Sir Bob Neill declares no confidence in Boris Johnson's leadership
Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Gibraltar all-party group in the House of Commons, has called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign following the publication of the Sue Gray report into lockdown parties at No.10 Downing Street.
Sir Bob Neill, who also chairs the Commons Justice Committee, said in a statement on his website on Friday that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister.
He said Sue Gray’s report highlighted a pattern of “wholly unacceptable behaviour” over a number of months by some working in 10 Downing Street.
That included breaking rules that caused “real pain and hardship” for many, and which the Government and MPs were telling others to live by.
Sir Bob said he had waited to read the senior civil servant’s full report before making up his mind but said he found the Prime Minister’s explanations for his behaviour lacked credibility.
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."
“That is why, with a heavy heart, I submitted a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady on Wednesday afternoon.”
“Trust is the most important commodity in politics, but these events have undermined trust in not just the office of the Prime Minister, but in the political process itself.”
“To rebuild that trust and move on, a change in leadership is required.”
A vote on the Prime Minister’s future will be held if 54 of his MPs write to Sir Graham, 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 Sir Graham does not publicly reveal how many letters he has received.
Sir Bob’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 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 aide, 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 Sir Bob, MPs Stephen Hammond, David Simmonds, John Baron and Julian Sturdy have broken ranks to call for Mr Johnson’s resignation since Wednesday.
The Prime Minister on Friday 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, the Prime Minister chose to announce changes to the ministerial code on Friday in a move his rivals said watered down the rules over those on the 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.
Sir Bob, in an interview with BBC News about his decision to submit a no confidence letter, 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.