Boris Johnson will acknowledge ‘serious mistakes’ over the Partygate affair as he battles to persuade his MPs – and the country – that he should keep his job.
The Prime Minister has told allies he bitterly regrets the lax enforcement of lockdown rules in No 10.
The saga has seen police called in to investigate whether a string of parties and gatherings broke Covid laws.
His response to the report by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray is expected to begin with an apology for the anger caused by the events, and acknowledgment that they should never have happened.
One ally told the Daily Mail: ‘He knows he has made serious mistakes, but he believes he is still the right man to lead this country.’
The Prime Minister is trialling the approach during a series of one-on-one meetings with wavering Tories.
The Prime Minister is expected to issue an apology and acknowledge that Partygate mistakes should never happened once he receives the report by Whitehall ethics chief Sue Gray
Boris Johnson and staff pictured with wine in Downing Street garden in May 2020
Bolton MP Mark Logan, who last week hinted he thought the PM should go, today said a meeting with Mr Johnson had convinced him that he had the capacity to get his premiership back on track.
Mr Logan told Sky News: ‘I could see he feels real contrition. He feels very sorry for the mistakes which have been made. But when he digs deep I think he can continue to lead this country.’
Fellow Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh said: ‘I think opinion is calming down at the moment.
‘I think when the history of this is written, people will think it’s almost ridiculous that in the midst of all these global challenges that we face, that serious people were calling on the Prime Minister to resign because of some social events… for which he’s apologised.’
In the Commons today, Mr Johnson rejected Labour calls to resign. He told MPs he was ‘getting on with the job’, though he acknowledged that the Opposition and others ‘want me out of the way’.
He ducked direct questions about lockdown-busting parties, saying there was ‘simply no way… I can comment on the investigation that is currently taking place’.
The report by Sue Gray (pictured) had been expected by some to be made public today. Its release is anticipated within the coming days
Several Tory MPs today remained poised to submit letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister as soon as Miss Gray’s report is published.
Some believe the threshold of 54 letters could be passed in the coming days, paving the way for a formal vote over his leadership.
But Downing Street has now launched a major drive to bring wavering MPs back onside. Mr Johnson today held one-to-one meetings with 15 MPs to listen to their concerns and explain his strategy for restoring Tory fortunes.
Amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, one senior Tory suggested any confidence vote might have to be delayed for weeks if Vladimir Putin invades the country in the coming days.
And senior ministers continued to urge MPs and the public to focus on wider issues, such as Covid and the cost of living.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘We need to get a sense of proportion and start thinking about Boris Johnson’s leadership in the round – he delivered the furlough scheme, which protected millions, he delivered the vaccine programme.’
‘Spike tax hike and we’ll back you’: Tory MPs tell Boris Johnson he will win their support over partygate if he reconsiders national insurance rise
Tory MPs are urging Boris Johnson to rethink the national insurance hike as he tries to win their backing over Partygate.
The Prime Minister has met wavering backbenchers in a bid to shore up support ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into claims of lockdown breaches at No 10.
Sources say several have pressed him to delay the national insurance increase and ease the cost of living crisis facing millions of families.
The Prime Minister has met wavering backbenchers in a bid to shore up support ahead of the publication of Sue Gray’s report into claims of lockdown breaches at No 10
Number 10 is concerned about the contents of Sue Gray’s report, who has been investigating Boris Johnson’s conduct and alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street
The MPs are thought to want Mr Johnson to be ‘more Conservative’ – in return for backing him to lead them into the next election.
The campaign for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to put off the tax grab is rapidly gathering momentum.
The British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors both yesterday called for it to be scrapped. They have been inundated with calls from members concerned that the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions would damage the economy and stop firms taking on staff.
In a string of developments last night:
- The IoD business group launched a campaign to ‘scrap the jobs tax’, accompanied by a petition;
- The BCC urged Mr Johnson to commit to no further costs on business for the remainder of this parliament;
- Tory former chancellor George Osborne said the hike was coming at a time when ‘real incomes are shrinking’;
- The Commons Treasury committee warned the increase would worsen inflation and had been rushed through with no regard for family finances;
- It emerged that the PM will acknowledge ‘serious mistakes’ over Partygate as he battles to keep his job;
- The Government was said to be ‘paralysed’ as the wait for Miss Gray’s report dragged on for another day;
- Leaked emails appeared to contradict Mr Johnson’s claim that he did not intervene to order an animal rescue from Afghanistan.
