Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under intense pressure as more revelations about Downing Street parties drag the Conservative Party further into crisis. In just the last 24 hours, it has been reported that Downing Street staff partied just hours before the Queen mourned Prince Philip, and the former Covid task-force head has today apologised for holding a Cabinet Office leaving party in December 2020. These stories come after Mr Johnson apologised for attending a Downing Street garden drinks party during England’s first national lockdown.
While Mr Johnson fights for his political life, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been accused of being a “prancing pony” for tweeting a brief message of support for the Prime Minister having been silent on the issue.
Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson have a lot in common – both are prominent eurosceptics, supporters of Conservative values and in favour of a business-led economy.
However, reports throughout the pandemic have shown that they don’t always see eye-to-eye.
Reports in August, for example, quoted a senior Government source who claimed that Mr Johnson threatened to demote Mr Sunak, moving him from his Chancellor role to Secretary of State for Health.
The Sunday Times reported that a livid Mr Johnson suggested the move after the leak of a letter from the Chancellor calling for the easing of travel restrictions, suggesting they were damaging the economy and leaving the UK at a disadvantage to its EU rival.
The newspaper reported that the first Mr Johnson knew of the letter was when details of it appeared in the media, suggesting officials had failed to flag it for his attention.
A senior source told the newspaper: “He said: ‘I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe it’s time we looked at Rishi as the next secretary of state for health. He could potentially do a very good job there.’
“In an open meeting, after ranting about Rishi, he then suggested the chancellor could be demoted in the next reshuffle.”
With Mr Johnson’s future in doubt, speculation has already started over who could be the next Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson’s future was plunged into further doubt after one of his major allies on the backbenches became the latest MP to publicly announce he had submitted a letter of no confidence.
Andrew Bridgen the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, told BBC Newsnight Mr Johnson’s position is “untenable”.
He said: “With a heavy heart, I have written a letter to Sir Graham Brady indicating that I have no confidence in the Prime Minister and calling for a leadership election.”