Another Tory MP calls for Boris Johnson to resign 'to restore trust'

Publicly, 15 Tory MPs have called for prime minister to quit, but true figure is expected to be much higher

Turmoil for Boris Johnson as inner circle hit by string of key resignations

MIDDLETON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRAUARY 3: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the technology centre at Hopwood Hall College on February 3, 2022 in Middleton, Greater Manchester, England. UK Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, announced the government's flagship levelling up policy white paper to yesterday's parliament.  (Photo by Jason Cairnduff-WPA Pool / Getty Images)
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Another Tory MP has called on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign amid reports he was pictured holding a beer in a photograph from his reported restriction-busting gathering, which has been handed over to police.

Former minister Nick Gibb said the time had come for the prime minister to go and suggested he had not been truthful in his explanations of parties reportedly held in No 10 and across Whitehall during Covid-19 lockdown measures.

Mr Gibb, who is reported to have submitted a no-confidence letter to Sir Graham Brady, brings the number of Tory MPs who have now publicly called for Mr Johnson to resign to 15.

Privately, the number is expected to be higher.

Writing in The Telegraph, the MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton said that the Conservative Party must face the “hard truths”, and added: “To restore trust, we need to change the prime minister.”

It comes as The Mirror reported that the Metropolitan Police had been handed a photograph of Mr Johnson holding a beer at a reported gathering in June 2020 to mark the prime minister’s birthday.

The newspaper said it was one of the 300 photos handed to the Met in their investigation into 12 reported gatherings that may have broken pandemic restrictions.

The photo is reported to have shown Chancellor Rishi Sunak holding a soft drink.

No 10 said it could not comment while the Met Police’s investigation was ongoing.

The Treasury was contacted for comment but Mr Sunak has previously said he was in the room for a Covid meeting.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Johnson channelled The Lion King in a speech to rally Downing Street staff, after his inner circle was depleted by five resignations within 24 hours.

In a bid to motivate aides, he quoted the Disney movie by telling them “change is good” as he sought to put on a brave face after the humiliating string of departures. The mandrill character Rafiki made the comment to Simba in a conversation about his heritage. Simba had been pondering taking his place as king of Pride Rock and had observed how “the winds are changing”.

Speaking to staff in the Cabinet Room as others tuned in on Zoom, the prime minister said: “As Rafiki in The Lion King says, change is good, and change is necessary even though it’s tough.”

Mr Johnson's official spokesman confirmed that the prime minister used the popular children's film when he addressed staff in the Cabinet Room on Friday morning.

“He reflected on the privilege of working in No 10 in order to deliver for the British people and reiterated his and No 10's commitment to serving the public by keeping people safe, improving lives and spreading opportunity,” the spokesman said.

“As he reiterated to the team today, there is an important job to do, the public expects us to be focused on it, whether it is the situation in Ukraine, recovering from the pandemic, or, as the chancellor was setting out yesterday, issues such as cost of living.”

Mr Johnson is facing the difficult task of rebuilding his inner circle after No 10 policy unit member Elena Narozanski became the fifth member of Mr Johnson's inner circle to resign within a day.

Mr Johnson's spokesman confirmed her resignation, saying: “I have seen that departure reported. My understanding is that it is correct.”

Policy director Munira Mirza, one of Mr Johnson’s most loyal and long-standing advisers, was the first to resign on Thursday.

She said she quit over the prime minister's “scurrilous” claim that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had, during his time as director of public prosecutions, failed to prosecute child sexual abuser Jimmy Savile.

The jibe made in the House of Commons appears to have caused division within the Treasury, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted he “wouldn't have said it” — instead of backing his boss.

He also praised Ms Mirza as a “valued colleague” with whom he would miss working.

He later twisted the knife further, writing in The Sun that the Conservatives have always been “the party of sound money — we will always continue to be on my watch — and that is the only kind of party I am interested in".

She was followed by director of communications Jack Doyle. Before departing, Mr Doyle gave a resignation speech to staff in No 10 saying “recent weeks have taken a terrible toll on my family life”, according to the Daily Mail, a publication he previously worked for.

Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, followed suit with their resignations to cap off a day of turmoil for the prime minister.

