‘In the name of God, go’ senior Tory tells PM amid partygate saga

·6 min read

Boris Johnson has been told by a former minister and senior Tory MP to “in the name of God, go” as he lost one of his newest MPs in a dramatic defection to Labour minutes before Prime Minister’s Questions began.

Mr Johnson went into the Commons on Wednesday with his premiership on life support, as a group of Tories who won their seats in the 2019 election landslide appeared to have lost faith in their boss.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

But the anger levelled at the PM was not contained to just one wing of the Conservative Party, with former minister and Tory grandee David Davis telling Mr Johnson: “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

It comes after Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South who has a majority of just 402, announced minutes before the PM arrived in the Commons that he had defected to Labour, accusing Mr Johnson of being “incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves”.

A Labour spokesman later said that the party had been in talks with Mr Wakeford for “some time”.

He said their contact pre-dated the Downing Street party allegations.

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Bury South MP Christian Wakeford sitting on the opposition benches during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

The spokesman added that leader Sir Keir Starmer had met with Mr Wakeford personally on Monday evening.

Asked during a briefing with journalists if Labour are in talks with any more Tory MPs who might be considering defecting, the spokesman said: “I am not going to get into that.”

Mr Johnson apologised once again for the partygate saga which threatens to be the death knell for his time as Prime Minister.

But he said it was for senior official Sue Gray’s inquiry “to come forward with an explanation of what happened”, as he indicated the report would be published next week.

Facing loud jeers from the Conservative benches as he tried to ask his first question, Sir Keir accused Tory MPs of having “brought their own boos” to Parliament, in a nod to the “bring your own booze” party in Downing Street in May 2020 that the Prime Minister has admitted he attended.

In a question to Mr Johnson, Sir Keir said: “Last week, he said he didn’t realise he was at a party and – surprise, surprise – no-one believed him.

“So this week, he has got a different defence – nobody warned him that it was against the rules.

“Why on Earth does he think his new defence is going to work?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, we must wait for the outcome of the investigation but I believe what I have said.”

He added: “As for Bury South, let me say to him, the Conservative Party won Bury South for the first time in a generation under this Prime Minister on an agenda of uniting and levelling up and delivering for the people of Bury South. We will win again in Bury South.”

The Labour spokesman said afterwards during the party’s briefing that he would be “very happy” for the PM to call a general election and put his claims that the Tories would win again in the constituency “to the test”.

Mr Johnson’s allies had pleaded for him to be given more time as reports suggested the threshold of 54 letters from MPs, which would launch a no-confidence vote in the Prime Minister, could be reached on Wednesday.

The PM has insisted that “nobody told me that what we were doing was against the rules” and he believed he was attending a work event on May 20 2020.

Dominic Cummings resigns
Former aide Dominic Cummings alleged the PM was made aware of a Downing Street “bring your own booze” gathering in May 2020 in advance (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But former aide Dominic Cummings alleged Mr Johnson was made aware of the event in advance and was warned it broke the rules in place at the time.

The May 20 event is, alongside others, the subject of a probe by Ms Gray, and Tory MPs were urged by ministers to wait for her report before deciding whether to move against the Prime Minister.

Armed forces minister James Heappey urged his colleagues to keep “cool heads” as he said now was not the time to change leader, with looming economic and international challenges.

Mr Heappey, previously a parliamentary aide to the Prime Minister, suggested Mr Johnson may not have fully understood the nature of the event he was going to in the Downing Street garden on May 20 2020 as his diary was rigorously controlled by staff.

Asked during PMQs if he would resign, the PM said he would not.

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A police officer knocks on the door of the Prime Minister’s official residence (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Senior Tory Mr Davis told Mr Johnson he had spent weeks defending him from “angry constituents”, including by reminding them of the “successes of Brexit”.

He said: “I expect my leaders to shoulder the responsibility for the actions they take. Yesterday, he did the opposite of that so I will remind him of a quotation which may be familiar to his ear: Leopold Amery to Neville Chamberlain.

“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. In the name of God, go.”

But Mr Johnson replied: “I must say to him, I don’t know what he is talking about.

“What I can tell him – I don’t know what quotation he is alluding to – what I can tell him is and I think have told this House repeatedly, I take full responsibility for everything done in this Government and throughout the pandemic.”

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Conservative MP David Davis (Luciana Guerra/PA)

Seven Tory MPs have now publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, far short of the 54 required to submit letters of no-confidence to the backbench 1922 Committee.

But, privately, many more believe the Prime Minister’s time is up.

The number would have been eight following Mr Davis’ comments but Mr Wakeford’s defection means the tally is unchanged.

Andrew Bridgen, one of the seven, told the PA news agency he expected 20 more letters to go in to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady from 2019-intake MPs on Wednesday.

“I would have thought that will encourage a considerable number of others who are wavering to put their letters in,” he said.

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen in Parliament Square (Jacob King/PA)

“I think we will get to the threshold of 54 this week. Graham Brady will announce we are having a confidence vote next week, probably Tuesday or Wednesday.”

MPs from the 2019 intake were said to have met on Tuesday to discuss Mr Johnson’s future in a gathering nicknamed the “pork pie plot” because of the alleged involvement of Melton Mowbray’s MP Alicia Kearns.

Mr Johnson, who was reported to have spent Tuesday evening in his Commons office meeting with potential rebels, apologised multiple times in a major broadcast interview for “misjudgments that were made”.

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