Boris Johnson will spend this weekend seeking support from conservative lawmakers, as the prime minister’s allies have expressed concern that he will soon face a no-confidence vote as a result of the “party door” scandal.
Downing Street is set to publish next week a report by senior government official Sue Gray on the 10th parties held during the coronavirus blockade, including a “bring alcohol” gathering attended by Johnson in May 2020.
Gray was working over the weekend on his report, backed by six other government officials, and people briefed said he might not be published until the second half of next week due to the number of people he interviewed.
Downing Street is said to be “increasingly gloomy” over the aftermath of Gray’s report on Johnson, according to government insiders.
One said, “There is a feeling in the heart of the government that Gray will be bad, she will expose the facts and the facts will be difficult.” Downing Street did not respond to a request for comment.
Johnson has previously said he believes the May 2020 gathering at the Downing Street Garden was a business event.
Johnson’s allies have said they are increasingly accepting a no-confidence vote, but believe the prime minister can win.
Many Tory MPs have said they will not take a final decision on whether to insist on a vote until they have read Gray’s report.
A total of 54 Conservative MPs have to send letters to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 rear-back Tory commission, to provoke a vote. He is believed to have received 30 letters.
“There is a growing sense of inevitability that the letters will go after Gray,” said a minister loyal to Johnson. “But even if they reach 54, Boris will fight and I think we will win.”
Johnson is due to spend this weekend talking to Conservative MPs in a bid to strengthen his position, according to allies.
Ministers and MPs who support Johnson also plan to contact Tory colleagues in an attempt to allay partygate concerns. A Johnson supporter said, “It’s up to us to save his career.”
Another MP who supports Johnson said: “People mean that Boris is one of the most popular politicians. . . even if the brand is currently damaged. People in places like mine are still happy that they voted for Brexit and they are happy that he did it. “
One member of the commission’s 1922 executive agreed that 54 lawmakers were likely to send letters to Brady after Gray’s report, but predicted that the prime minister would then win a no-confidence vote.
But other Conservatives have been less optimistic about Johnson’s chances of surviving the vote, in part because some Tories are beginning to focus on the prospect of running for the party’s leadership, which could include Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Foreign Minister Liz Truss and former health minister. Jeremy Hunt.
A Tory official said: “What is the reason for voting for Boris now? When you have so many groups planning candidacies for leadership, it seems quite fatal for the prime minister.
Additional revelations about government parties that took place during the coronavirus restrictions were released on Friday.
The Telegraph reported that the Downing Street party, held on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral in April 2021, lasted seven hours to 1 am and included attendees who played on the rink of Wilfred Johnson, the prime minister’s son.
Rebel Conservative MPs, angry at Johnson’s involvement in the party scandal, plan to send letters to Brady asking for a no-confidence vote.
A rebel Tory predicts that at least 54 letters will go to Brady. “I am confident that we will get there,” he said.
Downing Street, meanwhile, said it was not investigating allegations that Johnson’s team was blackmailing rebel conservatives who intended to oust the prime minister.
Labor has called for an investigation after senior Tory William Ragg, who called on Johnson to leave, said the party’s parliamentary business managers were threatening to withhold funding from MPs’ constituencies.
A Downing Street spokesman said he was not aware of any evidence to support the allegations, but “we will look at them very clearly if there is any evidence to support these allegations.”