Boris Johnson position ‘untenable’ says first Tory MP calling for him to go since police fine

‘I don’t think the PM can survive or should survive,’ says MP who is sending no-confidence letter

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 13 April 2022 13:51
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Boris Johnson is ‘incredibly embarrassed’ by fine, says minister

Boris Johnson’s position is now “untenable”, according to the first Conservative MP to say the prime minister should resign since he was fined for breaking his own Covid laws.

Backbench Tory Nigel Mills said: “I don’t think the PM can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place … He’s been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable.”

Mr Mills, MP for Amber Valley, said people were “rightly angry” over parties. “When they were observing the very strictest of the rules, people who were making the rules didn’t have the decency to observe them.”

He also told BBC Radio Derby that “we have to have higher standards than that of people at the top” – saying he “dreads to think” how many more fines could be issued.

Mr Mills later told the BBC’s World at One programme he “shall be very shortly” sending in a letter of no-confidence in the PM to 1922 committee chair Sir Graham Brady.

However, Mr Mills also told the BBC: “It’s pretty clear he’s not going to resign, and I would be very surprised if there were 180 of my colleagues that wanted to change prime minister at this stage.”

Mr Johnson looked set to avoid an initial fallout from becoming the first prime minister to be hit with criminal sanctions while in office over a law-breaking birthday bash held for him at No 10.

The PM and the chancellor Rishi Sunak have paid fines imposed by the Metropolitan Police over a party held on 19 June 2020 to mark Mr Johnson’s 56th birthday, but have rejected opposition calls to quit.

Cabinet ministers, including Liz Truss, Dominic Raab, Michael Gove, Nadine Dorries and Sajid Javid, tweeted in support of Mr Johnson, praising his leadership and pointing to the ongoing challenge of the Ukraine war.

But Mr Mills said he is “not convinced” by the argument that it is not the right time for a change in leadership in the UK, given the crisis in Ukraine.

The backbencher said: “When will Ukraine be any better than it is now? If you told me this crisis would be over in three months’ time, then you might say, ‘Well OK, let’s get this done (then) the prime minister can meet his fate’.”

Asked if Mr Sunak should also fall on his sword, Mr Mills said: “I think that’s unavoidable, sadly … I kind of think this is a line that we cannot cross and they can’t stay in the same high-profile role – but I’m sure they can come back in future.”

Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, a vocal critic of Mr Johnson, said now was not the time to unseat him during the Ukraine war. He said “history would not forgive us” if the PM was replaced during an international crisis.

But Sir Roger said that while he thought Johnson had “effectively misled the House of Commons” and “is clearly going to have to be held to account”.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross echoed his colleagues’ sentiments, saying it “wouldn’t be right” to remove the PM “at this time” during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who recently withdrew his letter of no-confidence on Mr Johnson, said it was not the time for a leadership challenge. But he warned: “This is not the end of this matter.”

Tory peer Baroness Ruth Davidson did speak out against Mr Johnson, however, saying he “broke the rules he imposed on the country and lost the moral authority to lead. He should go”.

Boris Johnson claims ‘it did not occur’ to him that he was breaking rules

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, told LBC he did not think that “one fixed penalty notice is itself grounds for resignation” – backing Mr Johnson to lead the Tory party into the next election.

But the Tory peer said the PM had to come to Commons to correct his comments. “The prime minister is on record saying to parliament that all the rules were observed and there were no parties – that’s obviously not the case.”

Ben Houchen, the influential Tory mayor of Tees Valley, also defended the PM. He said the public “recognise he’s a flawed individual … he wears that on his sleeve. And that makes him more human to a lot of people”.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said the PM was “incredibly embarrassed” to have been fined by the police, but said there was no “malice” in the breaking of his own Covid laws.

Jacob-Rees Mogg defends Boris Johnson after Partygate fine

Fellow cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg also defended Mr Johnson, telling TalkRadio it was in the “national interest” for him to remain at No 10.

“The idea of constant parties at No 10 is simply false,” said Mr Rees-Mogg. “The prime minister was at a few events which have been highlighted – he was not at boozy events.”

A YouGov poll found that 57 per cent of voters thought Mr Johnson should resign, while 75 per cent said he had knowingly lied.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said on Wednesday that Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak do not seem to understand how “deeply offensive” their lockdown breaches are, as she repeated calls for them to step down.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey renewed his calls for the PM and chancellor to resign as the “trust in them that is so important in crises has gone”.

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