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Boris Johnson news - live: Tories shelve no-confidence vote until partygate report, as MP defects to Labour

·41-min read
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Any no-confidence vote to topple Boris Johnson will be delayed until after Sue Gray’s report into the “partygate” scandal, The Independent has been told.

A dozen more letters have been submitted by Tory MPs demanding the vote – although some have reportedly withdrawn theirs.

Those wanting the prime minister to go were buoyed when Tory grandee David Davis called on Boris Johnson to quit in a packed House of Commons, saying he expected his leaders to “shoulder responsibility for the actions they take” and accusing Mr Johnson of doing “the opposite of that”.

Mr Davis, who himself once stood for the top job in the party, reminded the PM of a quote: “You have sat there too long for all the good you’ve done. In the name of God, go.”

The crushing statement came minutes after the prime minister was hit by the defection of a red wall MP to Labour following mounting anger over Downing Street parties and claims of sleaze.

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford told Mr Johnson “both you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.

And more Tory MPs are considering also defecting, senior party sources have reportedly said.

Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson suggested a no-confidence vote in MrJohnson was now a matter of “when” rather than “if”. A total of 54 no-confidence letters from Conservative MPs to the 1922 committee would be needed to trigger a leadership election.

Key Points

  • Boris Johnson will fight to save job in no-confidence vote, says No 10

  • PM told to quit by Tory grandee

  • Up to five Tory MPs considering defecting like Wakeford – report

  • Tory MP defects to Labour moments before PMQs

  • ‘You broke the law, it’s you that should be inside,’ spoof PM ‘told’

  • Labour take 32 point lead in London, survey suggests

  • Almost 75% of Britons angry about partygate, poll finds


07:42 , Rory Sullivan

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live politics coverage, which will today focus on the threat to Boris Johnson’s premiership.

PM could face no-confidence vote in days as Tory mood sours

07:46 , Rory Sullivan

A growing number of Tory MPs reportedly want Boris Johnson gone after the backlash caused by a series of lockdown-breaching parties at No 10.

Seven Conservative backbenchers have so far said publicly that they have submitted no-confidence letters in the prime minister. But the actual number is likely to be much higher.

If a threshold of 54 letters is reached, a vote on the PM’s future as leader will take place.

Boris Johnson could face no-confidence vote in days as Tory mood ‘turns dramatically’

Almost 75% of Britons angry about partygate, poll finds

07:58 , Rory Sullivan

Some 73 per cent of the British public - including 60 per cent of Tory voters - are angered by the No 10 parties, a poll commissioned by The Independent has found.

The Savanta ComRes survey also discovered that 80 per cent of people agreed that there is “one rule for the government and another for everybody else” under Boris Johnson’s leadership.

The findings come as more Conservative backbenchers reportedly scheme to oust him from leadership. Yesterday, a group of the most recent Tory intake allegedly met to discuss his future, in what has been called the “pork pie plot”.

Its name derives from the fact that it allegedly involved Alicia Kearns, the MP for Rutland and Melton – home of the Melton Mowbray delicacy.

Nobody told me drinks event was against rules, says Boris Johnson

Labour take 32 point lead over Tories in London, survey suggests

08:02 , Rory Sullivan

Labour has stormed to a 32-point lead over the Tories in London amid the fallout from the partygate scandal, a new YouGov survey has indicated.

The poll, which was first reported by The Evening Standard, means that the Conservatives could lose eight seats in the capital, leaving them with only 13 MPs in the city.

Patrick English, political research manager at YouGov, said: “Clearly, this poll is not good news for the prime minister and the Conservatives in London.”

Armed Forces minister denies drinking culture in Westminster

08:32 , Chiara Giordano

The Armed Forces minister has denied there is a drinking culture in Westminster.

James Heappey told BBC Breakfast: "I think it's quite hard to answer that in a straight way because what I reflect on having worked both in Downing Street and in the MoD (Ministry of Defence), both departments where an awful lot of people have to work extraordinarily long hours, because they are dealing with real-time operational issues, and I don't know that colleagues who get to the end of a very, very long day, and maybe have a glass of wine at their desk before they go home, is that a drinking culture different to those who finished work earlier in the evening and go for a drink with friends outside work?

"The fact is that I haven't reflected that there is a drinking culture.

"I see people who work very hard and work very long hours, and very occasionally have a glass of wine together at the end of work.

"I think that there does need to be some reflection about the amount of alcohol that appears to be consumed and how regularly, not just the No 10 but in a number of departments of state, and I know that all secretaries of state and the Prime Minister and the senior civil service are quite seized at whether or not this reflects on a culture that needs to change."

Now is not the time to be changing PM, says minister

08:45 , Chiara Giordano

James Heappey warned his colleagues to keep "cool heads" as he said now was not the time to change prime minister.

The Armed Forces minister told BBC Breakfast: "What's going on in the world right now, whether it be from a security perspective where there's incredible instability in a number of regions of the world where the UK has great interest, or economically where as we've discussed inflation is rising as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.

