‘A sh** show!’ Tory morale ‘at rock bottom’ as letters demanding Boris resign pile up

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With Tory MPs bracing themselves for more revelations of drinking parties in Downing Street during lockdown, many have made it clear that they will wait for the report by senior civil servant Sue Gray to be published before passing judgement.

But with the mood on the Tory back benches described as “apocalyptic” the Prime Minister is this week facing the fight of his life to stay in office.

The Sunday Express could only find one Conservative MP willing to go on the record to defend her leader.

Great Grimsby MP Lia Nici, part of the 2019 Red Wall intake, backed the PM but wanted changes at Downing Street.

She said: “Boris has a vision for the UK that people in places like Grimsby voted to see come to fruition. He should sack those at No10 who are working to try discredit him and thwart his work.”

Writing for the Sunday Express today, Jacob Rees-Mogg, one of Mr Johnson’s closest allies in the cabinet, urged his colleagues to back the Prime Minister but also urged an end to the “drinking culture” in Downing Street.

Anger over the conduct in Downing Street appeared last night to have united the two wings of the Conservative Party in calling for Mr Johnson to quit.

Former minister Tobias Ellwood, a Remainer, demanded he step down, while Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen said he had “lost his moral authority to govern”.

It is understood that around a dozen letters have been submitted to the chairman of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady asking for a vote to trigger a leadership election.

Sir Graham has insisted he will “not have a running commentary on letters” but 54 are needed to trigger a vote, 15 percent of the MPs.

And the Sunday Express has also learnt that Mr Johnson was informed by senior backbenchers before Christmas that there would be enough letters to proceed with a vote if he tried to bring in further restrictions following the rebellion by 101 Tory MPs over covid passports.

Conservative MPs have described how morale is “at rock bottom” with one Red Waller describing the ongoing stories as “a sh** show!”

“He is partying in the last chance saloon,” said another who had previously been a stalwart supporter.

A party donor added: “The problem is that there are more parties to be revealed, this is not over.”

A member of the 2019 intake also described how he and his colleagues were looking at whether Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was better to take over.

He said: “Not sure anybody really has Boris’s X-Factor to be honest, despite them being competent for actual government.

“Obviously Rishi versus Liz is the likelihood, but I think Rishi is far and away the favourite.”

A senior Conservative and former minister expressed dismay at the latest revelations.

“The whole thing is beyond disgusting,” they said. “I’ve never been more ashamed to be a Conservative, really, that this was allowed to go on and no one said stop.”

Describing how people at the top of British politics had flouted rules others obeyed, they said: “[The] elite basically made the rules; we voted for them reluctantly; they shut the schools down and then they laughed at us and didn’t believe in the rules that they were making and they have destroyed millions of people’s lives all very the country, and all the while they were partying [as if] having some Roman orgies in 10 Downing Street.”

They called for the prime minister to sit down and deliver a “fireside apology to the nation” and stress that they would accept whatever punishment is meted out for offences.

A further demand was a “night of the long machetes in Downing St”, saying that “every single person needs to be chucked out”.

“The fact that people in there are allowing all this stuff that goes on surely shows that the whole place is dysfunctional and arrogant and incompetent,” they said.

A former cabinet minister predicted that Mr Johnson will soon be gone.

They said: ‘I honestly think that Boris is finished, I’m afraid to say. I think this is going to sink him.

“And I think it is extraordinary that an issue such as a party can see off a prime minister.”

They added: “It’s a great shame, you know, really, because when you think about it he had the most fantastic election result, he’d got the biggest opportunity that any Conservative Prime Minister had since Margaret Thatcher, and it’s squandered.”

However, another former minister said: “If there is enough wiggle room in Sue Gray’s report he will probably be able to brazen it out, just.”

Most MPs are receiving letters from Tory-voting constituents urging them to help trigger a leadership election, they said, but “there is no obvious alternative candidate and a lot of people are keen to ensure that before actually pulling the trigger, so to speak, they have got a coherent plan for what happens afterwards”.

One MP said that at one point he was getting “an email a minute” on the subject. 

Another former minister was unequivocal when asked what they wanted Mr Johnson to do next.

“Resign without delay,” they said.

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A leading “red wall” MP had also decided Mr Johnson needs to leave Downing Street.

“I think he’s got to go,” they said. “It’s the drip, drip, drip, and we’re all worried there is more to come.”

There is frustration about the culture at No 10 that took root on Mr Johnson’s watch.

“It should be like a nunnery,” the MP said.

The MP suspected that Chancellor Rishi Sunak was the most likely candidate to succeed Mr Johnson, in large part due to public gratitude for the furlough scheme.

“A lot of people say ‘Rishi saved my job,” they said.

A former minister described the mood in the party as “pretty filthy” with MPs waiting to see Sue Gray’s report into parties during lockdown.

They suspected that the release of stories damaging to the Prime Minister is being carefully coordinated as part of a sophisticated campaign, saying that “someone is running a very brutally effective grid”.

“The fact that these things are coming out in sequence cannot be an accident,” they said.

Another red wall Conservative MP suggested Mr Johnson could recover and warned that he should not quit now because nobody else can win seats across the country and a Tory leadership contest would be a gift for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

They said: “Boris going now – regardless of what happened – is going to be very bad for the Conservative party because it gives us two or three months of a leadership election. There will be a vacuum and who’s going to fill the vacuum? Keir Starmer.

“[He] will be seen as prime ministerial and people will suddenly think, ‘Oh, actually, he’s done an okay job, we can get behind him.’ And that is one of many reasons I do not believe a leadership election should happen now.”

A further key concern is the lack of an obvious successor.

The MP said: “I still do not believe there is a frontrunner to replace him, to unite the seats down in Surrey or wherever [and] the seats like mine. There is no one else who can bring that coalition together.”

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