Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden admits local elections will be ‘challenging’ amid partygate scandal

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Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden has admitted that the upcoming local elections will be “challenging” for the Tories amid the partygate scandal.

Boris Johnson has insisted he has “nothing to hide” after MPs agreed on Thursday to launch a probe into whether he misled parliament about Downing Street parties during lockdown.

During a TV appearance on Sunday, Mr Dowden was shown a YouGov poll that found 78 per cent of the British public believed Boris Johnson lied about the scandal.

Asked if this is a concern ahead of local elections on May 6, he told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Of course, we’re mid-term anyway. They will be a challenging set of elections.

“Nonetheless, I do think that we have really great Conservative councils that are delivering for people.”

He added: “I don’t believe the Prime Minister misled Parliament.

“He is perfectly open to the Privileges Committee to conduct that investigation and Parliament consented to that, so I don’t believe that scenario will arise”, he said.

Asked if Mr Johnson will lead the party into the next election, he said: “Yes, I do think he will lead us into the next election.”

He said he and Mr Johnson “share people’s frustration over what happened”.

However, he added that it needs to be “balanced out” against government achievements such as the vaccine rollout, Brexit and support for Ukraine.

The Prime Minister deserves credit for “getting those big calls right”, he suggested.

He said: “Talking to the Prime Minister, he’s got plenty more fuel in the tank. He’s got real energy and determination to continue to serve this country and deal with some of the big challenges we face.”

He added: “I think the uncertainty that would be caused by a change of leader would be dearly damaging to this country.”

Mr Dowden said he sees a “strong case” for Mr Johnson “remaining in office” despite calls from his own backbenches for him to resign.

The Prime Minister is braced for further questions about what he knew about alleged lockdown gatherings in No 10 after MPs ordered a third investigation into the partygate affair.

The Commons Privileges Committee will begin its inquiry once the police have finished their own investigation into the gatherings.

The Government had initially tried to delay the vote, but U-turned following opposition from its own disgruntled MPs.

After over five hours of debate, the Labour-led motion was nodded through without a vote.

Last week, the prime minister - along with his wife and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak - was fined for breaking Covid laws.

Mr Johnson had previously told MPs laws were not broken in Downing Street.

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