"Or from the pandemic itself, which whilst I think the UK has weathered the Omicron surge well, by the way, that's in no small measure of thanks for the decisions the prime minister has taken, we're not out of the woods yet, and there's still work to be done.

"This doesn't feel like the time to be changing prime minister to me."

Minister ‘sincerely hopes’ Boris Johnson did not mislead parliament over partygate

08:55 , Chiara Giordano

Defence minister James Heappey has said he “sincerely hopes” Boris Johnson did not mislead parliament about the drinks party in the No 10 garden during the first Covid lockdown in May 2020.

In a message to MPs considering sending a letter to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, Mr Heappey told Sky News: “This doesn’t feel like the time to be changing prime minister, if you ask me.”

My colleague Adam Forrest has more on this story:

Minister ‘sincerely hopes’ Boris Johnson did not mislead parliament

Environment secretary says he has confidence in Boris Johnson

09:05 , Chiara Giordano

UK environment secretary George Eustice has said he would not be submitting a letter of no-confidence in the prime minister.

He told BBC Good Morning Scotland: "I've got confidence in the prime minister. Clearly the revelations that have been coming out are damaging and it's unsettled parts of the Conservative parliamentary party, there's no denying that.

"I think the prime minister was right to apologise but I support him because I do think the important agenda that he's got around levelling up our country, bringing our union together after a number of difficult years, arguing over things like Brexit, I think he is the right one to do that, and he has my support to carry out that important agenda that he was elected to."

No 10 staff should’ve partied in pub, says Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin

09:20 , Chiara Giordano

The Brexit-supporting boss of Wetherspoon, who once called Boris Johnson a "winner", has said that, if Downing Street staff had been able to attend pubs in May 2020, his employees would have dealt with their alleged "high jinks".

Tim Martin also said the CCTV installed in the company's central London pubs could have helped with inquiries into what happened.

It came as Wetherspoon reported a 16.6% drop in sales over the 12 weeks to the middle of January, as the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus struck the hospitality industry.

The business warned it would make a loss in the first half of its financial year.

Tories too distracted by scandal to sort out cost-of-living crisis, says Keir Starmer

09:30 , Chiara Giordano

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: "The Conservatives are too distracted by scandal and infighting to sort out the cost-of-living crisis.

"Labour's plan would give security by keeping bills low - saving most households £200, with extra support for those who need it most."

Boris Johnson can ‘wriggle out’ of resignation, experts say

09:45 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson has ways to “wriggle” out of the ‘partygate’ crisis even if the inquiry suggests the Commons was misled over the No 10 party, constitutional experts say.

Academics in constitutional law have told The Independent of possible escape routes for Mr Johnson, as he waits the verdict of Sue Gray, the civil servant probing the controversy.

Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the full story:

Johnson can ‘wriggle out’ of resignation even if MPs misled over party, experts say

Boris Johnson should resign if inquiry finds he misled parliament, says minister

09:55 , Chiara Giordano

Armed forces minister James Heappey signalled he thinks if Sue Gray’s report shows Boris Johnson misled parliament he should resign.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said: "The prime minister has my trust, he has my confidence, he stood at the despatch box the other day and he gave an account of himself that I can understand and that I accept.

"If Sue Gray comes out and says something different then we're in a different place and I'm happy to come back and reflect on my feelings then."

He added: "The ministerial care code is clear: the highest responsibility that any minister has is to be accurate in what they say to the House of Commons. That is the very foundation of our parliamentary democracy."

No confidence vote could be triggered this week, says Tory backbencher

10:05 , Chiara Giordano

One Tory backbencher has said he expects enough Conservative MPs will submit letters this week to trigger a confidence vote in Boris Johnson.

Andrew Bridgen, one of seven MPs to have publicly declared they have written to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a vote, said he expects at least 20 more letters to go in on Wednesday from MPs newly elected in 2019.

Under party rules, there will be a confidence vote if 54 Conservative MPs submit letters to Sir Graham.

Mr Bridgen told the PA news agency; “I heard first-hand last night that another 20 from the 2019 intake will be going in today.

“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.”

Government will continue to bring eligible Afghans to the UK ‘indefinitely'

10:22 , Chiara Giordano

The Armed Forces minister has said the UK will continue to bring Afghans to the UK "for as long as people who are eligible want to come" as troops who airlifted more than 15,000 people from the country are set to receive a medal for their efforts.

James Heappey told LBC the Ministry of Defence (MoD) continued to bring around 250 people a week out of Afghanistan, mostly through Pakistan, despite the winding down of Operation Pitting in August last year, and that this would continue "indefinitely".

The MoD announced on Wednesday that personnel will receive the existing Operational Service Medal Afghanistan, featuring a new clasp reading "Operation Pitting", recognising their contribution to the evacuation of Afghan and British nationals.

