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'Save Big Dog': Boris 'to launch blitz of sackings and populist policies' to keep job
16 January 2022, 10:20
Boris Johnson is preparing to cull figures in his inner circle over the partygate affair as he desperately tries to cling on to his job, reports say.
"Operation Save Big Dog", as a plan to keep him in power is apparently referred to, is getting under way – and it will see a blitz of policy announcements the Government will hope can reverse its fortunes.
The Prime Minister is hoping to survive the onslaught of public fury at a constant stream of reports about Downing Street parties that took place during Covid restrictions.
A sixth Conservative MP has joined calls for Mr Johnson to go, with Scottish Tories having already broken rank.
The Sunday Times said Mr Johnson will try to save his job with "populist" policy unveilings in the coming weeks. That plan has its own name, separate from "Save Big Dog" - it's reportedly dubbed "Operation Red Meat".
They include a plan to reduce the NHS backlog and dealing with migrant small boat crossings over the Channel.
It was also reported that the BBC licence fee could be frozen for two years and a "booze ban" could be put in place for No10.
The paper also said Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson's principal private secretary, may be forced out of his job. He sent the "bring your own booze" invitation for an event that took place in May 2020.
The partygate affair has seen Downing Street apologise to the Queen for a do held on the eve of Prince Philip's funeral, which the monarch attended under Covid rules.
Witnesses said the boozy No10 event saw people dance to music as reports also emerged that a person was sent to a shop with a suitcase to stock up on wine for an after work get-together in April 2021.
Other claims said one event ended with Mr Johnson's son Wilf's swing being broken. Civil servant Sue Gray is due to reveal the results of her investigation into the deluge of party allegations.
Carrie Johnson, the Prime Minister's wife, has also admitted she broke Covid guidance, branding it a "lapse of judgement".
She was pictured in the Telegraph hugging a friend outside a private members' club in London in September 2020, when guidance said people from different households should stay two metres apart.
Mr Johnson has also admitted attending the "BYOB" do in the No10 garden in May 2020 and apologised to MPs for it, but he said he believed it was a work event.
Now, Tim Loughton MP, a former children's minister, has become the latest Tory to call for the PM to go, describing his position as become "untenable" and that his "resignation is the only way to bring this whole unfortunate episode to an end".
Apologising to constituents for the saga, he said: "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."
He indicated he could hand in a letter of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, though it is thought only around 20 have been submitted – short of the 54 required to start a leadership vote.
Meanwhile, Michael Fabricant, the Tory MP, has told LBC Mr Johnson "should stay for the time being and I think he should probably stay for good".
Labour polled at 41% in an Opinium survey, with the Tories on 31%.
Mr Johnson's approval rating had fallen to minus 42%, a 20-point fall in one week, with nearly two-thirds of people saying he should go.
Downing Street did not comment on possible sackings.