Boris Johnson LIVE: What's going on? Top Tory slams 'blackmail' in 'astonishing statement'

PMQs: Keir Starmer welcomes Christian Wakeford

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Mr Wragg, chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, has claimed embarrassing stories would be released to the press if they did not support the Prime Minister. Mr Wragg said at this morning’s committee hearing: “The intimidation of a member of parliament is a serious matter and the reports of which I’m aware would seem to constitute blackmail.” Professor Brian Cox tweeted: “An astonishing statement just now.” Mr Wragg has publicly called on the PM to resign over the partygate scandal and claims threats have been made to withdraw funding from his and other backbenchers’ constituencies – if Mr Johnson is not supported. A No 10 spokesman said: “We are not aware of any evidence to support what are clearly serious allegations. If there is any evidence to support these claims we would look at it very carefully.”

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boris live

Boris Johnson LIVE: ‘Operation Domino’ nightmare as FIVE more Tory MP poised to defect (Image: PA IMAGES)

Rachel Hagan

Johnson says he has seen ‘no evidence’ to support Wragg’s claims

Boris Johnson visited Rutherford Diagnostic Centre in Taunton and spoke to the press about the William Wragg allegations that No 10 has “blackmailed” colleagues undermining Johnson. 

Mr Johnson refuted the claims and said he has seen “no evidence” to support any of those allegations. He continued: “What I am focused on is what we’re doing to deal with the number one priority of the British people, which is coming through Covid.”

Rachel Hagan

Steve Baker says Boris Johnson is ‘checkmate’

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told the BBC’s Nick Robinson that he is “apalled” at the current political situation and that it look like “checkmate” for Boris Johnson. It’s a sorry situation we’re in. I’m appalled we’ve reached this position.

He asid: “We didn’t make Boris Johnson prime minister for his meticulous grasp of tedious rules but this is appalling and the public are rightly furious. At the moment I’m afraid it does look like checkmate but whether he can save himself, we’ll see.”

STEVE BAKER

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told the BBC’s Nick Robinson that he is “apalled” (Image: PA IMAGES)

Rachel Hagan

Christian Wakeford says he also threatened by No10

Christian Wakeford, the MP who moved from Conservaties to Labour yesterday, has told the BBC that he was threatened with the loss of funding for his constituency if he voted the wrong way on an issue.

He said he was told he would not get a school for Radcliffe if he didn’t vote one particular way.

He continued: “This is a town that’s not had a high school for the best part of 10 years. How would you feel holding back the rejuventation of a town for a vote? It didn’t sit comfortably, and that was really [me] starting to question my place where I was, and ultimately to where I am now.”

Rachel Hagan

BBC Radio 2 CUTS OFF 8-year-old after he demands Boris ‘go to jail’ for No10 parties

Sparking fears over bias, BBC Radio 2 abruptly cut off an eight-year-old child after he demanded Prime Minister Boris Johnson “go to jail” for flouting COVID-19 rules.

Host Tina Daheely made the awkward decision to cut short her conversation with little Gethin from Wales after he said prison time was the correct punishment for Boris Johnson following the partygate scandal. 

Read more here

Rachel Hagan

UK government refuses to say if Sue Gray’s interviews will be published

openDemocracy’s have sent a number of questions to the Cabinet Office who are refusing to answer on whether a list is being kept of people whom Gray interviews during her probe or whether such a list would be made public.

This is sparking fresh fears of a “whitewash”.

Transparency campaigners have sounded the alarm about Gray’s suitability because of her history of shielding Number 10 from scrutiny.

Daniel Bruce, chief executive of Transparency International told openDemocracy: “It would be deeply concerning if those examining alleged wrongdoing in Whitehall failed to keep a paper trail.”

sue gray

UK government refuses to say if Sue Gray’s interviews will be published (Image: Twitter@SueGrayCO)

Rachel Hagan

‘It would not make any sense to hold a no confidence vote until after Sue Gray has reported’

The Financial Times reports that if a no-confidence vote is triggered before Sue Gray’s report is published, it may not take place immediately. 

One Tory MP told the FT that it would take longer than when a contest was triggered against Theresa May in 2018 when the confidence vote was held within 24 hours.

The source said: “It would not make any sense to hold the vote until after Sue Gray has reported. After the inquiry, some MPs may wish to withdraw their letters, as well as others who might submit them, depending on what her report says about the prime minister.”