But Mr Heappey insisted the effort was not over, despite troops having left Kabul.

Conservatives would currently lose all but three Red Wall seats at an election, survey suggests

10:32 , Chiara Giordano

The Conservatives would currently lose all but three of 45 so-called Red Wall seats if a poll conducted for Channel 4 news was repeated at a general election, a survey has shown.

Polling by JL Partners found the Tory vote has plummeted in Red Wall seats over the course of one month, with the Prime Minister's approval rating dropping from net -9 in December 2021 to net -35.

The pollster said if repeated at a general election, the Conservatives would hold only Dudley North, Bassetlaw and Great Grimsby out of the 45 seats gained from Labour in the North, Midlands and Wales.

More MPs submit no confidence letters

10:44 , Chiara Giordano

More Tory MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson this morning, according to reports.

Twelve new letters were handed to Sir Graham Brady, chair of the 1922 Committee, this morning as pressure mounts on the prime minister, government sources told Sky News.

Other reports claim 11 letters from members of the 2019 intake were submitted overnight.

Boris Johnson will seek to boost his position with Tory MPs at PMQs

10:51 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson is expected to seek to boost his position with Tory MPs and the public by announcing an easing of England’s coronavirus restrictions this afternoon.

The prime minister will face MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions in just over an hour’s time after 12 more Tories reportedly submitted letters of no confidence this morning.

Poll finds more than half of Tory voters do not believe PM is telling truth about garden party

11:05 , Chiara Giordano

Despite the PM’s categorical denial, an exclusive poll for The Independent found almost two-thirds of voters (65 per cent) and more than half (54 per cent) of Conservative supporters do not believe the PM’s claim he thought the 20 May 2020 drinks in the Downing Street garden was a “work event”.

An overwhelming 80 per cent of those questioned by Savanta ComRes – including 73 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019 – agreed that under Johnson there was “one rule for the government and another for everybody else”.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock has the exclusive report:

Nobody told me drinks event was against rules, says Boris Johnson

What is the ‘pork pie plot’? Tory bid to oust Boris Johnson explained

11:20 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson is battling to save his premiership as a group of Conservatives openly discuss how he could be ousted from Downing Street over the partygate scandal.

Dubbed the “pork pie plot”, a group of around 20 MPs who won their seats in so-called red wall constituencies at the 2019 election are understood to have met on Tuesday to discuss Mr Johnson’s potential downfall.

So why is the plot named after the meat and pastry delicacy?

My colleague Adam Forrest explains all:

What is the ‘pork pie plot’? Tory bid to oust Boris Johnson explained

Timeline of alleged gatherings across government during Covid restrictions

11:35 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson is facing intense scrutiny over further allegations of rule-busting gatherings in No 10 as the rest of the country was subject to strict lockdown measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

After a leaked email showed over 100 No 10 staff were invited to “bring your own booze” event in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020, including the prime minister and his wife, Carrie Johnson, MPs within his own party have also called on Mr Johnson to resign.

Here, The Independent looks at all the allegations of gatherings across No 10, government and at the Conservative Party headquarters.

Timeline of alleged gatherings across government during Covid restrictions

Tory MP Christian Wakeford defects to Labour party

11:51 , Chiara Giordano

Christian Wakeford, the Tory MP for Bury South, is defecting to the Labour party.

Welcoming him to the party, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “As Christian said, the policies of the Conservative government are doing nothing to help the people of Bury South and indeed are only making the struggles they face on a daily basis worse.

“People across Britain faces a cost of living crisis but this incompetent Tory government is asleep at the wheel, distracted by a chaos of its own making.”

Tory MP defects to Labour moments before PMQs

11:57 , Chiara Giordano

The Conservative MP Christian Wakeford has defected to the Labour Party, in another blow to Boris Johnson just moments before prime minister’s questions.

As the prime minister faces the escalating threat of a leadership challenge over allegations of rule-breaking parties in No 10, Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the Bury South MP into Labour’s ranks.

Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn has this breaking news:

Tory MP defects to Labour in blow to Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson no-confidence vote ‘when, not if’, says senior Tory

11:58 , Chiara Giordano

A no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson is now a matter of “when” rather than “if” after a dramatic shift in mindset among Conservative backbenchers, former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson has said.

The Tory peer’s remarks come as reports indicate that around 12 MPs from the party’s 2019 election intake sent letters of no-confidence to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady this morning.

My colleague Adam Forrest has the full story:

Boris Johnson no-confidence vote ‘when not if’, says senior Tory

Loud cheers as Christian Wakeford takes his seat behind Labour leader for PMQs

12:04 , Chiara Giordano

This is from our political editor Andrew Woodcock, who is in the Commons chamber for PMQs today just moments after Tory MP Christian Wakeford defected to the Labour party.

Loud cheering from Labour MPs as Christian Wakeford takes his seat on the opposition benches.

