of the Downing Street branch of the Majestic Wine Warehouse is doing us any good at all, that clearly has to end.’

On the future of Mr Johnson’s position, he said: ‘I have been described as a serial critic of the Prime Minister and, in a sense, that is true.

‘My letter calling for a leadership election goes back to the Barnard Castle event, when the Prime Minister failed to take what I regarded as appropriate decisions and actions to remove Mr Cummings from office, because what happened then was quite wrong.

‘I decided then that if the Prime Minister was not capable of exercising the right kind of judgment, then we had to have another prime minister.’

Sir Roger praised Mr Johnson’s delivery of the vaccine rollout and Brexit, but added: ‘The problem is that the man’s judgment is flawed.’ 

Meanwhile, Councillor Simon Ward, of the Sutton Coldfield Conservatives association, said it had withdrawn support for Mr Johnson due to his failure to control the No10 ‘culture’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘The culture starts at the top, doesn’t it? And that’s the really disappointing point.

‘We were asking people all over our country to make massive sacrifices, people in rural Sutton Coldfield to make massive sacrifices, over the last two years.

‘I think we have the right to expect everybody in Government and in those positions of leadership to follow those same rules and guidelines as well.’

It comes as Sue Gray’s inquiry into alleged lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street and Whitehall is expected to rule that there is no evidence of criminality.

Labour's Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had 'degraded the office of PM' and should resign

Labour's Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had 'degraded the office of PM' and should resign

Labour’s Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had ‘degraded the office of PM’ and should resign

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit 'agenda' behind the attacks on Mr Johnson

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit 'agenda' behind the attacks on Mr Johnson

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns swiped that there was an anti-Brexit ‘agenda’ behind the attacks on Mr Johnson

Tonight’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

Tonight’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

Tonight’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

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 revellry 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. 

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The limp mea culpa in the Commons and so-called ‘Operation Save Boris’ from allies have failed to quell mounting fury among the public and on the Conservative benches, with a handful of MPs now openly demanding Mr Johnson quits.

But Mr Johnson’s allies have urged his critics to wait for the findings of an official investigation into illicit gatherings before passing judgment.

The Telegraph reported that the party for the departing photographer mostly took place in the No10 basement. It is alleged that there was a ‘party atmosphere’, with a laptop placed on a photocopier and music blaring out.

It is claimed that Shelley Williams-Walker, Mr Johnson’s head of operations, was in charged of the music at various points and nicknamed ‘DJ SWW’ — an allegation not yet denied by Downing Street.

As the evening dragged on, those celebrating the photographer’s departure allegedly headed to Downing Street’s vast gardens.

The paper also said a senior figure insisted they had cautioned against holding a leaving do for Mr Slack, but that the advice ultimately was not taken.

A No 10 spokesperson said of Mr Slack’s farewell event: ‘On this individual’s last day he gave a farewell speech to thank each team for the work they had done to support him, both those who had to be in the office for work and on a screen for those working from home.’ The spokesperson declined to comment on the photographer’s leaving do.

The PM dramatically cancelled a planned visit to a vaccination centre in Lancashire yesterday, where he would have faced questions from the media about his actions, because a family member tested positive for Covid.

The situation will keep him out of the public eye, with Downing Street saying he would follow advice to limit contacts ‘up to and including Tuesday of next week’ despite not having to self-isolate because he is vaccinated.

Ms Gray is examining a series of parties and gatherings held in No10 and Whitehall in 2020 while Covid restrictions were in force.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs: ‘The Prime Minister came here yesterday and apologised. He said that, with hindsight, it was not what should have happened or what he would have wanted to happen.

‘It is being investigated by Sue Gray, a civil servant of the highest integrity and of the greatest reputation.

‘But I think everybody understands, on all sides of the House, that people were obeying the rules, and that these rules were very hard for people to obey.’

He suggested the wider inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic should examine ‘whether all those regulations were proportionate, or whether it was too hard on people’, with people not being able to visit loved ones or attend funerals.