Rachel Hagan

William Wragg accuses Number 10 of blackmail

William Wragg told a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee: “In recent days, a number of members of parliament have faced pressures and intimidation from members of the government because of their declared or assumed desire for a vote of confidence in the party leadership of the prime minister,” Wragg told a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

“Moreover, the reports of which I’m aware, would seem to constitute blackmail. As such, it would be my general advice to colleagues to report these matters to the speaker of the House of Commons and the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.”

william wragg

William Wragg told a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (Image: parliament tv)

Rachel Hagan

Tory MPs call PM resignation plotters out for their ‘premature defenestration’

Tory MPs are unahppy about the plotters trying to overthrow Boris Johnson. One told Politico they were guilty of “naivety” and an “amateurish” lack of planning.

Another said it was a “premature defenestration” and: “They shot their bolt too soon. Holding a meeting without having a plan, telling everyone they had the numbers then pulling back … it wasn’t serious. They are getting high on the adrenaline of change rather than thinking through the implications.”

They said it was now over to Sue Gray.

Rachel Hagan

Javid speaks out on Wakeford’s deflection and Johnson’s lies

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Sajid Javid spoke out on Christian Wakeford’s departure to the Left from the Right.

He said: “I was sad to see him go, its never good to see anyone go. I think a by-election would be very welcome, Bury rightly voted Tory in 2019 and now they have got an MP who has changed his affiliate without definition.”

When questioned on Boris Johnson’s current position, Mr Javid said that Mr Johnson “rightly came to the house and apologised.”

He says the next step is waiting for the report and finding the facts from Sue Gray.

Mr Javid said: “Once the facts are established then we can see how Parliament  should respond. He has my complete support, I serve in his cabinet.

“The ministerial code is very clear, but we dont have the full facts yet. I understand why millions of people are so angered and pained and I share that. He will take full responsibility for Sue Gray’s report but we need the full facts.”

JAIVD

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Sajid Javid spoke out on Christian Wakeford’s departure (Image: SKY NEWS)

Rachel Hagan

Colleagues have withdrawn letters of no confidence

Anushka Asthana of ITV News says Tory MP for Stoke on Trent North Jonathan Gullis tells her that colleagues have withdrawn letters of no confidence following Christian Wakeford’s defection.

Similarly, The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope reports that between three and seven letters of no confidence have been withdrawn by Conservative MPs. They feel “nervous about booting Boris Johnson out of Number 10” according to senior party sources. He also says that Christian Wakeford’s defection has united the party’s MPs.

Rachel Hagan

1922 committee executive is considering halving the time MPs have to wait between no confidence vote

LBC’s Ben Kentish has revealed that the 1922 committee executive is considering halving the time MPs have to wait between no confidence votes from a year to six months.

Mr Kentish believes this proposal could be voted on by the executive next week, leaving Johnson open to the possibility of another challenge in the summer if he survives one this month.

The 1922 could face accusations of moving the goalposts.

EXCL: 1922 Committee exec is considering a proposal to cut the minimum time between votes of no confidence from 1 year to six months, Iu2019m told. Likely to be voted on as early as next week. If passed, would mean Boris Johnson could theoretically face two votes before the summer.

u2014 Ben Kentish (@BenKentish) January 19, 2022

Rachel Hagan

What happens if we do get to a vote of no confidence?

Tory MPs believe that even if the 54 letters are reached, the Prime Minister would still win a confidence vote.

A Cabinet ally of Johnson told Politico: “He’s fighting hard, he won’t resign if there’s a confidence vote. Labour and the turncoats will not change his determination to fight and win. He is immovable.”

Another Tory MP said: “If they can’t even get to 54 then there’s no way they’re getting to 180” — the number of MPs who would need to ultimately vote against Johnson to remove him.

Similarly, Guido Fawkes opines: “None of the front runners for the leadership even wants the job right now. Polling shows that none of the leading rival candidates for PM would save some 100 plus seats that would be lost if a general election were held tomorrow. If the Tories switch Prime Ministers without a general election, the calls for a general election mandate will mount.

Be careful what you wish for … Turfing out a Prime Minister over twentysomethings in Downing Street guzzling cheese and wine is not really on a level with Suez, are they sure this is a well judged course of action? Politics is volatile, that 10 point lead Labour has today could switch back in 3 months again. Boris could turn it around like Thatcher. Who of the other current contenders has the strength of personality and ability to connect with voters?”

Rachel Hagan

Good morning

Good morning from London. I’m Rachel Hagan, I’ll be bringing you all the latest developments on Boris Johnson for the next eight hours. Please feel free to get in touch with me as I work if you have a story or tips to share! Your thoughts are always welcome.

Email: rachel.hagan@reachplc.com

Twitter: @rachelhagan_

William Murphy

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