Very loud cheers from Tories and fists banging on seatbacks as Boris Johnson arrives.

Mr Wakeford opted to sit on the second row behind Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Boris Johnson tells PMQs he will not resign over Downing Street party allegations

12:09 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson replied "no" when asked if he would resign by Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife).

Ms Chamberlain highlighted "excuses" made by the Prime Minister over Downing Street party allegations, adding: "There's no excuse for taking the British people for fools.

"Would the Prime Minister agree it's now time for him to resign?"

Mr Johnson replied: "No, Mr Speaker. But what I can tell her, as I said to the House last week, I apologise sincerely for any misjudgments that were made."

He asked Ms Chamberlain to wait for the inquiry to report before she comes to any conclusions.

Christian Wakeford: Read full statement as Tory MP joins Labour

12:16 , Chiara Giordano

Conservative MP Christian Wakeford delivered a harsh blow to Boris Johnson just minutes before prime minister’s questions by defecting to the opposition.

Branding the PM’s behaviour disgraceful, Mr Wakeford also took a swipe at the cost of living crisis and the Tories’ “standards of integrity in public life”, saying the government had shown itself consistently out of touch.

Here’s his statement in full:

Full statement by Christian Wakeford as he attacks PM’s ‘disgraceful’ behaviour

Tories will ‘win again in Bury South’ says Boris Johnson after MP defects

12:21 , Chiara Giordano

The prime minister has said the Conservatives will "win again in Bury South" after the constituency's MP crossed the floor from the Tories to the Labour Party.

Boris Johnson told PMQs: "As for Bury South, let me say to him, the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South."

His claim came after Keir Starmer welcomed Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to the opposition benches, and said the invite was open to any other Conservative MPs.

PM says Starmer ’must wait’ for inquiry when asked when he became aware of staff concerns about 20 May party

12:28 , Chiara Giordano

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer asked the prime minister when he first became aware that any of his staff had "concerns" about the gathering in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020.

Sir Keir said: "Not only did he write the rules, but some of his staff say they did warn him about attending the party on 20 May 2020.

"Now, I have heard the prime minister's very carefully crafted response to that accusation. It almost sounds like a lawyer wrote it. So, I'll be equally careful with my question. When did the prime minister first become aware that any of his staff had concerns about the 20 May party?"

Mr Johnson replied: "It is for the inquiry to come forward with an explanation of what happened", adding: "I am afraid he simply must wait."

Floundering Boris Johnson says questions about No 10 party are ‘wasting people’s time’

12:30 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson has said further questions about the partygate scandal are “wasting people’s time” as he floundered to respond to a grilling by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

The prime minister refused to say when become aware that any of his staff had concerns about the drinks party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown.

My colleague Adam Forrest has this breaking story:

Boris Johnson says questions about No 10 party are ‘wasting people’s time’

Nadine Dorries reacts to Tory MP’s defection to Labour

12:38 , Chiara Giordano

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries, reacting to the defection of Red Wall MP Christian Wakeford to Labour, said: “Sadly, Christian4BuryS has yet to realisethat the Union Jack mask he is wearing to cross the floor to Labour, is not welcome on that side of the house.”

‘In the name of God go’: Tory grandee tells PM to quit

12:46 , Chiara Giordano

Tory MP David Davis called on Boris Johnson to quit during PMQs.

He told MPs he had spent “weeks and months defending the prime minister against often angry constituents”.

He added: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday he did the opposite of that.

“So I’ll remind him of a quotation altogether too familiar to him.

“You have sat there too long for all the good you’ve done; in the name of God, go.”

PM says he takes ‘full responsibility for everything done in this government’ after call to quit

12:50 , Chiara Giordano

Responding to Conservative former minister David Davis's calls to resign, the prime minister said: "I must say to him, I don't know what he is talking about.

"What I can tell him - I don't know what quotation he is alluding to - what I can tell him is and I think have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this government and throughout the pandemic."

Boris Johnson’s favourability rating drops further 10 points, survey suggests

13:10 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson’s net favourability rating has dropped a further 10 points to -37, according to a polling company.

A Savanta ComRes survey found the PM was the least favourable of all the politicians tested. His net score represents a fall of 23 points since November, and 29 points since this time last year, it said.

The poll indicated Labour’s lead over the Tories in voting intention has narrowed slightly since the company’s last assessment, from 10 to nine points.

It put Labour on 41 points, down by one, with Mr Johnson’s party on 32, the same as last week.

PM’s interview with Sky News final straw, David Davis suggests

13:20 , Matt Mathers

David Davis has suggested Boris Johnson's interview with Sky News yesterday was the final straw in his decision to call for the prime minister to resign.

Johnson claimed in the interview "nobody told me" that a party in Downing Street's garden during Covid restrictions in May 2020 broke the rules.

Speaking to reporters outside the chamber after he called for Johnson to quit, Davis said: “Leadership means shouldering responsibility even when it’s blame. And he didn’t do it.

