A Conservative MP has repeatedly refused to say whether he still had confidence in Boris Johnson to lead the country in an awkward interview full of lengthy silences.
Chris Green, MP for Bolton West, suggested the prime minister had only imposed plan B restrictions to distract from the furore over last year’s Christmas parties at Downing Street.
Asked on BBC Radio Manchester if he still had confidence in Mr Johnson, the red wall Tory MP paused for six second before saying: “I’m very concerned about what the prime minister is doing.”
Challenged again over whether he still had confidence in him, Mr Green paused for another five seconds – before saying the government would find it difficult to pass Covid rules in the Commons.
Asked once again whether he still had confidence in the PM, the Tory backbencher paused for eight seconds, before admitting: “I think the silence does speak volumes.”
The red wall Tory is among dozens of backbenchers to have shared their anger over the return of work from home guidance, Covid passports for venues and extension of mandatory mask-wearing to theatres and cinemas.
Mr Green also attacked Mr Johnson over the failure to provide clear answers to festive gatherings held at Downing Street in the run-up to last Christmas while strict curbs on mixing were still in place.
“It was almost coincidental in its attempt to remove awkward front-page stories about the prime minister’s house parties,” the MP said – adding that it was “logical conclusion” to assume it was deliberate distraction.
“At the dispatch box he said there was no parties,” said Mr Green. “It was very clear there were a series of parties in Downing Street under the prime minister’s nose. So there are a huge number of questions – I think this is pretty perturbing.”
Leading Tory backbencher Andrew Mitchell told BBC Politics Live that if Mr Johnson minister was found to have misled parliament over the gatherings “would indeed have to resign” – though he added: “I’m sure Boris would not have allowed himself to be put in that position.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said Mr Johnson should resign if he was found to have known about the Christmas party and misled parliament, while former Tory minister Tracey Crouch said she was “fuming” over the festive events at Downing Street.
The mounting Tory backlash over new Covid restrictions also saw the chairman of the South Basildon Conservatives resign live on BBC Essex on Thursday.
“I’m actually going to leave the party over this – I cannot moral defend a party that I consider to be moving a very tyrannical direction,” said Charlie Sansom.
Tory MP William Wragg has accused the PM of using Covid plan B curbs as a “diversionary tactic” from the party scandal, while vice chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Charles Walker said the government was now likely find it “almost impossible” to introduce any new Covid rules due to the saga.
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