Boris Johnson faces leadership challenge unless he ‘gets act together’, senior Tory MP says

Senior Tory MP says No 10 ‘needs to pull its socks up’ after botched handling of sleaze allegations

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Sunday 28 November 2021 11:54
UK PM Johnson criticised for rambling speech, praising Peppa Pig

Boris Johnson risks a leadership challenge unless No 10 “gets its act together”, a senior Tory MP has said, in a sharp criticism of the prime minister.

Simon Hoare attacked Mr Johnson’s botched attempt to rip up anti-sleaze rules to save the disgraced Owen Paterson and his failure to liaise properly with Conservative MPs.

The North Dorset MP and chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said it was not yet time to discuss “leadership challenges”, as claims that some of his colleagues have submitted letters pushing for that to happen surface.

But he added: “That comes with a health warning, that No 10 as an operation needs to pull its socks up, get its act together, start talking to the parliamentary party far more than it has been doing up until now.

“That has, of course, been difficult because of Covid and the restrictions being there ... I don’t think we’ve gone past the point of no return, but the act needs to get better.”

On BBC Northern Ireland’s Sunday Politics, Mr Hoare said the forcing through of an amendment to prevent Mr Paterson from being suspended from parliament was “manifestly wrong”.

“Clearly the operation of No 10 needs to sharpen itself; the political antenna of No 10 needs to be far more acute,” he said.

The criticism comes after Mr Johnson’s speech to the CBI – in which he fumbled during his speech and talked about his visit to the Peppa Pig World theme park – was widely ridiculed.

And allegations of sleaze will return to centre stage at Westminster on Monday, with the publication of cross-party recommendations for a crackdown on MPs’ second jobs.

In a U-turn this month, Mr Johnson angered some of his MPs with lucrative outside earnings by suddenly proposing curbing outside work to “within reasonable limits”.

He had already alienated newer MPs in marginal seats by whipping them to protect Mr Paterson – before a public backlash forced a humiliating retreat and left them exposed to criticism.

Meanwhile, crucial announcements on capping social care costs and improving northern rail services backfired when key elements of both were watered down.

A total of 54 MPs would need to submit letters requesting a leadership challenge before it could go ahead.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and foreign secretary Liz Truss are the favourites to take over, with both considered to be “on manoeuvres”, a source told the Daily Mail last month.

Sajid Javid has attempted to bolster the prime minister’s position saying he is still “absolutely” an election winner, despite the recent difficulties.

“Let me tell you why: because we are delivering on our promises,” he told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday as he discussed the new Covid restrictions.

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