The Prime Minister will face high noon with his own MPs at PMQs over Downing Street parties as the threat of a no confidence 'pork pie plot' looms - and minister James Heappey said only that he shouldn't quit 'right now'
Boris Johnson faces D-Day at PMQs over the litany of Downing Street parties after 10 new Tory MPs reportedly sent no-confidence letters in him this morning.
The Prime Minister will suffer a high noon after he was hit by a putsch from Conservatives who joined Parliament in 2019 - nicknamed the ‘pork pie plot’ because one of them represents Melton.
Around 20 ‘2019ers’ met yesterday to discuss submitting no-confidence letters - and according to the BBC, around half sent theirs at 8am today.
That suggests Boris Johnson is getting perilously close to the 54 Tory letters needed to trigger an immediate vote of no confidence.
But other MPs have doubts about whether the threshold will be hit as soon as today, and even if it is, the stricken Tory leader could well survive the vote.
Battling to save his leadership, the Prime Minister will rush out an announcement lifting Covid Plan B rules from next Wednesday straight after PMQs. And he boasted about surviving his “third parliamentary session” to the Cabinet.
But one furious Tory told the Mirror the PM’s so-called ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ to preserve his career should be titled ‘Operation Massive C**k’.
Boris Johnson will face his own MPs at PMQs today ( Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey today threw No10 staff under the bus after the PM said ‘nobody told me’ a BYOB bash in May 2020 broke the rules.
Dominic Cummings has accused Mr Johnson of lying to Parliament by saying he believed it was a work event - despite claims two staff warned him otherwise.
But Mr Heappey said the PM “have been grabbed from his office at the end of a busy day of very significant decisions”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “My take as someone who has worked in Downing Street is that the Prime Minister doesn’t really own his own diary.
“It really is for his team to have had his back.”
Yet Mr Heappey - a former No10 aide to Mr Johnson - also gave only a half-hearted backing to his boss.
Asked if Mr Johnson should lead the Tories into the next election he replied carefully: “As things stand, right now, yes."
Asked if Mr Johnson should lead the Tories into the next election, Armed Forces minister James Heappey replied carefully: “As things stand, right now, yes." ( Image: PA)
New polling today by AJL Partners for Channel 4 News found the Tories would lost all but three of 45 ‘red wall’ seats it won in 2019.
Only Dudley North, Bassetlaw and Great Grimsby would survive a general election on current polling as Labour are on 48% to the Tories’ 37%, the survey claimed.
The minister warned he was “angry”, his inbox was “glowing white hot” with furious voters, and he was waiting for a parties report by Whitehall investigator Sue Gray.
Ominously, he added: “We are all keen to understand exactly what happened and whether or not it was breaking the law.”
Mr Heappey did not rule out the Prime Minister having to resign if he has broken the law.
He replied: “I think it’s perfectly reasonable to wait for Sue Gray’s report to come back and then for each and every MP and member of the government to reflect on the conclusions of that report.”
Boris Johnson is facing a so-called 'pork pie plot' ( Image: PA)
Boris Johnson last night refused to say who “repeatedly reassured” him “there was no party held in 10 Downing Street” - claims he made in December.
Asked by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner in a formal parliamentary question, he replied: “I refer you to the Terms of Reference for the Cabinet Office investigation, which have been deposited in the Library of the House. It would not be appropriate to pre-empt that process.”
Mr Heappey said it was “not surprising” that MPs were discussing ousting the Prime Minister.
They “are feeling under a lot of pressure right now because the British public are absolutely furious with what they’ve heard”, he told Sky News.
But he added: “This doesn’t feel like the time to be changing our Prime Minister if you ask me.”
Mr Johnson met MPs on Tuesday and pleaded “what do I need to do?” after claiming “nobody told me” a May 2020 party broke the rule in an ashen-faced interview.
Some of the putsch has come from a so-called ‘pork pie plot’ of Tory MPs who were elected in 2019, with frenzied briefing and one telling ITV : “Up the revolution”.
Despite the PM launching ‘Operation Save Big Dog’, telling the Cabinet about his plans for a third parliamentary session into next year, a Tory told the Mirror: “It’s Operation Massive C**k.”
Efforts by Johnson loyalists to quash the revolt appeared to fail.
Mr Heappey said: “I wish they would wait, this is a time for cool heads in Parliament.”
But he admitted Mr Johnson "looked like a man that has the weight of the world on his shoulders” in a grim TV interview on Tuesday.
He added: "I suspect he's going to have to apologise for this many more times because people are not going to let their anger die down easily."
Only seven Tory MPs have publicly admitted sending a no confidence letter - but one of them, Andrew Bridgen, said he expects a no confidence vote next week.
"I heard first-hand last night that another 20 from the 2019 intake will be going in today,” he said.
"I would have thought that will encourage a considerable number of others who are wavering to put their letters in. I think will we get to threshold of 54 this week.
“Graham Brady will announce we are having a confidence vote next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Another MP was downbeat. They told the Mirror: “I don’t know where it goes from here. We are grinding slowly to 54, but if we get 54 he will win the no confidence vote and notionally we can’t do it for another year.”
Lord Barwell, Theresa May's former chief of staff, said today's PMQs will be "a really important occasion".
Lord Barwell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "At the moment he's just digging himself deeper into the hole. And I just think that honesty and genuine contrition, it might not be enough, but it's better than what he's trying to do at the moment."
He added: "There was nothing in the rules that said that if you work with people you can all meet up socially for a drink after work outside.
"So, these defences, I think, are just enraging people more and making the Prime Minister's position even worse."
Source: The Daily Mirror