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Former Tory leader ‘appalled’ at Boris Johnson’s failure to tackle drinking at No 10

Former Conservative Party leader William Hague has launched a stinging attack on Boris Johnson, saying he was “appalled” by the prime minister’s failure to tackle the drinking culture at No 10.

As Mr Johnson battles to save his premiership amid the partygate scandal, Mr Hague suggested that previous Tory prime ministers would not have allowed drinks events at Downing Street during a pandemic.

“I am appalled because I can’t imagine … that being allowed in any government that I have served in, which is quite a few governments,” the ex-leader told Times Radio.

Mr Hague added: “The scale and regularity of what we’ve read about – it’s not something I can picture happening under David Cameron or John Major or Margaret Thatcher without them saying, ‘What the hell do you think you’re all doing? Get back to your desks and put away that drink.’”

Mr Johnson is facing renewed calls to quit after his former adviser Dominic Cummings claimed the PM had been warned against the “bring your own booze” event in the No 10 garden during the first lockdown.

Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab insisted on Tuesday that Mr Cummings’ allegation that the PM had lied to the Commons about what he knew of the May 2020 event is “nonsense”.

But he also said a prime minister would “normally” be expected to resign if he was found to have intentionally misled parliament.

Mr Hague stopped short of calling for the prime minister to resign. But the ex-Tory leader said in his latest Times column that if Mr Johnson is forced to quit over the partygate scandal he will be “an outlier in British political history”, since other PMs have been forced out over policy issues rather than conduct.

The Independent reported on Friday that No 10 officials have come up with a plan to sack senior officials and protect Mr Johnson – referred to as “Operation Save Big Dog” – after Sue Gray produces her report on social gatherings in government.

One Tory MP has reportedly dubbed the efforts of some backbenchers to replace Mr Johnson as “Operation Rinka” – a reference to the dog killed during the 1970s scandal involving then-Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe.

On Monday Mr Cummings claimed that email and witness evidence will show that Mr Johnson “lied to parliament” when he denied knowing he was attending a party on 20 May 2020.

Mr Cummings claimed in his latest blog post that Mr Johnson’s principal private secretary (PPS) Martin Reynolds told him he would “check with the PM if he’s happy for it to go ahead”. The former adviser added: “I am sure he did check with the PM.”

The former No 10 strategist also claimed he then personally challenged Mr Johnson himself about the ‘bring your own booze’ event, saying: “The PM waved it aside.”

One Tory backbencher MP told The Independent that Mr Johnson was in “a seriously sticky position” – but is still waiting for Ms Gray’s before deciding whether to send a letter of no confidence.

“His defence he didn’t know he was at a party is pretty weak. If he is found to have knowingly gone to a party, I don’t know how he survives.”

Meanwhile, leading Tory donor John Griffin has called on Mr Johnson to resign. “It is a shame. The whole situation has become comical. Boris has blotted his copybook and now needs to start again,” the founder of taxi firm Addison Lee told The Guardian.

Three other Conservative donors spoke about their concerns over Mr Johnson leading the party at the weekend. Lord Michael Spencer, Nex Group founder, told the Sunday Times: “I can’t see how Boris can last, I really can’t. He just hasn’t changed and he won’t change.”

It follows criticism from John Caudwell, the Phones4U founder, who last week warned: “Sort it out, Boris, or step aside.”


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