Mr Reynolds had earned the nickname “Party Marty” after he allegedly sent an email to Downing Street staff inviting them to a “socially distanced drinks” gathering in the No 10 garden on May 20, 2020 — an event now under investigation by London's Metropolitan Police.

The former ambassador to Libya had served as the most senior civil servant in No 10.

On Friday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid became the second senior minister to distance himself from Mr Johnson’s controversial attack on Mr Starmer.

Mr Javid said the Labour leader had done a “good job” when he was director of public prosecutions and deserved “absolute respect” for his work in the post.

“But the prime minister has also come out and clarified those remarks, and that is important,” Mr Javid added.

Asked if the prime minister still had his support, Mr Javid said: “Of course he does. Absolutely.”

Ministers tried to argue that the series of resignations was part of Mr Johnson “taking charge” as he faces a potential leadership challenge amid allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.

UK prime minister says he won't resign

UK prime minister says he won't resign

The magnitude of the resignations was made worse by the timing. Mr Johnson's public image has taken a battering in recent weeks over the “partygate” scandal.

Last week, senior civil servant Sue Gray said there were clear “failures of leadership and judgment” by No 10 in her report on parties held in Downing Street during lockdowns.

Mr Johnson is also awaiting the outcome of a police investigation that could result in him being fined if he is found to have attended lockdown-breaking gatherings.

With five of his closest and most trusted aides gone, he is now faced with the unenviable task of rebuilding his inner circle.

While Mr Doyle and Ms Mirza had apparently had enough of the environment, Mr Rosenfield and Mr Reynolds may have been casualties of the “partygate” saga.

Mr Johnson wants to be seen as determined to usher in a new working order in Downing Street, after taking heavy flak for the reportedly “boozy culture” within No 10.

The Conservative leader is also not safe from a potential vote of no confidence, as reports suggest more MPs are preparing to submit letters of no confidence. He is having to deal with an open revolt from politicians in his own party, some of whom have humiliated him in public by calling for his resignation.

UK prime minister apologises for 'misjudgments' made during the pandemic

UK prime minister apologises for 'misjudgments' made during the pandemic

Three Conservative MPs confirmed this week they had submitted letters of no confidence in his leadership.

Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the transport select committee, backed the chancellor's decision to distance himself from Mr Johnson’s comments about Savile and said he was “deeply troubled by what is going on”.

“The chancellor was right to say that those wouldn’t have been the words that he would use, and I absolutely agree with that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said the prime minister needed to improve or leave Downing Street for good.

“I am deeply troubled by what is going on. We all know that if the prime minister doesn’t ship up, then they have to ship out,” Mr Merriman said.

“We know how it works. I am sure the prime minister will be focused now on getting on with the job in hand, focusing on policy and regaining the public’s trust.”

On Thursday evening, a spokeswoman for Downing Street confirmed the resignations of Mr Rosenfield and Mr Reynolds.

“Dan Rosenfield offered his resignation to the prime minister earlier today, which has been accepted,” she said.

“Martin Reynolds also informed the prime minister of his intention to stand down from his role as principal private secretary and the prime minister has agreed to this.

“He has thanked them both for their significant contribution to government and No 10, including work on the pandemic response and economic recovery. They will continue in their roles while successors are appointed, and recruitment for both posts is under way.”

Mr Reynolds will return to the Foreign Office, officials said.

Former Treasury aide Mr Rosenfield had been brought in to Downing Street at the start of last year to steady the ship after the resignation months earlier of Dominic Cummings, the former de facto chief of staff, and Lee Cain, the former communications director.

Mr Johnson has faced heavy criticism over his debunked claim involving the Labour leader. On Thursday he sought to clarify his controversial remarks but Ms Mirza, who first advised Mr Johnson as London mayor more than a decade ago, said she was quitting after he stopped short of giving the apology she demanded.

In a letter seen by The Spectator magazine, Ms Mirza is said to have told her former boss “it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse” and accused him making “misleading” claims.

Mr Johnson, who once praised Ms Mirza as a “brilliant thinker” and listed her as one of the five women who had influenced and inspired him the most, denied his Savile smear was inappropriate.

But he told Channel 5 News: “I’m sorry to lose Munira. She has done an outstanding job, she has been a wonderful colleague for a long time.”

Conservative MP Andrew Griffith has been appointed to fill her role.

Updated: February 04, 2022, 11:35 PM