No10 said the Government had sought to find the ‘right balance’ in the regulations but ‘there is no cost-free option’.

Cabinet minister Brandon Lewis also urged people to wait for the outcome of the Gray inquiry before making judgments on the Prime Minister’s future, adding that Mr Johnson believed he was within the rules.

‘The Prime Minister has outlined that he doesn’t believe that he has done anything outside the rules. If you look at what the investigation finds, people will be able to take their own view of that at the time,’ the Northern Ireland Secretary said.

Cabinet ministers publicly defended Mr Johnson after his apology on Wednesday, but the late interventions of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor Rishi Sunak — both tipped as potential successors — did little to instil confidence in his future.

How could Boris Johnson be ousted by Tory MPs?  

Boris Johnson is under huge pressure over Partygate, with speculation that he might even opt to walk away.

But barring resignation, the Tories have rules on how to oust and replace the leader. 

What is the mechanism for removing the Tory leader? Tory Party rules allow the MPs to force a vote of no confidence in their leader.

How is that triggered? A vote is in the hands of the chairman of the Tory Party’s backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady.

A vote of no confidence must be held if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to the chairman. Currently that threshold is 54 MPs.

Letters are confidential unless the MP sending it makes it public. This means only Sir Graham knows how many letters there are. 

What happens when the threshold is reached? A vote is held, with the leader technically only needing to win support from a simple majority of MPs

But in reality, a solid victory is essential for them to stay in post.

What happens if the leader loses? 

The leader is sacked if they do not win a majority of votes from MPs, and a leadership contest begins in which they cannot stand.

However, they typically stay on as Prime Minister until a replacement is elected. 

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While Mr Johnson endured a difficult session of Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Sunak had notably spent the day away from London on a visit in Devon.

The PM’s official spokesman insisted the Cabinet fully supported Mr Johnson.

Asked about the delay in Ms Truss and Mr Sunak showing their support, the spokesman said: ‘What the Prime Minister wants and expects is the Cabinet to be focused on delivering on the public’s priorities.’

Asked if he believed he had the full support of his Cabinet, the spokesman said: ‘Yes.’

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries later suggested the Chancellor may have been delayed coming to the Prime Minister’s defence because of poor internet during his trip.

She told Channel 4 News: ‘We know he doesn’t have great signal down there.’

But Mr 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. Mr Ross was dismissed as a ‘lightweight figure’ by Mr Rees-Mogg following his intervention.

Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Ross held office in the Conservative Party so supporting the leader was the ‘honourable and proper thing to do’.

In Westminster, three other Tory MPs have publicly said Mr Johnson should go — Sir Roger Gale, former minister Caroline Nokes and chairman of the Public Affairs and Constitutional Affairs Committee William Wragg.

In the Commons on Wednesday the Prime Minister said he recognised ‘with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside’ instead of spending 25 minutes in the No 10 garden thanking staff for their work on May 20, 2020.

Downing Street insisted he had not been sent an email from his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, encouraging colleagues to go to the garden for ‘socially distanced drinks’ to ‘make the most of this lovely weather’ — and urging them to ‘bring your own booze’.

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner suggested Ms Gray’s inquiry could leave Mr Johnson acting as ‘judge and jury’ over his own conduct.

She said that any matters relating to ministers uncovered in the investigation would be dealt with under the ministerial code — of which the Prime Minister is ultimately in charge.

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

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

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

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 in Downing Street

Rishi in Downing Street

Rishi in Downing Street

Rishi in Downing Street

Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street today, hours after giving his boss Boris Johnson only lukewarm support in the wake of his partygate humiliation.

Rishi Sunak broke cover in Downing Street today, 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 today 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 today 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.

 

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DAN WOOTTON: The real lesson of Partygate is not that Boris is a lying hypocrite (we knew that already) but that lockdown laws are an ass and always have been

As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us.

The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin.

But once again, the political, scientific and media establishment are using that outrage to obscure the reality that the rules were never workable, or even necessary.

The people who made them and voted them through time and again – from Cummings to Hancock to Starmer to Drakeford – have never followed them to the letter.

