London: Boris Johnson is facing a mounting Tory backlash over ‘Partygate’ with a dozen MPs issuing public criticism of the Prime Minister, amidst new revelation that Downing Street held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week throughout the pandemic which Johnson attended, urging aides to “let off steam” at a time when Britons were banned from socialising indoors.
According to the Daily Mail, Downing Street staff even invested in a 34-bottle drinks fridge which was delivered through the back door of Downing Street on December 11, 2020, to keep their beer, prosecco and wine cold, and took a wheely suitcase to the local Tesco Metro to stock it up, extraordinary pictures revealed.
This is 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 Boris Johnson to resign, including some from within his own party.
In the latest development, five Tory MPs have called 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 the premier to quit.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated Bridgen’s assertion that the Prime Minister had lost his moral authority, and called for the Tory party to topple him.
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 Mirro said.
On Thursday it was revealed that a farewell do was held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral, prompting the PM to order No 10 to apologise to the Queen.
Tory MP Nigel Mills, who backed the PM during the Tory leadership contest, expressed his confusion over how “so many stupid things could have happened”.
Peter Bone, the MP for Wellingborough since 2005, said anyone who partied in No10 ahead of the Duke of Edinburgh’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.
One former minister has warned that Johnson is “toast”, while another said the crisis now feels “terminal”.
The Tory backlash over Johnson’s handling of the Partygate scandal comes as the Prime Minister’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 allegations that 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”.
Meanwhile Rishi Sunak – the bookies’ favourite to succeed Johnson – has been keeping a low profile at the Treasury.
The Chancellor was in Devon on Wednesday when Boris Johnson was forced to apologise for attending the May 2020 Downing Street garden bash.
Indian-origin Sunak offered the PM only lukewarm support, tweeting: “The PM was right to apologise and I support his request for patience while Sue Gray carries out her enquiry.”
The senior Whitehall civil servant’s report is due late next week. As the scandal dragged on, the PM scrapped a trip to a vaccination centre in Burnley after a family member living at Downing Street tested positive.
His spokesman refused to confirm if it was wife Carrie or their children – 21-month-old Wilf or five-week-old Romy but said: “He will follow the guidance for vaccinated close contacts, including daily testing and limiting contact with others.”
The PM attended a BYOB party on May 20, 2020, in the garden of Downing Street
Further doubts were cast on the sincerity of the PM’s apology. After addressing the Commons, he was accused of telling Tory MPs in the tearoom: “Sometimes we take the credit for things we don’t deserve and this time we’re taking hits for something we don’t deserve.”