The drip-feed of no confidence letters being submitted over the British prime minister’s leadership has continued as pressure grows on Boris Johnson following publication of the No 10 parties report.
Since senior civil servant Sue Gray published her investigation into lockdown-busting gatherings in Downing Street on Wednesday, there has been a steady trickle of Conservative MPs announcing they want a vote on Mr Johnson’s future as UK leader.
Sir Bob Neill, chairman of the Commons Justice Committee, added his name to that list on Friday, declaring that he did not think the Mr Johnson’s explanations for attending events in No 10 were “credible”.
Posting a statement on his website, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst said: “I have listened carefully to the explanations the prime minister has given, in parliament and elsewhere, and, regrettably, do not find his assertions to be credible.
— Sir Bob Neill MP (@neill_bob) May 27, 2022
“That is why, with a heavy heart, I submitted a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady on Wednesday afternoon.”
The former minister said that a “change in leadership is required” if trust in the office of the prime minister and the political process was to be restored following the so-called Partygate saga.
A vote on the Mr Johnson’s future will be held if 54 of his MPs write to Mr Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, declaring they have lost confidence in their leader.
Twenty Tories have publicly called for his resignation so far, with many critics holding back due to the war in Ukraine.
Others may have called for a no confidence vote in private, however, as Mr Brady does not publicly reveal how many letters he has received.
Mr Neill’s intervention, making him the fifth Tory MP to call for Mr Johnson to go since the full Gray report was released, comes on the same day as the British home secretary’s assistant resigned over the “toxic culture” uncovered in No 10 by the Cabinet Office official’s inquiry.
Tory MP Paul Holmes quit as Priti Patel’s parliamentary private secretary, saying he was “shocked and angered” by the revelations.
Mr Holmes did not, however, state whether he had submitted a letter of no confidence, instead noting that reforms to the Downing Street set-up had been introduced in the wake of the party revelations.
Along with Mr Neill, MPs Stephen Hammond, David Simmonds, John Baron and Julian Sturdy have broken ranks to call for Mr Johnson’s resignation since Wednesday.
On Friday, Mr Johnson said it would be up to the public to make up their mind on his behaviour as detailed in Ms Gray’s 37-page written document.
During a visit to the North East, he looked to bat away questions about the affair, telling broadcasters he had already offered “vintage and exhaustive answers”.
Ms Gray found that Mr Johnson attended a number of leaving dos in No 10 during the lockdown months in England, often giving speeches about departing officials, but he insisted these were work events – a conclusion he said was backed up by the Metropolitan Police opting not to fine him for being present at such gatherings.
Mr Johnson, who did receive a fixed penalty notice (FPN) for attending his own surprise birthday bash in June 2020, has argued it was after he left some of the leaving dos that they became raucous.
Ms Gray’s report depicts a culture in No 10 that saw staff drink so much that they were sick, became involved in altercations and abused security and cleaning staff.
Despite facing criticism over his Partygate explanations, Mr Johnson chose to announce changes to the ministerial code on Friday in a move his rivals said watered down the rules over those on the British government’s front bench.
An update said ministers will not automatically lose their jobs if they breach the standards code, with a government policy statement saying it was “disproportionate” to expect ministers to resign or face the sack for “minor” violations of the code’s provisions.
It had previously been expected that ministers should go if they were found to have breached the code.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both criticised the “downgrading” of public standards with the move.
In an interview with BBC News about his decision to submit a no confidence letter, Mr Neill said the revisions were unlikely to “help restore trust” in Britain’s leadership.
“I don’t really think that is a wise move, and certainly not a good time to be doing this,” he said.
“That isn’t, to my mind, likely to help restore trust either, so that’s certainly not made the situation any better as far as I’m concerned.”
Following the publication of Ms Gray’s report and the conclusion of Scotland Yard’s Operation Hillman investigation, which saw 126 fines dished out for rule breaches in Government, Mr Johnson now faces a Commons inquiry.
The Privileges Committee will rule on whether he lied to Parliament with his repeated denials there was no rule-breaking in Downing Street.
Deliberately misleading the House is considered a resigning matter.