Operation Save Big Dog: Tory Hints At Crackdown On Booze Culture In No10

·4 min read
Dowden and Johnson (Photo: HuffPost UK)
Dowden and Johnson (Photo: HuffPost UK)

The Conservative party chairman has hinted at a crackdown on drinking in No10 after a series of party scandals rocked Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Oliver Dowden said Johnson knew there had to be a “change in culture” in No10 and that the PM was committed to addressing it.

It comes as Johnson’s staff launch what has been dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” in a bid to salvage the prime minister’s premiership.

Dowden said allegations of parties were “totally wrong” and when the PM responds to the investigation he will “address the kind of culture that allowed that to happen”.

Allegations include staff wheeling in a drinks fridge, filling up suitcases with alcohol, a “Bring Your Own Booze” event in the garden, scheduled “wine time Fridays” and two parties on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral.

But Dowden told Sky News: “The kind of events that we’ve seen were totally wrong – I was angered by them, my constituents were angered about them, the whole country was angered by them and it is absolutely right that the prime minister has said we’ll get to the bottom of them.

“I can tell you that when he responds to the House of Commons, as he has committed to do so, he will make sure that we address the kind of culture that has allowed that to happen in the first place.”

Newspaper reports suggested the PM could put in place a “booze ban” in No10 following the series of humiliating claims over Covid rule breaking during lockdown.

He is also allegedly preparing to boot out members of his inner circle in a bid to survive the party scandals.

The prime minister is also planning a series of populist announcements, The Sunday Times reported.

Martin Reynolds, the aide who invited staff to “bring your own booze” to the No10 garden, and his deputy Stuart Glassborow are likely to be forced out, according to the newspaper.

The parties and allegations are under investigation by senior civil servant Sue Gray.

It comes as a sixth Tory MP called for Johnson to quit over the way he has handled the revelations.

Former children’s minister Tim Loughton said the PM’s position had become “untenable” and that his “resignation is the only way to bring this whole unfortunate episode to an end”.

Apologising for the “great hurt” caused to his constituents by the allegations, the East Worthing and Shoreham MP added: “Obfuscation, prevarication and evasion have been the order of the day when clarity, honesty and contrition was what was needed and what the British people deserve.”

Loughton said he knows “what I need to do” if the PM does not quit in the “next few days”, hinting he was prepared to submit a letter of no confidence in Johnson to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories.

A source told the Sunday Times the number of letters of no confidence submitted to the 1922 had risen to 35 — bringing the PM closer to the 54 required to trigger a vote.

In a bid to refocus the narrative, Johnson’s team will talk about reducing the NHS backlog, tackling small boat crossings in the Channel and freezing the BBC licence fee for two years, according to reports.

People protest against Boris Johnson outside the Prime Minister's Office on 10 Downing Street in London. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
People protest against Boris Johnson outside the Prime Minister's Office on 10 Downing Street in London. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

No10 was forced to apologise to Buckingham Palace on Friday after it emerged two staff parties were reportedly held on the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.

Witnesses said alcohol was drunk and guests danced to music as two after-work events merged on April 16 2021. One person was even sent to a local shop with a suitcase to buy wine, according to the Telegraph.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been boosted by polling which put his party 10 points ahead of the Tories.

This weekend he pledged to preside over a government with “integrity” that could “restore trust” if he wins the next election.

A survey by Opinium put Labour on 41 per cent of the vote share, with the Conservatives on 31 per cent.

The polling company said Johnson’s approval rating had plummeted to minus 42 per cent – almost a 20 point fall in a week – and that almost two-thirds of people surveyed thought he should stand down.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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