Pork pie plot crumbles: PM clings on as minister condemns 'surprise' Tory attack

19 January 2022, 15:48 | Updated: 20 January 2022, 09:10

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson fended off the pork pie plot for the time being after Tory MPs closed ranks behind the beleaguered Prime Minister.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Mr Johnson received a stay of execution after the surprise defection of Red Wall Tory MP Christian Wakeford moments before he was due to face MPs at a stormy Prime Ministers Questions.

But MPs are now poised for the findings of Sue Gray's long awaited report into Partygate to decide whether they will send letters of no-confidence into his leadership.

The move against Mr Johnson, dubbed the “Pork Pie Plot” because it was claimed to involve Melton Mowbray MP Alicia Kearns, has, at least for the time being, been quelled.

Sue Gray's report is expected to be published next week.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at breakfast, Mr Javid said he was "surprised" when Mr Davis confronted Mr Johnson, telling him: "In the name of God, go."

Mr Javid told LBC: "I was surprised. I’m not going to sit here and pretend I was expecting it. It’s up to him, of course, what he thinks. I think that the fact the Prime Minister has come to parliament, he’s apologised, he’s been right to do that because he’s recognised rightly that many people, millions of people across the country - your listeners, have been pained by what they’ve seen. I have.

“He’s also said there’s this investigation going on that will establish the facts and once that investigation is complete he will come back to parliament and respond to it and submit himself to scrutiny.”

Mr Johnson managed to buy some time yesterday despite mounting calls for him to quit. Mr Davis said later in an interview the PM will have to be dragged 'kicking and screaming' from office.

The Prime Minister has vowed to fight to remain in office and has implied he will not quit even if rebels force a vote of no confidence.

On Wednesday night, No10 said Mr Johnson is "the best man for the job" and confirmed he would challenge any no confidence motions.

The Prime Minister also vowed to stand in the next election in 2024, despite a growing number of Tory MPs telling him to go.

Senior Tory and Former Brexit Secretary David Davis told Mr Johnson in the Commons yesterday: "In the name of God, go."

He followed it up in an interview with the Telegraph where he said: "Boris will not leave Number 10 unless he's dragged out kicking and screaming.

"Very few inhabitants of Number 10 go voluntarily. That's why I felt the need to give him a nudge."

A total of 54 letters of no confidence need to be submitted in order for a no confidence motion to be triggered.

Despite speculation that threshold was being approached on Tuesday night, there are now suggestions MPs may be holding off until the results of Sue Gray's partygate inquiry are released.

Read more: Red wall breached: Tory MP Christian Wakeford defects to Labour

Read more: 'I know the rage they feel': Boris Johnson's full statement over partygate

The beleaguered Prime Minister, who has been mocked for saying he "wasn't told" the No10 party in May 2020 was against Covid rules, was on Wednesday hit by the deflection of red wall MP, Christian Wakeford, who sat behind Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

He has also been ordered by more and more Tory MPs to quit, including Mr Davis.

Despite this, the Prime Minister has repeatedly said he has no plans to step down.

"Our focus is very clear in terms of delivering the ambitious agenda that we have set out, that we were elected on in 2019, and we want to continue to work together as Conservatives to deliver this," said Mr Johnson's press secretary.

Mr Wakeford branded the PM "disgraceful" as he announced his decision to move over to Labour, and sent a letter to Mr Johnson explaining why he had lost patience with his leadership.

In the letter, Mr Wakeford told Boris Johnson that "you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves".

Former Brexit secretary David Davis is one of many calling for the Prime Minister to resign over the partygate scandal.

Mr Davis quoted a 1940 speech delivered in the Commons during the Norway Debate on the conduct of the Second World War, which ultimately led to Neville Chamberlain resigning as prime minister.

His comments came as it emerged Mr Johnson's popularity among voters plunged by 10 points as he faced the anger of MPs in the House of Commons over the partygate scandal.

New polling by Savanta ComRes survey found the PM was the least favourable of all politicians tested.

Mr Cummings said he is prepared to "swear under oath" that the Prime Minister lied to Parliament about attending the "BYOB" party that took place while England was in lockdown in May 2020.

Mr Johnson was questioned over the claims during a visit to a hospital in north London on Tuesday, just hours after Rishi Sunak stormed out of a Sky interview after being grilled on the allegations.

"When I went out into that garden I thought I was attending a work event," Mr Johnson told broadcasters, in his first appearance since last week.

Asked if he would resign if he was found to have misled MPs, the shaken Prime Minister said: "Let's see what the report says."

He insisted he was not warned in advance that the drinks party - which took place when people were only allowed to meet one other person outside - was against Covid rules.

"Nobody said to me this is an event that is against the rules, that is in breach of what we're asking everybody else to do, it should not go ahead," he claimed.

"What I remember is going out into that garden for a short time and for 25 minutes thanking staff who'd worked on Covid, who were continuing to work on Covid, and then going back to office.

"If I had my time again, I would not have allowed things to develop in that way."