Downing Street parties: Boris Johnson's premiership on life support after defection as former Tory minister tells him: ‘In the name of God, go’

Boris Johnson's premiership is on life support as one of his newest MPs dramatically defected to Labour and a former Tory cabinet minister told him: "In the name of God, go.”

In another extraordinary day in Westminster, No. 10 insisted the Prime Minister would fight any no-confidence vote launched against him by his own MPs and said he expected to contest the next general election.

But Mr Johnson is battling to contain internal Tory fury over the Downing Street party scandals.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Just minutes before Prime Minister's Questions began on Wednesday, Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South, announced he had defected to Labour, accusing Mr Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer

Read More

Read More
PMQs sketch: Boris Johnson's battering as David Davis tells him to 'in the name ...

A Labour spokesman later said the party had been in talks with Mr Wakeford for “some time”.

Mr Johnson apologised once again for the ‘partygate’ saga, but said it was for senior official Sue Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, as he indicated the report would be published next week.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross previously called on Mr Johnson to resign after he admitted attending a Downing Street party during lockdown in May 2020.

He is among those to have submitted a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 committee.

Mr Ross said he thought the threshold of 54 letters, which would spark a no-confidence vote, is now “near” and getting “closer and closer”.

He told the BBC: "I do think we’re on a bit of a roller coaster ride. It’s going up and down, but I think most people believe we are getting closer to the 54 number than further away.”

Last week, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory leader of the Commons, branded Mr Ross a "lightweight" following his resignation call.

During PMQs, Labour MP Stephen Kinnock challenged Mr Johnson to say if he agreed with his Cabinet colleague’s remarks.

The Prime Minister dodged the question, insisting the Conservatives in Scotland were doing “an excellent job”.

Mr Johnson is under pressure from a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election, with many thought to have submitted letters of no confidence.

But in a dramatic intervention, he was also urged to quit by Tory grandee David Davis, the former Brexit secretary.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Davis told the Prime Minister he had spent weeks defending him from “angry constituents”, including by reminding them of the “successes of Brexit”.

Mr Davis said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take.

"Yesterday, he did the opposite of that, so I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear: Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain.

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

Mr Johnson replied: “I must say to him, I don’t know what he is talking about.

“What I can tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to – what I can tell him is, and I think have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this Government and throughout the pandemic.”

Earlier, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer "warmly" welcomed Mr Wakeford to the Labour benches.

Mr Wakeford won Bury South, which had elected a Labour MP at every election since 1997, in 2019.

He later told reporters defecting was “the most difficult decision I have ever had to make” and followed months of soul-searching.

In his resignation letter to Mr Johnson, the MP said: “Britain needs a Government focused on tackling the cost-of-living crisis and providing a path out of the pandemic that protects living standards and defends the security of all.

“It needs a Government that upholds the highest standards of integrity and probity in public life and sadly both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and Government this country deserves.”

Mr Wakeford added: “My decision is about much more than your leadership and the disgraceful way you have conducted yourself in recent weeks.”

Facing loud jeers from the Conservatives during PMQs, Sir Keir accused Tory MPs of having “brought their own boos” to Parliament, in a nod to the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street in May 2020 the Prime Minister has admitted he attended.

In a question to Mr Johnson, the Labour leader said: “Last week, he said he didn’t realise he was at a party and – surprise, surprise – no-one believed him.

“So this week, he has got a different defence – nobody warned him that it was against the rules.

“Why on Earth does he think his new defence is going to work?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, we must wait for the outcome of the investigation, but I believe what I have said.”

He added: “As for Bury South, let me say to him, the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.”

A Labour spokesman said afterwards the party would be “very happy” for the Prime Minister to call a general election and put his claims the Tories would win again in the constituency “to the test”.

Sir Keir said Mr Johnson was asking the public to believe that "as he waded through the empty bottles and platters of sandwiches, he didn't realise it was a party".

He added: "If the Prime Minister misleads Parliament, should they resign?"

Mr Johnson replied: "[Sir Keir] is continuing to ask a series of questions which he knows will be fully addressed by the inquiry. He is wasting this House's time, he is wasting the people's time, he continues to be completely irrelevant."

Sir Keir called the Prime Minister “out of touch, out of control, out of ideas and soon to be out of office”.

Ian Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, said: "The Prime Minister is taking the public for fools. Nobody believes him.

"Will the Prime Minister finally take responsibility? Resign, go, Prime Minister."

Mr Johnson has said he believed he was attending a work event on May 20, 2020, and said "nobody warned me that it was against the rules”.

But former aide Dominic Cummings alleged the Prime Minister was made aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.

The event is, alongside others, the subject of a probe by Ms Gray, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the Prime Minister.

Asked during PMQs if he would resign, Mr Johnson said he would not.

Mr Johnson’s press secretary later said he would lead his party into the next election.

Asked if Mr Johnson would also fight any no-confidence vote in him by his party and whether he was the best man for the job, the press secretary said: “Yes.”

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.