Supposed to help fund health and social care, the £12billion tax grab takes effect from April. However, there are concerns that most of the money will be spent on the NHS treatment backlog and that it will come in just as families face rocketing energy and council tax bills.
On Tuesday, the Mail revealed that Lord Frost, the PM’s former Brexit chief, had added his support to calls for the hike to be scrapped. Some Cabinet ministers have insisted that the rise will still go ahead even though the PM appeared to leave the door ajar for a rethink in a television interview.
Official figures this week suggested the Government now had ‘headroom’ to cancel the tax increase after borrowing around £13billion less than expected.
It was claimed that the PM was ‘receptive’ to pleas from MPs and had left them believing he would embark on a ‘massive gear shift’ to tackle the cost of living crisis.
It was claimed that the PM was ‘receptive’ to pleas from MPs and had left them believing he would embark on a ‘massive gear shift’ to tackle the cost of living crisis
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg cast doubt over Cabinet support for the policy last night, telling the BBC: ‘I am very pleased you are talking about the cost of living – that is where the Government needs to be putting its energy … but taxation is a matter for the Chancellor.’
Since the national insurance increase was announced in September energy prices have rocketed and inflation has risen to its highest level in three decades.
On top of that, many experts predict that interest rates will rise significantly in the coming months – adding hundreds of pounds to mortgage repayments. The tax grab will cost someone on a £30,000 salary around £255 a year and £505 for those on £50,000. But it also costs businesses because employers have to pay the levy on wages.
Since the national insurance increase was announced in September energy prices have rocketed and inflation has risen to its highest level in three decades, putting additional pressure on Boris Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street for PMQs yesterday
Kitty Ussher of the IoD said: ‘This will make the cost of living crisis worse by reducing take-home pay. It’s a tax on jobs, causing businesses to employ less people. It will hurt companies the hardest that have suffered most recently like leisure and hospitality.
‘Businesses will have to pay regardless of whether they are profitable, increasing their costs and pushing up the prices they charge, making inflation even worse. We want to see this tax rise scrapped.
‘Frankly, there’s enough for business leaders to be worrying about in the wider economy at the moment without adding this into the mix.’
The BCC’s Shevaun Haviland said: ‘Our members are telling us they are being squeezed by rising wages due to fierce competition for staff, and that the incoming NI increase will compound this at the worst possible time. If this tax increase is not postponed, we will see a stranglehold put on the economic recovery just when it needs to be powering up. Firms need to be given a chance to come up for air.’
Quizzed on the issue, Mr Johnson’s spokesman replied: ‘We need to responsibly fund how we tackle the backlog and how we deal with the challenge of social care.’
‘Bin this increase or it’s curtains for small firms’
A job agency chief yesterday said the national insurance increase should be ‘put in the bin and incinerated’.
Louise Burns of Nineteen Recruitment
Louise Burns of Nineteen Recruitment said her business relied on temporary staff being willing to go out to work for an agreed hourly rate. But she warned they might find this unviable if higher deductions hit their take-home pay.
The company director also pointed out that firms would suffer: ‘If clients have to squeeze their staffing budget due to the NI increase, then using an agency like us to fill their staffing gaps may not be viable for them anymore.’
Calling for the tax grab to be ‘put in the bin and incinerated’, she added: ‘The increase stands to impact all three parties in the supply chain and, as such, could have a significant impact on our business. I understand there’s a need to recoup the billions spent on the pandemic, but seriously, open your eyes and read the room. Now is not the time.
‘The last thing we need right now is for more businesses to collapse, creating an unemployment crisis.
‘With the cost of inflation, the hike in energy prices, interest rate increases, and the cost of living higher than ever, so many employers and small businesses are barely hanging in there. Saddle them with this too and it could be curtains for them and their employees.’
Based in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, Nineteen Recruitment specialises in providing temporary staff to the education, social care and public sectors.