Tory MP slams his colleagues for defending 'indefensible' Boris Johnson
Should he stay or should he go? Should he stay? Or should he go?
This is the question about Boris Johnson bouncing around the minds of Conservative MPs following Sue Gray's much anticipated and ultimately damning report into Partygate.
With the war in Ukraine, the thought among some is that if he goes there will be trouble. But with Partygate continuing to dominate the news agenda, distracting away from issues like the cost of living crisis, and polls showing voters have had enough of their blunderer in chief, some reasonably believe if he stays there could be double.
And so, after Gray criticised senior leadership for a number of events that occured in Downing Street while the country was subject to coronavirus restrictions; events she ruled should not have happened, some Tory MPs have put their heads above the parapets to say enough is enough.
Like David Simmonds, who has been the Tory MP Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner since 2019. A Sky producer claims he texted: “It is time for him to step down so that new leadership can take forward the important work of the government in ensuring that our people and country prosper.”
And Angela Richardson, who posted the following on Facebook this morning: "In order to do that important work, MPs need to deserve your trust. Trust has been broken and it saddens me that the culture in Number Ten and the length of time the enquiry has taken has eroded trust in your political representatives. It reflects badly on all of us."
John Baron said that the Gray report and the Metropolitan Police inquiry “paint a shameful pattern of misbehaviour during the pandemic as the rest of us kept to the Covid regulations”.
And Julian Sturdy said it was in the "public interest" for Johnson to quit.
\u201c\ud83d\udde3STATEMENT ON SUE GRAY REPORT\n\nFollowing the publication of the full Sue Gray report, I feel it is now in the public interest for the Prime Minister to resign.\u201d
These four MPs all withdrew their support following the Gray report, but when Partygate's hangover first started to kick in, months and months ago, the allegations were enough for a large group of MPs to write letters of no confidence in the PM, or call for him to resign.
The letter scribbling group consisted of Peter Aldous, Aaron Bell, Tobias Ellwood, Sir Roger Gale, Nick Gibb, Anthony Mangnall, Gary Streeter and Caroline Nokes.
And Steve Baker, David Davis, Mark Harper, Neil Hudson, Tim Loughton, Nigel Mills, Andrew Mitchell, Robert Syms, Charles Walker, William Wragg and Craig Whittaker are those who have called for him to resign without confirming whether they've got their pen and paper out.
By our colleague John Rentouls' estimation, 32 other MPs not yet discussed in this article have criticised the PM publically.
So those are his naysayers but how about his yaysayers?
The 'Boris should stay' camp:
One, Richard Bacon, suggested it was likely NHS staff had also been “letting their hair down” during the Covid pandemic.
He told the BBC when asked if he was “comfortable” with the revelations around the drinking and partying at Downing Street during lockdown: “No, of course I’m not but then I think they were working under huge pressure.
“You haven’t gone and investigated it but there are one and a half million people who work in the NHS. I bet if you tried hard enough you could find some people letting their hair down who were working 24/7 in the NHS as well."
Then Twitter was bombarded with similar messages from members of the cabinet and MPs licking the PM's boots with vigour.
\u201c1/3 The PM has made a full and unreserved apology. The public now want us to get on and deliver - dealing with the war in Ukraine, helping with the global rising cost of living which has resulted from the war and post pandemic.\u201d
\u201cThe Prime Minister has apologised and, as Sue Gray's report confirms, is already making the necessary changes in No10 to ensure these mistakes cannot happen again.\n\nNow it's time to get on with the job and deliver on the issues that matter most to the British people.\u201d
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP)
\u201cI agree with Simon - Sue Gray\u2019s report documents unacceptable behaviour that has caused understandable anger. The PM has apologised. Lessons have had to be learned and changes made. Now we need to focus on the economic challenges ahead. And get behind the PM\u201d
\u201cI'm grateful to Sue Gray for her report and I sincerely repeat my apologies for the event I received a fine for.\n \nThe Prime Minister has apologised and lessons have been learned. I hope we can now move forward and continue delivering for the British people.\u201d
Then there's those who are straddling across the fence. Like Douglas Ross, who (deep breath please) previously submitted a letter of no confidence in the PM, then withdrew it because of the war in Ukraine, and has now said Johnson should resign - but only when that war is over, even if that takes a very long time indeed. Phew.
Andrew Bridgen also withdrew his letter, citing the war in Ukraine.
So will Boris Johnson stay or will Boris Johnson go? If enough MPs submit letters of no confidence, he will face a vote and if a majority of Tory MPs vote against him he will have to pack up his party streamers and leave Number 10.
And let's not forget that the third chapter of the Partygate trilogy is still to come. Johnson now faces an inquiry by the Commons privileges committee into whether he knowingly misled when he repeatedly told parliament that there were no parties.
And chair Chris Bryant said that he will be forced to quit if the committee finds he lied.
Be that as it may, a cat has nine lives and Johnson has 900, so whether the country gets shot of him soon may be more complex than that.
It might be time to take another painkiller then, as Partygate's hangover just won't quit.
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