“Yesterday’s interview was an attempt to escape responsibility not to shoulder it. And that is a test of leadership.”

‘Good riddance to bad rubbish'

13:31 , Matt Mathers

Tory MP Lee Anderson has said "good riddance to bad rubbish" as he lashed out at Christian Wakeford's decision to defect to the Labour Party.

"I guess if anybody was going to defect it would be Christian Wakeford," he said.

"I say good riddance to bad rubbish," he added in a disparaging tone as referred to his ex-colleague as "wokeford".

Meanwhile, reports say Labour’s latest recruit has been in talks with the party about switching since before Christmas - before the rush of calls for the PM to go but after the first partygate report emerged.

89% chance of no confidence vote in PM, sports betting community says

13:40 , Matt Mathers

There is now an 89 per cent chance that the PM will receive a vote of no confidence from MPs, according to an online sport betting community.

The Online Betting Guide, which provides tips to gamblers, cites odds saying there is “89% confidence from bookmakers that a vote of no confidence will be triggered.

“Bookmakers are certainly confident in a vote of no confidence, with them offering odds of 3/25, giving it an 89% likelihood of it happening,” it adds.

Labour: No need to hold byelection in South Bury, party claims

13:50 , Matt Mathers

A Labour spokesman indicated the party's leader believes there will be no need to hold a by-election in Bury South following Christian Wakeford's defection.

Asked if, as far as Sir Keir Starmer is concerned, there is no principle requiring anyone who defects from one party to another to stand for re-election, the spokesman said: "Correct."

On whether Mr Wakeford will face a trigger ballot in the coming months, the spokesman said: "We'll set out all of the process, obviously, once we've had a chance to speak to people, the relevant people that vote in the local party and nationally, and we'll happily set out the process at that point. But I don't want to pre-empt that now."

Watch: Keir Starmer cracks ‘bring your own boos’ joke during rowdy PMQs exchange

14:00 , Matt Mathers

Watch: Boris Johnson says No 10 party questions are ‘wasting people’s time’

14:10 , Matt Mathers

Boris Johnson will fight to save job in confidence vote, says No 10

14:16 , Chiara Giordano

Boris Johnson will fight any vote of no confidence brought against him, a senior Downing Street source has said.

Follow our breaking story for more on this:

Boris Johnson will fight to save job in confidence vote, says No 10

Sajid Javid to hold press conference to discuss changes to Covid restrictions

14:20 , Chiara Giordano

Health secretary Sajid Javid is to hold a press conference at Downing Street at 5pm today to discuss changes to Covid regulations in England, No 10 has announced.

Mr Javid will face questioning shortly after Boris Johnson’s announcement that Plan B restrictions will be lifted at midnight on Wednesday evening next week, removing all requirements for Covid passes in sports and entertainment events and face-coverings in public places.

More on this from our political editor Andrew Woodcock below:

Sajid Javid to hold press conference on changes to Covid restrictions

Labour MPs branded ‘hypocrites’ for not speaking out as council boss remains in £190k job despite party

14:30 , Chiara Giordano

Labour MPs who have failed to speak out against a council boss who broke lockdown rules by throwing a party in Whitehall have been branded “hypocrites”.

Kate Josephs, the chief executive of Sheffield City Council, hosted leaving drinks in December 2020 to toast the end of her previous job leading the government’s Covid Taskforce.

Our North of England correspondent Colin Drury has the full story:

Labour MPs branded ‘hypocrites’ for not speaking out on council boss after party

PM ‘isn’t prioritising saving lives’, say bereaved families

14:40 , Chiara Giordano

My colleague Adam Forrest has these comments from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, which has added its voice to those calling for Boris Johnson to quit.

Dr Saleyha Ahsan, spokesperson for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said: “Whilst the prime minister removes public health protections in the hope of saving his own skin, 438 families have tragically lost loved ones to Covid in the last 24 hours.”

“He isn’t prioritising saving lives and, even if he was, no one would take him seriously.

“How can anyone think that this is how life or death decisions should be made? The prime minister has shown he’s unfit for office and should resign.”

Some Tory MPs starting to withdraw no-confidence letters, reports say

14:50 , Chiara Giordano

Some Tory MPs have now withdrawn their letters of no confidence sent to 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady, according to reports.

My colleague Adam Forrest has these comments from Red wall Tory Jonathan Gullis, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North:

“What I’m hearing from colleagues is that a number of [MPs], particularly 2019-ers, are actually starting to withdraw those letters.

“I hope those MPs in my intake take a pause for breath, contact Sir Graham … and withdraw their letter.

“I’ve not been told any direct names – but I’m being told names are being withdrawn.”

Mr Gullis said the Tory reaction to Christian Wakeford’s defection to Labour was “complete and utter disgust”, and called for a by-election in his Bury South seat.

Angela Rayner ‘welcomes’ Christian Wakeford to Labour Party

15:22 , Chiara Giordano

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has said she "welcomes" Christian Wakeford joining the Labour Party.

