Downing Street Christmas party: Why Tory MPs could turn on Boris Johnson over leaked video scandal
The Christmas party debacle has shown a contempt for the public that could turn Boris Johnson’s own MPs against him.
Tories stood by the Prime Minister when he defended the Matt Hancock affair, ignored the Priti Patel report and insisted the Barnard Castle trip by former aide Dominic Cummings was all above board.
But the mood is changing in Westminster. Tory MPs are now worried, embarrassed and unsure of what they have to say.
Having been asked about the leaked video of Mr Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton laughing about a Christmas party, MPs simply have no answers.
All week we were told by various figures the party had not happened, despite multiple sources confirming the party had taken place.
Speaking to backbenchers yesterday morning, the universal feeling was not shame, but relief they did not have to go out to bat for the Government.
Others instead chose to simply ignore journalists, with those the quickest to ring about a story of no substance now having nothing to say.
It is clear the scandal over the Christmas party has hurt Boris Johnson, not only with the public, but with his own MPs.
Previously the Prime Minister has managed to shrug off scandal after scandal.
Mr Johnson will tell Prime Minister’s Questions what is and isn’t a story, dismissing concerns raised by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
But in the Commons yesterday, the jeers and cheers from the seats behind him were a little quieter.
For all the misery, there seems little Tory MPs are minded to do about it.
Only a few stuck their head above the parapet, and even then it was with the usual caveats.
Sir Roger Gale told the BBC if the Prime Minister has misled Parliament, then the Tory backbench 1922 committee would have to tell him his “time is up”, but even that would require convincing them.
This was echoed by Douglas Ross, with the Scottish Tory leader saying the Prime Minister should outright quit if he misled Parliament.
Among Labour MPs the mood was euphoric, with smiles in the chamber barely hidden behind face masks.
One Labour MP told The Scotsman they’d never seen the Tory MPs as angry as they were yesterday, and these were figures around for former prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit votes.
Not only that, they suggested it was a real opening for the Labour leader as it would make his differences to Mr Johnson clearer than ever.
They said: “Tory backbenchers are as furious and more out for revenge on the Prime Minister than I’ve ever seen them. It was palpable.
"It is getting cut through, but voters know Boris Johnson is a liar.
"So who knows if it will make a difference, but Keir is a grown-up who can win.”
After witnessing PMQs, it is clear Sir Keir has made space to catch Mr Johnson out with a blow that could prove significant going forward.
In a heated confrontation, the Labour leader demanded Mr Johnson hand over “everything the government knows about parties in Downing Street to the Metropolitan Police”, to which the Prime Minister replied: “Of course we will do that.”
This agreement came on a day Westminster Magistrates’ Court was dealing with several cases of alleged lockdown breaches committed the previous year.
It also allowed the Labour leader to use his legal background and ridicule senior minister Dominic Raab for saying police would not investigate a crime that happened a year ago, labelling it “total nonsense”.
However, later the Metropolitan Police said it would not investigate allegations of a Christmas Party in No. 10 at this time due to a lack of evidence.
Given the promise to provide them with more information, however, this could still change.
It only took one unhappy person to leak the first video, others could follow.
Among Lib Dems the feeling was more cautious, with MP Christine Jardine claiming an inquiry was not enough.
She said: “Even amongst Tory MPs, there seems to be a great deal of unhappiness.
“There’s going to be an inquiry, but what has to be done has to come from the Conservative party, and MPs need to think about whether or not they are happy with the leadership of their party at the moment.”
SNP MPs labelled the situation an “unedifying spectacle” and urged the Tories to act.
The party's foreign affairs spokesperson Alyn Smith said: “The Tories have a choice – keep this charlatan in power and act as apologists for the continuing litany of appalling behaviour by his coterie or step up, get real and get rid of him.
"For my part I’ll keep plugging away doing the best I can for the people I serve.”
Across the house, MPs main concern seems to be compliance.
Whatever the future for Mr Johnson, MPs from multiple parties now worry the new measures in England will just be perceived as a dead cat and the public won’t comply.
The situation has seen Ms Stratton resign, quitting for joking about a party Downing Street continues to insist didn’t happen.
Mr Johnson expressed his sadness at her departure, but will no doubt know nobody resigns over a party that did not happen.
Her departure is a smoking gun, and Mr Johnson’s new threat to take action against officials if rules were broken will not win him friends among those already inclined to leak.
And now the tide appears to be turning.
A snap poll from Opinium found 53 per cent of those asked believed the Prime Minister should resign from his position, with just 28 per cent saying he should remain as leader of the country.
He is even being made fun of by Ant and Dec. This is cutting through.
It is unclear if any of this will spring Tory MPs to act, but with an inquiry now starting, Mr Johnson’s tenure has never looked less secure.
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