Sharks are circling, Boris! PM faces Tory leadership challenge after string of scandals

Staff joke about Downing Street Christmas party during lockdown

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In the past six weeks, the Conservative party has come under intense scrutiny following the recent sleaze scandal, and more recently the emergence of a leaked video in which No10 staff were captured joking about an alleged lockdown-breaching Christmas party last December. The Prime Minister’s then aide Allegra Stratton was rehearsing for televised press conferences and laughing and joking with other aides about a party held at No 10 on December 18.

Boris Johnson has launched an investigation into the alleged bash, but this may not be enough to secure his position as PM, as many angry Britons have called for him to resign.

Mr Johnson also faces mounting pressure from his own party, as well as the nation as he continues to deny all knowledge of lockdown-defying parties in Downing Street last year.

The i alleges Tory leadership contenders have already put plans into motion in case Mr Johnson’s position becomes untenable amid the party’s latest scandal.

The outlet reports that in the wake of the video, which has since led to Ms Stratton’s resignation, further conversations among backbenchers about who could replace Mr Johnson have occurred.

An MP has claimed there are “conversations forming” on Mr Johnson’s leadership following the events of the last six weeks.

The MP speculated that Boris may be able to “recover” his position if the scandal doesn’t continue for a lengthy period of time.

The MP said: “Backbenchers think it’s recoverable but if it goes on more than six months then it’s difficult.”

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are the frontrunners for a replacement for the PM, according to the backbenchers.

Allegedly, one of the PPSs (Parliamentary Private Secretary) had been canvassing support for the Chancellor to step in as leader, “asking: would you support Rishi if things fall down?”

While another MP claims that Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, has also been quietly wooing MPs on the sidelines with “drinks parties” in a bid to bolster her position in the event of a leadership tussle.

A third Tory added: “Truss is definitely trying to build up support. She has been having regular dinners with backbenchers.”

A spokesman for Ms Truss rebuffed the claims, insisting she is not “canvassing people on the leadership”.

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While an ally of Mr Sunak said it was “the first I’ve heard” when asked by The i about the claims.

It comes after paymaster general Michael Ellis revealed that an investigation into an alleged Christmas party held at 10 Downing Street on 18 December last year will also be widened to examine reports of two other alleged gatherings.

The probe will examine reports that a separate gathering occurred on 27 November, where allegedly Mr Johnson gave a speech.

It will also look at reports of another alleged gather at the Department for Education on 10 December, where people gathered for drinks and canapes.

Both December dates for the alleged parties coincide with when mixing between households in London was not allowed due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

The alleged bash on December 18 last year, also came less than 24 hours before the PM announced people could not see loved ones from other households over Christmas.

The Conservatives also admitted this week that an event organised by Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign took place in the party’s headquarters in Westminster on December 14 last year.

The event occurred while London was in Tier 2. 

A Tory spokesman said: “Senior CCHQ (Conservative Campaign Headquarters) staff became aware of an unauthorised social gathering in the basement of Matthew Parker Street organised by the Bailey campaign on the evening of December 14.

“Formal disciplinary action was taken against the four CCHQ staff who were seconded to the Bailey campaign”.

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