Speaking to media as she left parliament, she said: "I welcome it, I really welcome it.”

She did not answer any questions about his previous voting record.

PM’s press secretary not aware of any further impending defections

15:23 , Chiara Giordano

The prime minister's press secretary said she was not aware of any further impending defections of Tory MPs.

Asked why it was that Mr Wakeford had left the Conservatives, she said: "On Christian Wakeford, I've set our view on that.

"I think more broadly, obviously, the prime minister understands the anger and the hurt that these ongoing allegations have caused across the country and in parliament and that's why he's addressed these allegations where he has been able to, and why we are having an investigation to establish the full facts of what has happened."

She added: "The Conservative Party was elected on an incredibly ambitious manifesto in 2019 and that is what we will continue working together to achieve."

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman says he did not have PM’s diary for day of garden party

15:25 , Chiara Giordano

The prime minister's official spokesman said he did not have Boris Johnson's diary for 20 May 2020, when the "bring your own booze" party in Downing Street was held.

He said: "Obviously that whole claim will be something that will be looked at in the investigation, as you'd expect, so either way I wouldn't be able to comment."

The spokesman said the PM would usually get a "run-through of his day" in a morning meeting, but he said he could not say what would have been discussed "on that particular date".

Met Police facing legal action over ‘failure’ to probe Downing Street Christmas party

15:30 , Chiara Giordano

The Metropolitan Police is facing legal action if it fails to investigate reports of the Downing Street Christmas party in 2020, according to campaigners.

A spokeswoman for Good Law Project, which uses the law to “protect the interests of the public”, said it had filed a claim in court over the event.

More on this below:

Boris Johnson’s PMQs appearance branded ‘chaotic’ by shadow home secretary

15:51 , Chiara Giordano

Yvette Cooper described prime minister Boris Johnson's appearance at PMQs as "chaotic".

The shadow home secretary told the PA news agency as she left parliament: "I think he's just chaotic. I think he's not taking this seriously. He's not taking it seriously.

"I don't think he's taking seriously how angry people are about what's happened. You just can't behave like that."

Who is favourite to be the next prime minister?

16:04 , Chiara Giordano

Bookmakers have narrowed the odds on chancellor Rishi Sunak replacing Boris Johnson as prime minister following days of damaging revelations about gatherings at Downing Street.

My colleague Holly Bancroft has the full details:

Prime minister odds: The favourites to replace Boris Johnson

People of Bury South react to their MP’s defection to Labour

16:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Constituents of an MP who defected from the Tories to Labour today have expressed mixed views over the shock move.

Bury South MP Christian Wakeford left Boris Johnson’s party just before the PM was to start Prime Minister’s Questions earlier this afternoon.

Jonathan Boston, a Labour supporter, said Mr Wakeford’s defection is “really good news” and suggested that the move was “all to do with partygate” – the allegations of lockdown-busting parties at Downing Street.

But a Labour spokesman has since said that talks with Mr Wakeford about switching sides began before the scandal hit.

Ex-Labour and current Tory voter Mavis Leach told PA Media: “Well, I’m surprised. Are there others doing it, as well, getting out of a sinking ship before it goes down?”

David Collins, who runs Marie’s Coffee Shop, said: “I probably wouldn’t vote for either of them anyway, Labour or Conservative. They’re all as bad as each other.

“They all promise they’re going to do things and none of it ever materialises, does it?”

Tory voter Joan Humphreys said a by-election should have been held to “see what the people say.”

‘Strange that someone can become a socialist overnight’ – MP

16:54 , Lamiat Sabin

More comment on Bury South MP Christian Wakeford defecting to Labour.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell has said he thinks it is “strange” that “someone can become a socialist overnight”.

As Mr Rosindell pledged his support to PM Boris Johnson in Parliament, he also said: “[Mr Wakeford] stood as a Conservative.

“But I look forward to the by-election because he said he wanted by-elections for defectors.

“I’m sure he will ensure the people of Bury South have a choice.”

Tory defector dismisses demands for by-election

17:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Christian Wakeford – who defected from the Tories to Labour over the PM’s “disgraceful” conduct – has rebuffed demands for a by-election.

Some of his constituents in Bury South, as well as Conservative MPs, have called for a by-election after his shock announcement.

But he said that they will have to wait for the next general election to cast a vote on whether he should keep his position.

Mr Wakeford told regional broadcasters: “The day I was elected I was there to represent everybody… I will still continue to represent the people of Bury South.

“And if they want to change, they will have the opportunity when we get to the general election.”

Covid restrictions to come to an end, PM announces

17:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Mandatory face masks will no longer be required across England from next Thursday while advice for people to work from home will be scrapped immediately, Boris Johnson has said.

But London mayor Sadiq Khan has said face masks will still need to be worn on Transport for London services.

