Boris Johnson tries to ‘dismantle the rules’ says Chris Bryant
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Conservative Home editor Henry Hill said he believes that, despite the multiple crises currently engulfing the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson can ride out the chaos for the moment while MPs are in recess. Mr Johnson has been rocked by a succession of crises over lobbying, to allegations of COVID-19 rule-breaking parties to the Owen Paterson scandal and Friday’s North Shropshire by-election defeat,
The Conservative Home editor stressed Tory MPs “are not going to get rid of him over the holidays” adding that this will likely extend into January as well.
He suggested this is also due to the Government’s continued fight against the spread of the Omicron variant in Britain.
But Mr Hill warned that if there was to be a challenge to Boris Johnson’s leadership it will be “in the Spring” if indeed the Prime Minister is still battling shocking polling and his ratings are “underwater”.
The editor noted that if this is the case, Tory MPs will be planning for the long term prospects of a new leader in Downing Street.
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He said: “Tory MPs will be thinking if we want to have somebody else in charge for a General Election in the autumn of 2023…
“We need to give them a party conference, that in the Autumn of 2022.
“And that means we have got to get rid of Boris Johnson no later than the summer.”
He suggested how the summer will also be a less “self-indulgent” time to have a leadership contest as by then, he argued COVID-19 infections may have dropped off and not be a primary focus.
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Despite his comments, he said the North Shropshire by-election loss to the Liberal Democrats was a major setback and “entirely self-inflicted” by Mr Johnson.
He said: “If he had simply let Owen Paterson serve his 30-day suspension that would be over now and Owen Paterson would still be in Parliament.”
He branded that it was an “extraordinary error of judgement” of the Prime Minister to try and save Mr Paterson’s skin throughout the lobbying row.
And asked about the now eight alleged COVID-19 rule busting parties held in Downing Street and Westminster, Mr Hill said the Prime Minister “needs to draw a line under it”.
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He said: “It is almost certainly going to involve getting rid of some people, currently Allegra Stratton, who didn’t actually attend any of these parties, is the only person to resign.”
The editor added how Mr Johnson is now faced with a dilemma, as by firing junior staff involved in the parties would “look like a terrible failure of leadership”.
But Mr Hill warned that leaks to national newspapers are coming from junior staffers in Government and Downing Street and Mr Johnson needs to resolve the crisis soon, adding that “somebody somewhere” made the decision for the parties to go ahead”.
It comes as Cabinet Secretary Simon Case has stepped back from his role of investigating the parties after it was revealed he attended one of the bashes he was due to investigate. Civil Servant Sue Gray has replaced him.
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