No 10 apologises to Queen for parties on eve of Prince Philip’s funeral
Boris Johnson is in the “last chance saloon”, a Cabinet minister has warned, after Downing Street was hit by a series of fresh party claims and an exclusive poll for The Independent found that 70 per cent of voters want him gone.
No 10 was forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace on Friday following reports of two parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s socially-distanced funeral, while a further report emerged alleging that regular “wine time Friday” gatherings continued in Downing Street despite coronavirus restrictions.
In a bid to save his premiership, the prime minister has launched “Operation Save Big Dog”, as he seeks to shore up his own support within his party and draws up a list of officials who can offer their resignation after Sue Gray publishes the findings of her inquiry into the matter,The Independent understands.
With Ms Gray reported to have been “completely blindsided” by the new revelations and many Tory MPs’ inboxes supposedly flooded with complaints, the chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy said the party must now find the stomach to force out “the worst prime minister of my lifetime”.
Good morning, I’ll be picking up the liveblog from my colleague Joe Middleton this morning, as Downing Street seeks to weather a string of fresh revelations over the partygate scandal.
An exclusive Savanta poll for The Independent has found that 70 per cent of voters want Boris Johnson to resign, while 68 per cent did not believe his apology over the partygate scandal was genuine.
However, our economics editor Anna Isaac reports that battle plans have been drawn up within No 10, dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” by the prime minister himself, in a bid to shore up support for the prime minister and settle upon individuals to take the fall over the row.
Meanwhile, The Times reports that Cabinet ministers who have publicly defended Mr Johnson are warning the situation for him appears dire, with one telling the paper: “This is the last chance saloon. More revelations of parties, and a pummelling at the local elections, and the party will rise up.”
Another cabinet minister told the paper that Mr Johnson “needs a complete clear-out” of his team, adding: “He’s being served very poorly.”
Andy Gregory15 January 2022 07:51
Boris Johnson too ‘preoccupied’ by Partygate to fix NHS, says Keir Starmer
Boris Johnson cannot fix the problems facing the NHS because the Partygate scandal has left him “unable to lead”, Sir Keir Starmer is set to say.
The Labour leader is preparing to accuse the prime minister of losing his authority and being “too preoccupied defending his rule-breaking” to meet the huge challenges faced by the health service.
Mr Johnson is fighting to save his premiership after he admitted attending a “bring your own booze” event in May 2020, with further reports of leaving drinks at No 10 and Whitehall during the pandemic, writes Adam Forrest.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 23:20
Downing Street staff ‘held regular wine-time Friday’ drinks during lockdown
Downing Street staff reportedly held drinks on Friday evenings throughout the pandemic with Boris Johnson regularly seeing them doing so.
The prime minister encouraged aides to “let off steam” despite having banned indoor socialising during lockdown, The Mirror reported a source as saying.
The paper said the end of week “wine-time Fridays” became such a fixture that staff bought a £142 drinks fridge and would head to a nearby Tesco with a suitcase to stock up on wine and beer, writes Liam James.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 22:49
A Sudanese man in his twenties has died trying to cross the English Channel in freezing conditions, French authorities say.
He fell overboard when a boat ran into trouble shortly after setting off from the coast south of Boulogne in the early hours of Friday morning.
He was found unconscious by French rescue teams and taken to shore, where he was declared dead.
So far this year, more than 450 people have made the life-threatening trip across the Channel in small boats.
Laurie Churchman reports.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 22:20
Lib Dem Councillor campaigns for Prince Andrew to lose Duke of York title
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 21:55
Bees will die as ministers approve toxic banned pesticide for second time, warn experts
Ministers have given the go-ahead for farmers to use a banned bee-harming pesticide in England for the second year running.
The government went against the advice of its own scientific advisers, who said they did not see the justification for applying the neonicotinoid to sugar beet this year, writes Jane Dalton.
A single teaspoon of thiamethoxam is toxic enough to kill 1.25 billion bees, according to biology professor and insect expert Dave Goulson, and wildlife chiefs warned the decision could devastate already-struggling bee populations.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 21:30
Should Boris Johnson resign over ‘partygate’? Have your say in our poll
Some senior Tory MPs are calling for PM to quit – but what do you think? Tell us in the poll below.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 21:15
No10 staff reportedly held ‘wine-time Fridays’ every week during Covid pandemic
Downing Street staff held “wine-time Fridays” every week during the pandemic that Boris Johnson encouraged, reports say.
The regular gatherings were encouraged by the prime minister who wanted aides to “let off steam”, despite harsh lockdown rules forbidding indoor socialising.
The Daily Mirror reports that the boozy meet-ups were scheduled into the electronic calendars of approximately 50 Downing Street staff between 4pm and 7pm.
They were organised by the No10 press office and would advisers from other parts of the building would regularly join in with the gatherings.
The latest revelations are sure to heap yet further pressure on the beleaguered prime minister who is facing the most serious challenge to his premiership after a series of alleged parties at Downing Street.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 20:52
Labour opens up 10-point lead over Tories, new poll shows
Labour has opened up a 10-point lead over the Conservatives and has risen to its largest predicted vote share in almost a decade, according to one polling company.
A Savanta ComRes survey, its first voting intention poll since the so-called partygate allegations broke, put Labour on 42 points, up by five, with Boris Johnson’s Tories on 32, down by one.
The Liberal Democrats are on 11 points, the SNP and the Green Party jointly on four, with “others” taking 7% of the predicted vote.
The polling outfit said 42% was the highest vote share for Sir Keir Starmer’s party since 2013, with its 10-point lead the best since April 2019.
Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta ComRes, said: “This bombshell poll comes with renewed calls for the Prime Minister to resign, with the vast majority of the public, half of 2019 Conservatives and even two in five people that would still vote Conservative now saying that Boris Johnson’s time is up.
“Ultimately, however, it’s his backbenchers most likely to remove him and, even though a Labour lead of this size would deprive Keir Starmer of an outright majority, many of the Conservatives who owe Boris Johnson their jobs for his remarkable 2019 result would probably be out of Westminster if these figures were to play out at a general election.”
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 20:37
Labour shadow minister was part of delegation to China with ‘agent’ of the communist state
A Labour shadow minister was once part of a delegation to China led by a group founded by the lawyer accused by MI5 of being an agent of the communist state, The Independent can reveal.
Sarah Owen – considered a rising star in Keir Starmer’s party – was among a 20-strong delegation with Christine Ching Kui Lee, whose group, the British Chinese Project (BCP), organised the visit in 201, writes our chief reporter Simon Murphy.
The 58-year-old solicitor is the subject of a security services warning issued to parliamentarians, which alleges she has been seeking to improperly influence MPs on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
Owen, then a 30-year-old prospective parliamentary candidate, visited both China and Hong Kong as part of the group, meeting the British consul general among others.
Joe Middleton14 January 2022 20:19