Boris Johnson has been accused of targeting the BBC in a desperate bid to save his own job as Prime Minister, as the Labor leader insisted he broke the law by attending lockdown parties and then lying about it.
A number of Tory MPs are reportedly set to demand Johnson’s resignation amid voter anger over allegations of party culture in Westminster amid coronavirus restrictions in place.
It has been reported that up to 35 of the 54 letters needed to trigger a vote of no confidence have already arrived, although the actual number is a closely guarded secret.
As Downing Street hoped to find ways to contain the crisis, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, one of Johnson’s staunchest allies, confirmed on Sunday that BBC license fees will be scrapped in 2027 – and funding for the broadcaster will be frozen for the next two years.
While the move will force the company to close services and potentially make thousands of layoffs, it is expected to prove popular with Conservative party members and supporters, as well as right-wing media who have yet to call for Johnson’s resignation.
“The Prime Minister believes that those who report his breach of the rules should pay the consequences, while he gets away with it for free,” said Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary.
Ian Murray, Scotland’s shadow secretary, described the announcement as “one last ditch attempt [by Johnson] to salvage his post as failing prime minister.
Cutting BBC funding, which could fundamentally change society as it enters its centenary, appears to be a central theme of Johnson’s fightback strategy, reportedly called Operation Red Meat.
Other measures are said to be in the works, including a new campaign to stop people crossing the Channel in small boats, measures to tackle the backlog of NHS operations, additional investment in skills and the lifting of restrictions. Covid restrictions on January 26.
Although the BBC has been braced for bad news for some time – Johnson said he would consider scrapping license fees during the 2019 election campaign (on a day when a hospital scandal was in the headlines) – a government insider said the announcement was not expected over the weekend.
Some Tory MPs have been particularly critical of the BBC’s coverage of Johnson’s latest leadership crisis, with backbench MP Michael Fabricator even claiming over the weekend that the relentless coverage of anti-Johnson comments in news reports amounted to “an attempted coup against the Prime Minister”. ”.
Not 10 insiders insisted Sunday that those reports were not a factor in the licensing fee decision, which they said was the culmination of a process that had been ongoing for more than a year, but Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey claimed there was a link “Cutting funding to a beloved national treasure just because you don’t like the headlines on the 6 p.m. news is not a way responsible government in a democracy should behave,” he said.
As Downing Street was still reeling from revelations that its staff had partied the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, it was forced to deny a claim that the Prime Minister had failed to intervene to cancel a celebrated on May 20 of last year when he had the opportunity.
Number 10 said the claim made by Dominic Lawson in his Sunday Times column was “false”.
But a former Downing Street staffer told the Guardian he knows at least one colleague who personally warned Johnson that the ‘bring your own booze’ rally, organized by Johnson’s aide Martin Reynolds, should not take place.
When asked if the Prime Minister knew about the party before it took place, the former insider replied: “Yes”.
Reynolds is one of several No. 10 personalities set to leave after Sue Gray publishes her report on the scandal. On Sunday evening, the Telegraph reported that the senior official had already interviewed Johnson.
While many Tory MPs awaited the release of the Gray report, Labor leader Keir Starmer said there was no need to wait as it was already “clear” that Johnson “broke the law… [and] then lied about what happened”.
Starmer was referring to Johnson’s statement to MPs last week in which he all but admitted that the party he attended at No 10 on May 20, 2020 was against the rules. Starmer said the Prime Minister’s admission that he was at the event showed he was not telling the truth when he told MPs before Christmas there had been no parties at No. 10.
Six Tory MPs had publicly called for Johnson’s resignation on Sunday evening and a backbench MP said he knew there were ‘lots of letters written but not necessarily yet sent’ to the chairman of the 1922 Tory committee requiring a vote of confidence.
The MP said the mood in his ‘red wall’ constituency had gone from ‘angry to ridiculous’ and Johnson had become the butt of jokes among those who voted for him in December 2019. -ban said “the term ‘shitshow’ was used a lot last week [by Tory MPs]” and that they were waiting for the next report on the partygate scandal before deciding what to do next.
James Johnson, a Tory pollster, delivered similar insight into popular revulsion with the Prime Minister on Sunday when he tweeted the findings of the focus groups surveyed long-time Tory voters and people who first backed the party in 2019, and he said calls for the prime minister to step down were “almost universal”.