Boris Johnson: Pressure mounts on UK PM over Sue Gray report

Another Tory backbencher submitted letter to 1922 Committee calling for vote of no confidence in PM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 1. Reuters
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing more pressure to resign as another senior Conservative Party member joined calls for him to consider his position after a report into lockdown parties in Downing Street.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, said there was now so much anger over what happened that Mr Johnson should consider whether the country could better heal if he stepped down.

Earlier another Tory backbencher, Peter Aldous, said he had submitted a letter to the chairman of the 1922, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a vote of no confidence in the leader.

But Communities Secretary Michael Gove supported Mr Johnson, saying this was not the time for a leadership contest.

“There’s not going to be a leadership contest," Mr Gove told the BBC. "I’m going to be supporting the prime minister. I think he’s doing a brilliant job, and I will be behind him 100 per cent.

“So no leadership contest. We don’t want one, we don’t need one.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson committed to publishing “everything that we can” from the full Sue Gray inquiry into claims of parties in Downing Street during lockdown

He went further on Tuesday, promising a more full publication of the senior civil servant’s investigation when the Metropolitan Police probe has concluded.

There has been confusion over the extent of any subsequent report after Mr Johnson refused to accept the demands of Tory MPs and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Mr Johnson said in Kiev, Ukraine, that he would publish the full report, including the more than 300 images handed to investigators.

"Yes, of course we’ll publish everything that we can as soon as the process has been completed, as I said yesterday,” he said.

Mr Walker stopped short of directly calling for Mr Johnson to resign, saying he had got “many things right”, such as the vaccines and lifting lockdown.

But he told Channel 4 that the situation may have gone too far for the prime minister to recover.

“I think there’s so much grief and pain out there that if he was to say, ‘Look, I understand that I asked so much of the country and it needs to come to terms with that grief and pain and start the process of healing, and if it could do that better without me in Number 10 then I shall stand aside’, that would show great courage on behalf of the prime minister,” Mr Walker said.

“I would applaud him for doing that but that is his decision.”

But Mr Aldous said he did not believe Mr Johnson would quit voluntarily and that the only way was to force him out through a confidence vote.

“After a great deal of soul-searching, I have reached the conclusion that the prime minister should resign,” he tweeted.

“It is clear that he has no intention of doing so and I have therefore written to the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, advising him that I have no confidence in the prime minister as leader of the Conservative Party.”

Under party rules there must be a confidence vote if 54 Tory MPs, or 15 per cent of the parliamentary party, submit letters to Sir Graham.

Earlier, Downing Street said Mr Johnson claimed he was fined for breaching coronavirus rules.

There had been concern that the public would never officially be told if he was issued with a fixed penalty notice for attending a party, because the identity of people issued with a ticket is not usually disclosed by police.

But Downing Street acknowledged the “significant public interest” in Mr Johnson's case.

Officers are investigating 12 gatherings at No 10 and Whitehall during 2020 and 2021 – including three that Mr Johnson is known to have attended and one in his Downing Street flat – to find out whether coronavirus lockdown laws were broken.

Downing Street had originally insisted it was a matter for the Metropolitan Police to decide whether to identify those found to have broken the law.

Scotland Yard said College of Policing guidance showed the names of people dealt with by fixed penalty notices, which is the probable punishment for a breach of the coronavirus regulations, would not normally be disclosed.

“Identities of people dealt with by cautions, speeding fines and other fixed penalties – out-of-court disposals – should not be released or confirmed,” the guidance says.

But Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Obviously we are aware of the significant public interest with regard to the Prime Minister and we would always look to provide what updates we can on him, specifically.”

Asked if that meant No 10 would say if he was given a fixed penalty notice, the spokesman said: “Hypothetically, yes.”

The Met is examining hundreds of documents and photographs in relation to the 12 events in 2020 and 2021, held while England was under coronavirus restrictions.

The evidence was passed to the police by the investigation team led by Ms Gray, the senior official whose interim report on Monday highlighted “failures of leadership and judgment” at the heart of government but did not point the finger of blame at anyone.

Her conclusions were limited after a request by the Metropolitan Police to make only limited references to the events under investigation, leaving it to Scotland Yard to decide whether laws were broken.

Updated: February 02, 2022, 5:14 AM
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