I want Boris Johnson to be Prime Minister for as long as possible, insists Foreign Secretary Liz Truss
Liz Truss insisted yesterday that Boris Johnson should continue as Prime Minister for ‘as long as possible’ as Downing Street braced itself for the publication of the Partygate report.
The Foreign Secretary is a leading contender to replace the PM but scotched talk of any leadership contest – despite fears he could be challenged as early as next week.
Mr Johnson is expected to speak to several wobbling Tory MPs this weekend from his country retreat, Chequers, in an attempt to head off any threat. Insiders believe similar meetings earlier this week helped defuse the threat of the ‘Pork Pie Plot’ coup by Red Wall MPs.
The Foreign Secretary is a leading contender to replace the PM but scotched talk of any leadership contest – despite fears he could be challenged as early as next week
The official inquiry into the Partygate row by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray is expected to be published next week – and there is growing nervousness in Downing Street over what it will reveal.
She is said to have found an email warning Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, against holding a drinks party in the No 10 garden during the first Covid lockdown.
The email, sent by a senior official, told Mr Reynolds the gathering ‘should be cancelled because it broke the rules’, according to ITV News.
Mr Johnson has admitted attending the gathering in question for 25 minutes on May 20 2020, but insisted he believed it was a work event and that he was not warned it would be against the rules.
Several MPs are said to be waiting until the report is published to decide whether to submit letters of no confidence to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady.
The official inquiry into the Partygate row by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray is expected to be published next week – and there is growing nervousness in Downing Street over what it will reveal
Minister hits back at ‘blackmail’ claims
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng dismissed claims that Tory whips threatened to block funding for rebellious MPs as ‘very unlikely’ yesterday.
Mr Kwarteng seemed to mock the allegations, joking that he had never been bullied as he was tall. ‘Generally, my whips were a lot shorter than I was over the years,’ he told LBC.
A Downing Street spokesman said claims of ‘intimidation’ by whips would not be investigated without evidence of wrongdoing.
Asked about the allegations by MP William Wragg, who has submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, Mr Kwarteng told Sky News: ‘I’ve been an MP for 12 years now, and I’ve never heard of the kind of allegations that are being made.’
A ministerial aide at the Treasury defended whips as Tory MP Michael Fabricant tweeted: ‘This is his vendetta against #Boris.’
Mr Wragg, the chairman of the Commons public administration committee, said the alleged threats could amount to ‘blackmail’ and urged colleagues to report them to the police.
Tory rebels are reportedly considering publishing a secretly recorded conversation and messages with the chief whip.
Miss Truss escaped the Westminster storm this week as she flew to Australia with the Defence Secretary for trade and security talks.
She told reporters in Sydney yesterday that the PM ‘100 per cent’ has her backing.
Miss Truss said: ‘He is doing an excellent job. Britain was one of the first countries to roll out the Covid vaccine.
‘We’ve had a very successful booster programme. We’re now able to open up our economy… one of the fastest-growing economies in the G7. I want the Prime Minister to continue as long as possible in his job. He is doing a fantastic job. There is no leadership election.’
Miss Truss has previously been accused of ‘overdoing it’ by lining herself up as a potential successor to Mr Johnson, with her trip to Australia being likened to Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s impromptu dash to Devon last week. Mr Sunak visited a business in Ilfracombe last Wednesday – deserting Mr Johnson during his torrid Prime Minister’s Questions. Senior Tories said his conspicuous absence made him look ‘too eager’.
Miss Truss consistently outscores her potential leadership rivals among Tory members – ConservativeHome’s latest poll gives her a favourability rating of 73, compared to the PM on minus 34.
Mr Johnson will use his meetings this weekend to urge MPs to ‘look at the bigger picture’, most notably the success of his strategy for dealing with the Omicron strain.
Last night fresh claims were made over details of the alleged Downing Street parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. Staff reportedly partied until 1am in a seven-hour event during which photos were taken. It was claimed some went down a slide belonging to Wilfred Johnson, the PM’s son.
With concern that only a summary of the parties will be published in the report, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said last night that it ‘must be open to scrutiny from all those who’ve lost loved ones and all those who stuck to the rules’.
Source: Read Full Article