The Prime Minister is reportedly preparing to oust members of his inner circle over the partygate affair as another Conservative MP called for him to resign.
Boris Johnson is devising a policy announcement blitz and a cull of his top team as he looks to survive the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into lockdown-busting parties in No 10, The Sunday Times reported.
Martin Reynolds, the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary who sent an email inviting staff to “bring your own booze” drinks in the No 10 garden during the first coronavirus lockdown, and his deputy Stuart Glassborow are likely to be forced out of Downing Street, according to the newspaper.
No 10 chief of staff Dan Rosenfield’s position could also be at risk but officials in Downing Street refused to be drawn on the reports of a staff shake-up when these were put to them.
It comes as a sixth Conservative MP on Saturday called for Mr Johnson to quit over the way he has handled the revelations.
Former children’s minister Tim Loughton, in a post on Facebook, said Mr Johnson’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: “Frankly the issue for me is not how many sausage rolls or glasses of prosecco the Prime Minister actually consumed.
“The reason for my conclusion in calling for him to stand down is the way that he has handled the mounting revelations in the last few weeks.
“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.”
Mr Loughton said he knows “what I need to do” if the Prime Minister does not quit in the “next few days”, in an indication he could be prepared to submit a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs.
Only a handful of Tories have publicly declared they have submitted letters to the 1922 Committee, but the Telegraph said sources estimated about 20 might have been handed in – although that is well short of the 54 needed to trigger a leadership vote.
The Sunday Times reported Mr Johnson will look to get on the front foot and save his position, having last week admitted attending the No 10 garden party on May 20 2020, by making a series of “populist” announcements in the coming weeks.
He will focus on reducing the NHS backlog and tackling the small boat crossings in the Channel, while freezing the BBC licence fee for two years, it was reported.
The Conservative Party leader could also put in place a “booze ban” in No 10 following the series of embarrassing claims of Covid rule breaking.
Downing Street drew the ire of furious Tory MPs as allegations of wrongdoing continued to emerge last week.
No 10 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, with a person sent to a local shop with a suitcase to buy wine, according to the Telegraph, which first reported the allegations.
Former minister Andrew Percy, MP for Brigg and Goole, said he was “irritated” staff could not see that such alleged behaviour was “not acceptable”.
Meanwhile, the spotlight intensified on the Prime Minister’s wife, Carrie Johnson, after she admitted to breaching coronavirus guidelines.
The Sunday Telegraph published a photograph of Mrs Johnson embracing a friend at a social event in London in September 2020.
At the time, Government guidance called for people to “stay two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible”, or one metre if taking the extra precaution of meeting outdoors.
The rule of six was in place at the time the photograph was taken, which the paper said was September 17.
A spokeswoman said: “Mrs Johnson was one of a group of six seated outside celebrating a friend’s engagement.
“Mrs Johnson regrets the momentary lapse in judgement in briefly hugging her friend for a photograph.”
Reports have previously suggested that Mrs Johnson, a former Tory adviser, was present at the May 20 2020 “bring your own booze” event, while a photograph published in The Guardian shows her sat with her husband and Mr Reynolds in the No 10 garden on May 15, five days earlier.
In related news, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, boosted by polling which put his party 10 points in front of the Tories, has pledged to voters that he would preside over a government with “integrity” and that could “restore trust” if he wins the next election.
Sir Keir, writing in the Sunday Mirror, looked to keep the pressure on Mr Johnson, saying: “The Prime Minister’s actions, and his inability to take any responsibility for them, means he can no longer do his basic duties.
“In the public interest, he should resign.”
A survey by Opinium put Labour on 41% of the vote share, with the Conservatives on 31%.
The polling company said Mr Johnson’s approval rating had plummeted to minus 42% – almost a 20 point fall in a week – and that almost two-thirds of people surveyed thought he should stand down.