Boris Johnson’s premiership past point of no return, says Tory donor

The PM conducted a reshuffle of his top team, hoping to appease critics in his own party

A top Conservative Party donor says British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reputation has suffered irreparably. EPA
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A major Conservative Party donor has called on the prime minister to resign over the “partygate” scandal, saying his premiership is “past the point of no return”.

John Armitage, who has given the Tories more than £3 million, including at least £500,000 since Boris Johnson became leader, added to the growing number of figures demanding that the prime minister step down.

MPs from Mr Johnson’s own party, as well as from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, have urged the prime minister to quit.

During Prime Minister’s Questions the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson was once again challenged on the issues blighting the Conservative-led government. MPs quizzed him on further party allegations, his handling of the energy crisis and the government’s efforts to tackle fraud.

Mr Armitage dismissed the notion that Mr Johnson could make amends by replacing members of his top team, saying: “What about a sense of personal responsibility?”

Asked in an interview with the BBC whether he believed Mr Johnson’s leadership was “past the point of no return”, Mr Armitage said: “Well I mean, personally, yes.”

“Politicians should go into politics to do good for their country,” he added. “That is the overwhelming reason to be in politics. I don’t think it’s about your own personal sense of getting to the top of a snakes-and-ladders game.”

Mr Johnson is trying to recover his reputation after it suffered multiple blows from the partygate affair and new controversy over his Jimmy Savile remarks.

But rather than apologising for using a slur against the leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer, the prime minister conducted a mini-reshuffle of his top team on Tuesday after a string of resignations last week.

The new chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris is expected to join Mr Johnson on the front bench in the House of Commons on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions.

The long-time ally of Mr Johnson replaces Mark Spencer, who was moved to Leader of the Commons after a series of missteps in managing the Conservative parliamentary party.

Mr Spencer’s predecessor Jacob Rees-Mogg was shuffled into the new role of Minister for Brexit Opportunities, a move seen as an attempt to appease the Tory right-wing faction.

Mr Heaton-Harris, asked by BBC television's Newsnight whether Mr Johnson’s changes had “saved his premiership”, said: “I would like to think we have a very strong prime minister who is going to continue and get stronger and stronger and lead us into the next election, which we will win comfortably”.

All eyes will be on the prime minister and his new team at PMQs, as it will be the final clash between the government and Labour before political spheres grow quiet for more than a week.

The House will rise on Thursday for its spring break, which will conclude when MPs head back to Parliament on Monday February 21.

During Wednesday’s PMQs, Mr Starmer attacked the government over its record on tackling fraud, and accused Mr Johnson’s Cabinet of “turning a blind eye to scammers”.

The opposition leaders also ripped apart Mr Johnson’s plan to help household cope with rising energy bills. Last week Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the majority of homes in Britain would be offered £350 to take the “sting” out of the energy crisis. The plan includes a £200 energy bill discount, to be repaid in £40 instalments over the next five years, and a £150 council tax rebate.

Mr Starmer said the government was “insulting people’s intelligence by pretending it’s giving them a discount” and insisted it was not a discount if it had to be paid back.

“It’s a con, a buy-now-pay-later scheme, a dodgy loan – not a proper plan.”

Labour MP Fabian Hamilton challenged the prime minister over a newly-surfaced photo showing him at a Downing Street Christmas quiz during lockdown, with staff wearing tinsel.

Shadow minister Fabian Hamilton challenged Mr Johnson over the image published during PMQs.

“It looks a lot like one of the Christmas parties he told us never happened,” Mr Hamilton said.

Mr Johnson confirmed the gathering formed part of the police investigation into party allegations in Downing Street, saying: “That event already has been submitted for investigation.”

Mr Johnson told MPs that “as soon as all the inquiries are concluded I will immediately publish in full whatever Sue Gray gives me”. He was referring to the report conducted by the senior civil servant into allegations of parties in No 10 during lockdown. The findings were published only partially on January 31 due to the ongoing police probe.

Updated: February 09, 2022, 1:19 PM
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