It never rains for No. 10 but it pours. After both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were last week fined in recess for breaching lockdown laws, the Prime Minister returned to parliament today to atone for his sins. And it’s not been a happy afternoon for Johnson as opposition leader after opposition leader denounced him in the strongest possible terms. Keir Starmer and Ed Davey both won plaudits for their interventions – even Ian Blackford was heard in near reverential silence.
Johnson is expected to win the looming Commons vote on an investigation into Partygate but he might not be able to navigate other challenges to his position so easily. While only a small minority have publicly called for the PM to go, that number was increased by one this afternoon after former Tory chief whip Mark Harper said Johnson should quit, arguing he is ‘no longer worthy of the great office that he holds.’ Harper is a known Johnson critic but offered supportive comments of the Prime Minister’s refusal to lock the country down last Christmas in his capacity as chair of the Covid Recovery Group.
As well as calling for Johnson to resign in the House of Commons, Harper has also now released a letter on Twitter in which the Forest of Dean MP writes that ‘integrity is about doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.’ Harper ought to know of course – he was the immigration minister who had to quit in 2014 after he discovered his self-employed cleaner did not have permission to work in the UK.
Harper might be written off as a serial Boris-basher but given the way the debate is currently unfolding, he might not be the last Tory MP this week to call for Johnson to go.
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