They weren’t living in mortal dread of the virus themselves. They were all prepared to take calculated risks to improve the quality of their lives.

They simply wanted all of us mere mortals to be terrified and so it was easier to enact disturbingly dystopian levels of control and deny us the right to make our own decisions.

Lockdown laws are an ass that should be ruled out as an option from the public health playbook forever.

As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us

As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us

As Boris Johnson sits lamely on political death row – literally cowering at the scene of the crime, Number 10 Downing Street – virtually everyone is missing the point about what PartyGate tells us

They were an unnecessary step too far that I’m convinced will lead to far more deaths in totality when this pandemic has finally played out.

Now the worm has turned. The data is damning.

History will show that those who backed shutting schools, discouraged cancer patients from attending hospital and allowed helpless souls like little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes be brutally abused for days on end – locked in a house without the usual protection of teachers and extended family – have blood on their hands.

It’s only now, with BoJo’s political life on the line, that the penny is starting to drop for his allies.

His Cabinet pal Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been valiantly sent into the enemy territory of the BBC’s Newsnight and liberal LBC to defend his boss, is starting to ponder, 22 months too late, that maybe the rules were too tough, after all.

He must have known that at the time, given he admits to being lobbied by a friend who was cruelly banned from attending the funeral of his two-year-old granddaughter – the sort of moral outrage that the government brushed off as acceptable collateral damage.

But now, in attempting to keep Boris in his job, he says: ‘We must consider, as this goes to an inquiry and we look into what happened with Covid, whether all those regulations were proportionate or whether it was too hard on people.’

There was nothing proportionate or sensible about lockdown.

For a start, everybody forgets that most of Britain had already largely voluntarily locked itself down before Boris turned the key on March 20th 2020. Offices, shops and pubs were already deserted before Boris ORDERED them to close.

And while Covid deaths soared until mid-April the three to four week time-lag between infection and death suggests that the public’s voluntarily cooperation had already done enough to make the pandemic manageable.

But folk like me who have been pointing this out for the past two years have been derided as granny killers, accused of wanting the virus to rip through society and take out as many vulnerable people as possible.

Of course, that was never the case.

But there was another way, as the ravers at Number 10 Downing Street prove: Allow the healthy, the young, the immune and the recovered to live a normal life in order to build up herd immunity, while spending the billions we wasted on furlough and test and trace to protect the vulnerable.

The reality is that none of those present were running any huge risk and they knew it. They already worked in close proximity to each other, they were meeting outside where transmission is less likely and by late May the virus was clearly in full retreat in any case

The scandal is not that they had a party but that the rest of us mug punters were not trusted to act equally responsibly in our own lives.

That’s why I supported the Great Barrington Declaration, a strategy of focussed protection authored by three of the world’s top scientists – Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

But in the new world order, scientific debate was muffled. Chief Medical Advisor to the President of the USA Anthony Fauci demanded the Barrington scientists be rebuffed and censored.

That wasn’t hard. You see, if you stood against the lockdown orthodoxy, the mainstream media didn’t want to know.

It’s sad to see that Boris was captured by the establishment.

The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin

The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin

The public are rightly apoplectic with rage that Boris broke the inhumane and frankly ludicrous rules that he inflicted on all of us with far too much zeal so he could cheer on his very social staff (and wife) while downing Tesco rose wine and gin

But a brave group of Tory backbenchers formed the Covid Recovery Group – led by former chief whip Mark Harper – and their influence slowly built, culminating in the mass rebellion against what I call Plan BS last month.

While the Leader of No Opposition Keir Starmer nodded through the Boris plan to enact mask mandates and work from home orders, it was the uprising from his own MPs that forced Boris to finally stand up to the dangerous doomsday merchants who he’d been listening to all along: Christopher Whitty, Patrick Vallance, Jenny Harries, Neil Fergusson, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid (who has depressingly been captured by NHS management and become a Matt Hancock clone).

That will turn out to be one of the most significant moments of the entire pandemic.

Boris, knowing his leadership was on the line, finally refused to enact a lockdown or further restrictions.

