Three Tory MPs call for Boris Johnson to step down after Gray report

Three Tory MPs call for Boris Johnson to step down after Gray report

Three Conservative MPs have demanded Boris Johnson’s resignation for the first time following the publication of Sue Gray’s report into Covid-19 breaches inside Downing Street.

Tory MPs David Simmonds and John Baron urged the Prime Minister to step down on Thursday, adding their names to the growing discontentment towards the party leader.

Backbencher Julian Sturdy had begun the trickle of fresh voices demanding Mr Johnson’s exit after the damning inquiry from the senior civil servant was published on Wednesday.

The 60-page report detailed events at which officials drank so much they were sick, sang karaoke, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff at a time when millions of people across the country were unable to see friends and family.

A total of 19 Tory MPs have so far publicly called for his resignation, with many critics of Mr Johnson holding back due to the war in Ukraine.

Under Conservative Party rules, there must be a vote on the Prime Minister’s future if 54 MPs write to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, saying they have lost confidence in their leader.

But the public calls do not equate to formal letters being submitted to Sir Graham. The total number of letters which have been sent to the committee is also kept secret, meaning it is unclear how many the chairman has received.

Meanwhile, Downing Street’s chief of staff said the Prime Minister has made a “significant change” to No 10 by shaking up his team and apologising for the lockdown-busting events.

Steve Barclay said he and Mr Johnson were both “shocked” and “appalled” by the report’s findings after it was issued on Wednesday, nearly a week after the Metropolitan Police concluded its investigation.

The force handed out 126 fines for rule breaches in No 10 and Whitehall, with the Prime Minister receiving a single fixed-penalty notice for his birthday party in June 2020.

In a statement, Mr Simmonds, the MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said: “I listened to what the Prime Minister had to say at Prime Minister’s Questions, his statement and the 1922 Committee yesterday following the publication of the Sue Gray report.

“Having reflected on what he said, and the views of the constituents and my Conservative association, it is clear that while the Government and our policies enjoy the confidence of the public, the Prime Minister does not.

“Accordingly, it is time for him to step down so that new leadership can take forward the important work of the Government in ensuring that our people and country prosper.”

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a statement on the Sue Gray report in the House of Commons (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Minutes earlier, Mr Baron accused Mr Johnson of misleading Parliament, and said he “no longer enjoys my support.”

“Given the scale of rule-breaking in No 10, I can not accept that the Prime Minister was unaware,” he said in a statement on his website.

“Therefore, his repeated assurances in Parliament that there was no rule-breaking is simply not credible.

“Having always said I would consider all the available evidence before deciding, I’m afraid the Prime Minister no longer enjoys my support – I can no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Former minister Tobias Ellwood has also been repeating his challenge to Tory colleagues to oust their leader.

Mr Barclay, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said he and Mr Johnson were “shocked and appalled” by Ms Gray’s report, in particular around how cleaning staff were treated.

State Opening of Parliament
Downing Street chief of staff Steve Barclay said Mr Johnson was ‘shocked and appalled’ by the report (PA)

He told Sky News: “We had an all-staff meeting yesterday in Downing Street further to that.

“It is why we’ve had so many changes in terms of both myself going into Downing Street, the permanent secretary, a new director of communication, a new principal private secretary, it’s why we put procedures now in place.

“We were appalled. That’s why the Prime Minister apologised, it’s why he went to the House of Commons. He said how humbled he was to read about what had happened.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson had “set the bar so low as Prime Minister”.

She told Loose Women on ITV: “I think one of the problems now is that he’s been proven to be a liar and somebody who is incompetent in office, certainly at a time when we had the pandemic.

“I think it does create a problem when you’ve set the bar so low as the Prime Minister of a country that you can literally break the law in office, and then it’s like, ‘oh, well, sorry, I didn’t know about it. Everybody else is to blame.’”