The legal requirement for people with Covid to self-isolate will be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on 24 March, but the date could be brought forward.

Mr Johnson is also axing the mandatory Covid passes for nightclubs and large events due to a decline in Covid infections as a result of the peak of the Omicron variant having passed.

Sajid Javid acknowledge ‘pain and anger’ over ‘Partygate’

18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Health secretary Sajid Javid, at the Covid news conference this evening, was asked about the gatherings held at Downing Street during lockdown.

He was asked how Boris Johnson could remain as PM after having admitted that he attended a No10 drinks party for “25 minutes” that he insisted he had believed was a “work meeting”.

Mr Javid said Mr Johnson would comment after senior civil servant Sue Gray has made her conclusions after her investigation into the allegations.

He added: “What we have seen over the past few weeks is a lot of pain and anger.”

More Tory MPs in talks about defecting to Labour – report

18:20 , Lamiat Sabin

An unspecified number of Tory MPs are considering following Christian Wakeford’s footsteps by switching to Labour, senior party sources have reportedly said.

One member of Labour’s shadow cabinet said, according to the i newspaper: “We’re talking to people. There is a lot of unhappiness.”

It comes after it was reported that Mr Wakeford was in discussions with Labour for months before making the switch.

He had dismissed calls for a by-election to be held in his Bury South constituency, adding that voters would have to wait until the next general election.

‘You broke the law, it’s you that should be inside,’ spoof PM ‘told’

18:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson is grilled by police over lockdown Downing Street gatherings in a spoof clip posted on social media.

Satirists in campaign group Led by Donkeys have superimposed the PM’s body and voice to spliced clips from the popular British police drama Line of Duty.

The video, which has garnered more than six million views on Twitter, shows Mr Johnson surrounded by stern detectives in a police interview room and questioned about the lockdown-busting events.

The creators of the clip added in “evidence” – such as the email sent out by Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary Martin Reynolds telling Downing Street staff to “bring your own booze” to the party that the PM later insisted he had believed was a “work event”.

Other shots include deserted streets when the whole country – and most of the world – was in lockdown, as well as exhausted NHS medics, and the Queen sitting alone during Prince Philip’s funeral.

One detective says: “It wasn’t just a case of one rule for us and another for them – it was more like ‘no rules for us!’”

Snippets of Mr Johnson’s speech in the Commons are added, including one in which he says: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone [at the No10 garden party] back inside.”

He is then “told” by a police officer: “You broke the law, it’s you that should be inside.”

Call for buildings to have more than one staircase for fire safety

19:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour MP Apsana Begum asked the government about plans to introduce a threshold height at which two staircases are required in tall buildings to provide resident escape and firefighter entry.

It came after Blackpool North Tory MP Paul Maynard raised staircase safety, during the report stage of the Building Safety Bill, to warn that “the status quo is simply not working”.

Grenfell Tower, where a fire in 2017 killed 72 people, only had one staircase for the hundreds of people living in the 24-floor block.

Hammersmith Labour MP Andy Slaughter said it was “ridiculous” to say the stay-put policy negates the need for more than one staircase because “people post-Grenfell will not stay put” – adding: “And you understand exactly why they won’t do that.”

Communities minister Christopher Pincher, responding to Mr Maynard, said: “We are acutely aware of the risk of death and injury that can be caused by staircases.”

He said the building safety regulator will identify emerging issues including the safety of the performance of staircases and will make recommendations.

Ms Begum had also warned against private firms being given licence to sign off on fire safety matters on higher risk buildings.

The MP for Poplar and Limehouse said: “I share the alarm expressed by the Fire Brigades Union that the building safety regulator would be permitted to seek private sector involvement if the fire authority cannot assist ... Fire safety is a matter for firefighters, not profiteers.”

MP Daniel Kawczynski’s suspension from Commons approved

19:20 , Lamiat Sabin

A Tory MP’s one-day suspension from the Commons was approved by MPs today after he was found to have undermined an initial apology he gave for bullying staff.

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, had issued a personal apology to the Commons before the suspension approval.

Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski (PA Wire)
Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski (PA Wire)

He said: “I acknowledge that in speaking to journalists and the radio I undermined the sincerity of the apology I gave to the House on June 14 2020.

“I’m sorry that my conduct will have had a further harmful effect on the complainants and that it may have diminished public confidence in the process.

“I will be sending a written apology to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, the chair of the Independent Expert Panel, and the original complainants.

“I am conscious that my conduct may have merited suspension from the service of the House for a longer period and appreciate the committee’s consideration of the difficulties I was experiencing in my personal life at the time and the mental health issues I explained to them.

“I accept that speaking out in the way I did to the media had a detrimental effect on the House’s conduct policy by undermining the integrity of the complaints process and I deeply regret my actions.

“I am committed to learning from the mistakes I have made and to work on my personal development, especially in my communication with others in every interaction that I have. I hope others will learn from my experience and I’d be happy to share what I have learnt with others.”