The usual suspects predicted imminent doom: Bodies piled up, the NHS overwhelmed, all non-urgent surgery cancelled… You’ve heard it all before by this point.

But within less than a month it’s clear none of that is going to happen.

In fact, England’s decision to refuse to lockdown has proved to be a masterstroke.

Dan Wootton

Dan Wootton

Dan Wootton

Scotland and Wales enacted more ridiculous restrictions – including shutting nightclubs, banning mass gatherings, stopping fans going to the football and the like – but their rates have ended up worse than England.

According to figures published by Nicola Sturgeon’s government, the nation had 2,824 cases per million people in the week to January 6, compared to England’s 2,615.

England is also much lower than Wales with 3,481 and Northern Ireland with 3,893.

Let that sink in: Scheming Sturgeon and Mad Dog Drakeford’s pathetic controls on their citizens resulted in HIGHER Covid case rates.

Across continental Europe, the comparison is even more stark.

The Netherlands went into a lockdown before Christmas and cases are now soaring: A new record was set this week, with over 201,000 people testing positive.

On Tuesday, France hit a record 368,000 cases, even though the Covid hysteric Macron has attempted to shut the unvaccinated out of society, closed nightclubs, mandated facemasks outdoors in Paris, and even banned eating and drinking on trains.

All lockdowns do is delay the inevitable, while causing untold collateral damage.

What a shame Boris didn’t listen sooner to his brilliant former Brexit Secretary Lord Frost, who quit in a rare act of political morality throughout this pandemic because he couldn’t stomach the PM’s continued restrictions for a moment longer.

In a new interview with this week’s brilliant Planet Normal podcast, he has said: ‘I think honestly, people are going to look back at the last couple of years globally and see lockdown as a pretty serious public policy mistake. I would like to see the Government ruling out lockdowns for the future, repealing the legislation, ending them.

‘We can’t afford it [and] it doesn’t work. Stop doing Covid theatre – vaccine passports, masks, stuff that doesn’t work – and focus on stuff that does work. Stuff like ventilation, antivirals, proper hospital capacity – that’s what we need to be focussing on.’

He’s right. And it’s also time we change our language about Covid and a constant obsession with an illness that is minor for most and fast becoming endemic.

I’ve had Omicron and people say things like, ‘I’m so glad you got through it.’What the hell? It was a pussycat – especially compared to the Wuhan strain which I had in March 2020 – nothing more than a common cold, irritating for a couple of days, but certainly not something for which I needed a jot of sympathy.

Boris now has the teeniest of windows to try and salvage something from his unfathomable rule break to secure some sort of Covid legacy.

Lord Frost is correct that what will probably be his final chapter as prime minister must be to banish the lockdown laws that even he couldn’t follow.

He must turn his back on the authoritarianism that he promoted and that has finally seen him lose the teflon coating that for so long allowed him to remain politically popular despite scandal after scandal that would finish off any other politician in the brutal age of the 24-hour news cycle and social media.

But Boris is reaping what he sowed 22 months ago.

He allowed his advisers to ramp up the terrifying propaganda, turned guidance into laws, threatened healthy folk for simply seeing friends, and empowered the police to arrest and issue ridiculous fines (which should all now be handed back).

Oh, the irony that all of this could come back to haunt former libertarian Boris and see him deposed as PM.

Returning Britain to normal life by the end of the month is the only way he now has any hope of convincing his mutinous backbenchers to offer a stay of execution.

Boris today, however, is hiding behind the worst of the Covid restrictions.

Out of an abundance of unnecessary caution – probably because he wanted to avoid a TV interview – he’s self-isolating AGAIN after a family member tested positive.

And if we continue to live in this way the country will never get back on its feet and the economy will continue to splutter along with far too many staff out of work for no good reason.

The lesson we must learn from the tragic fall of Boris Johnson is that lockdowns never worked and they must never be unleashed again.

And that we should all have the right to decide for ourselves how much we are prepared to let Covid, or any other virus, rule our lives.

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