Boris Johnson booing fallout is 'overinterpretation', minister insists

Watch: Boris and Carrie Johnson given mixed reception on arrival at St Paul's Cathedral

Grant Shapps has insisted the fallout surrounding the booing of Boris Johnson is an “overinterpretation” of his future as prime minister.

Johnson was booed and heckled on Friday as he arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Platinum Jubilee service of thanksgiving to the Queen.

Some commentators have said the booing was significant as jeers would not usually be expected at an event celebrating the monarchy.

It is now six months since the Partygate scandal emerged, with opinion polls suggesting Johnson's appeal has plummeted among voters.

But transport secretary Shapps - a key ally of Johnson who played a key role in his election as Tory leader in 2019 - claimed those who are placing significance in the booing are “rather overinterpreting” the situation.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie arrive for the National Service of Thanksgiving to Celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen at St Paul's Cathedral on June 3, 2022 in London, England. The Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II is being celebrated from June 2 to June 5, 2022, in the UK and Commonwealth to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II on 6 February 1952. (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson, with his wife Carrie, was booed when he arrived at St Paul's Cathedral on Friday. (Getty Images)

Asked on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme about the booing, Shapps retorted that “there were also people cheering and you’re not asking me why they did that”.

“Look, politicians don’t expect to be popular all the time. You know, getting on with running the country is a job where you have to take difficult decisions a lot of the time.”

He didn’t mention Johnson’s decisions to attend parties and gatherings in Downing Street when the rest of the country was under coronavirus lockdown restrictions. In April, Johnson became the first serving PM to be sanctioned - with a £50 fine - for breaking the law, for attending a rule-breaking birthday event in June 2020.

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Referring to the booing of then-chancellor George Osborne in 2012, Shapps added: “I remember booing going on at the Olympic Games in 2012, it didn’t mean that the election wasn’t won in 2015. I think you’re rather overinterpreting, if you don’t mind me saying.”

It comes amid suggestions a leadership vote among Tory MPs could be coming as soon as Wednesday, with reports in the Sunday Times the 54-signature threshold for a no-confidence vote has already been crossed.

Shapps said he doesn’t believe there will be a vote this week, but that Johnson “will” win if one is held. In the event of a vote, 180 rebels would be needed to remove Johnson from his post.

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Meanwhile, new polling suggests the Conservatives risk losing a key electoral test later this month by a significant margin.

A survey of voters in the battleground constituency of Wakefield - where there is a by-election on 23 June to elect a new MP after Tory incumbent Imran Ahmad Khan was found guilty of sexually assaulting a boy - has suggested the Tories could lose the vote by as much as 20 points.

A by-election will also be held on the same day in Tiverton and Honiton, which was called after Tory MP Neil Parish resigned over his viewing of pornography in the House of Commons. This seat is being targeted by the Liberal Democrats.