Labour airs its party political broadcast focused on cost of living

19:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Sir Keir Starmer urges the public to “call time” on the Tory government in Labour’s party political broadcast aired this evening.

In the video, he accuses PM Boris Johnson – who featured in his party’s broadcast last week – of being “asleep at the wheel as families struggle with a cost of living crisis”.

Sir Keir and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves visit Walthamstow, where they speak to market traders and residents.

They ask a trader called Abdul if the market has been “busy” – to which he says: “Not really. Mostly, the wintertime, the prices go up but this time it is way worse.”

A resident says: “People are feeling the pinch ... The electric bill has just gone sky-high. Gas bill, petrol, the normal cost of living.”

Ms Reeves says in the video: “Our plan would be to take VAT off energy bills. Our plan would save households around £200 a year, with an extra £400 for the families and pensioners who need it most.

“This would be paid for by a one-off windfall tax on the north sea oil and gas producers who’ve made a fortune from rising prices”.

The broadcast was aired hours after MP Christian Wakeford defected from the Conservatives to Labour, while Mr Johnson tries to save himself from demands fired from all sides for him to resign over the Partygate allegations.

Tracey Emin demands No10 take her artwork down

20:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Tracey Emin has requested that No10 remove one of her neon-light creations that she had given to the government.

The artist said she no longer wanted her work displayed on the walls of Boris Johnson’s residence where parties were alleged to have happened during lockdown.

Ms Emin said that the “current situation is shameful” – referring to the ‘Partygate’ scandal.

The neon artwork More Passion was installed in Downing Street in 2011 when David Cameron was PM.

The full story here:

Tracey Emin demands Number 10 remove artwork saying ‘current situation shameful’

Tory grandee Davis warns party faces ‘dying death of a thousand cuts'

20:38 , Jane Dalton

Tory heavyweight David Davis has warned the Conservative Party faces “dying a death of a thousand cuts” if they do not act swiftly to oust Boris Johnson over allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street.

The former Brexit secretary, who once stood as party leader, told The Daily Telegraph the prime minister will appear to be shifting the blame if he fires staff after senior civil servant Sue Gray delivers her “partygate” inquiry findings.

Then there will be the “crises” of rising energy bills and the National Insurance hike being compounded by the “disorganisation” at No 10, which could trigger a vote of no confidence at Christmas, meaning a “year of agony”, he said:

Tories warned party faces ‘death of 1,000 cuts’ if Johnson not ousted

Johnson fights back - but is it only a stay of execution?

20:56 , Jane Dalton

The prime minister is engaged in a desperate fightback to save his political life, but allies are confident he can see off attempts to oust him. Others point to previous Conservative leaders. Analysis by Andrew Woodcock, Rob Merrick and Adam Forrest:

Stay of execution for Boris Johnson despite defection and assault from former ally

British soldiers involved in Troubles should be ‘brought to justice’

21:25 , Lamiat Sabin

The British government is accused of having “dragged its feet for too long” on legacy issues in Northern Ireland.

Irish premier Micheal Martin has criticised Westminster’s proposals to introduce a ban on future prosecutions of military veterans and ex-paramilitaries for Troubles incidents predating April 1998.

Mr Martin told the Dail that British soldiers involved in atrocities such as Bloody Sunday and the Ballymurphy massacre should “be brought to justice”.

It came as Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney pledged the Irish Government would support a cross-community group of Troubles victims in opposing the plans in a meeting with them on Wednesday.

“It would be totally unacceptable, it would be a betrayal of the victims of all violence,” the Taoiseach said of the legacy plans.

“There is no sense here for a lot of people, a lot of victims, of closure, of answers in terms of who did what.

“Many, many people feel that they’ve been forgotten about, or the loss of their loved ones has been completely forgotten about, and there is no balance in terms of how we approach that.

“I believe that British Government has dragged its feet for too long on legacy in my view.”


Up to five Tory MPs considering defecting like Wakeford – report

21:46 , Lamiat Sabin

As many as five more Conservative MPs could follow in the footsteps of Christian Wakeford by crossing over to the Labour benches, according to a report.

The Bury South MP defected to Sir Keir Starmer’s party just minutes before PM Boris Johnson was to do Prime Minister’s Questions.

A Labour source, an MP, has told the Telegraph that up to five more Tory MPs could also switch sides.

They said: “I have been speaking to other friends across the floor who are incredibly disillusioned and are feeling more and more like their future would be under a Keir Starmer government than a Boris Johnson one.”

‘In the name of God, go’ splashes Thursday newspapers

22:26 , Lamiat Sabin

Here’s a look at tomorrow’s papers that have featured former Cabinet minister David Davis’ words in the Commons today:

The papers on Thursday that are explicity backing Boris

22:32 , Lamiat Sabin

22:50 , Lamiat Sabin

That’s all for today’s coverage of UK politics. Thanks for following.

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