Boris vows to bounce back from ‘partygate’ scandal to level up Britain

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The PM will clear out No10 aides – before launching a blitz of popular policies to bounce back from Partygate scandals.

His fightback – tagged Operation Red Meat – aims to bolster support in the key seats Tories won in the last election.

Under-pressure Mr Johnson plans to take personal charge of the Channel migrants crisis and to set up a post-Covid NHS “war room”, moving on from claims of illicit lockdown parties held in Downing Street.

Despite growing unrest in Tory ranks, the PM’s backers hope an inquiry into the saga will stop short of implicating Mr Johnson directly and let him cling on to power. A Government source claimed to the Daily Express last night that Mr Johnson had “got the big judgment calls right.

“Thanks to our record vaccination and booster programme, we have the most open economy in Europe with the economy now bigger than it was before the pandemic and more people in jobs than before it began.

“That growth and prosperity is thanks to the fact the Prime Minister got the big judgment calls right – on reopening in July last year, on avoiding the clamour for more restrictions over Christmas and the New Year, and on leading the way to deploy the vaccines and boosters.

“We are committed to getting on with the job of uniting the country and levelling up across the United Kingdom.”

Another insider added: “He is determined to put things right and get on with delivering for the country.” The PM will look to get on the front foot this week with a string of eye-catching announcements.

He will focus on reducing the NHS treatment backlog and on tackling the tide of migrants crossing the Channel, while also freezing the BBC licence fee for two years.

A “booze ban” could be put in place within No10 following the series of embarrassing allegations of Covid rule-breaking.

There might also be extra money for skills and job training for 1.5 million people out of work and on Universal Credit.

All remaining Covid restrictions could be lifted before the end of this month and Michael Gove’s “levelling up” white paper could be published next week.

Mr Johnson is facing a mounting Tory backlash, with a dozen of his MPs criticising him in public over boozy parties.

Around 20 dissenters are believed to have handed letters, calling on the Prime Minister to quit, to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee.

If Sir Graham receives at least 54 such letters that would trigger a vote of no-confidence in Mr Johnson.

But Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden claimed yesterday that while there were “failings” in No10 over Partygate, it was not a resigning matter for the PM personally.

He said the Government plans to “address the kind of culture that has allowed” reported flouting of coronavirus restrictions, in a hint of a shake-up at the top of Mr Johnson’s administration.

Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary who sent an email inviting staff to “bring your own booze” to the No10 garden during the first virus lockdown, and Mr Reynolds’ deputy Stuart Glassborow are likely to be forced out of Downing Street.

Dan Rosenfield, No10 chief of staff, might also be at risk.

Mr Dowden said on the BBC yesterday: “I can assure you the Prime Minister is both very contrite and deeply apologetic for what happened. But, more importantly, he is determined to make sure that this can’t be allowed to happen and that we address the underlying culture in Downing Street.”

His comments came as a sixth Tory MP called on Mr Johnson himself to step down, arguing that a clearout of senior officials alone would not reverse the “terminal damage” done to the Prime Minister’s reputation by the allegations.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said on Facebook: “It is not down to a simple Government policy change or a sacking of ministers or officials to put things right.

“In this case, all roads lead back to Downing Street and the person whose name is on the front door.”

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Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith was also heavily critical of the No10 regime, labelling the potential lockdown breaches “unforgivable” and blaming them on a “lazy and slack” culture in Downing Street.

Sir Iain told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday programme that Cabinet Office official Sue Gray’s report on the Partygate claims would settle the question of whether the Prime Minister “knew or understood what was going on”.

However, veteran Tory MP Peter Bone told LBC radio station that he had found constituents in his Wellingborough seat were “clearly in support of the Prime Minister”.

While former trade secretary Dr Liam Fox – who was sacked by Mr Johnson in 2019 – said that it was the “wrong time” for a change of leader. Meanwhile No10 aides denied further allegations that Mr Johnson had not been totally upfront in his apology to the House of Commons last Wednesday.

The embattled Premier admitted to MPs that he had attended a Downing Street garden party for 25 minutes on May 20 2020 but said he understood that the gathering was a “work event”.

A report in the Sunday Times claimed that the Prime Minister was warned by “at least two people” that the get-together organised via the email from Mr Reynolds amounted to “a party” – and should have been cancelled immediately.

A No10 spokeswoman said: “It is untrue that the Prime Minister was warned about the event in advance.

“As he said earlier this week, he believed implicitly that this was a work event.

“He has apologised to the House and is committed to making a further statement once the investigation concludes.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated his assertion that Mr Johnson should resign.

He argued that the Tory chief had “degraded” the office of prime minister and “lost all authority”.

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