'We need to change PM': Former minister calls on Boris to go as he fights for premiership

3 February 2022, 18:25 | Updated: 4 February 2022, 22:31

'Has anyone checked on Dillan the dog and Larry the cat?'

By Sophie Barnett

A former minister has become the latest Tory to publicly call for Boris Johnson to go, claiming "we need to change the Prime Minister".

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Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and former minister for school standards, brought the total number of MPs who have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go to 15.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Gibb said his constituents were "furious about the double standards" and claimed the Prime Minister had been "inaccurate" in statements to the Commons.

"The Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Allegra Stratton for joking about a Christmas party that she hadn't attended, but he won't take responsibility for those that he did attend," he said.

"I am sorry to say that it is hard to see how it can be the case that the Prime Minister told the truth."

He said there was still support for the Prime Minister in his constituency, but that voters were also questioning whether they could trust Mr Johnson.

The MP said: "To restore trust, we need to change the Prime Minister."

Read more: Sunak distances himself from Boris' Jimmy Savile 'slur' as No10's policy head quits

Read more: 'We have to live within our means': Sunak defends 'puny' Govt support amid energy crisis

The horse has bolted for Boris Johnson when it comes to changing his public perception

It comes after a grovelling Mr Johnson penned a letter to Conservatives promising a "direct line" to No10 as he seeks to prevent them from demanding a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The Prime Minister wrote to them on Friday insisting he was committed to change after five advisers resigned from Downing Street within 24 hours.

On Friday, Aaron Bell became the eighth Tory MP to announce he has handed in a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson.

The number of Tory rebels has grown following Aaron Bell's announcement.

Addressed "Dear colleague", Mr Johnson says in the letter he is "committed to improving the way 10 Downing Street, and Government more broadly works", promising further updates in the coming days.

This will include working with Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 chair, and his colleagues to re-establish backbench policy committees.

"I want these policy committees to play an important role in generating ideas and discussion and so I encourage colleagues from across the party to get involved," Mr Johnson wrote.

"I understand the deep importance of engaging with colleagues in Parliament and listening to your views and that is why I want colleagues to have a direct line into 10 Downing Street."

He said Andrew Griffith, the MP who is taking over as director of policy after the resignation of Mr Johnson's long-time adviser Munira Mirza, will provide "whatever engagement and support is necessary to make this a success".

Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-Under-Lyme, said he was handing in his letter of no confidence as Mr Johnson's position is "untenable".

"As someone who backed Brexit and backed Boris Johnson for the leadership in 2019, I am profoundly disappointed that it has come to this," Mr Bell wrote.

He added that "the breach of trust that events in No10 Downing Street represent, and the manner in which they have been handled, makes his position untenable".

Mr Bell is the eighth Tory MP to publicly announce that they've submitted a letter of no confidence.

He joins Tobias Ellwood, Douglas Ross, Andrew Brigden, Sir Roger Gale, Sir Gary Streeter, Anthony Mangnall and Peter Aldous.

Mr Bell's call for the Prime Minister to quit came after Downing Street was rocked by five resignations.

In a desperate attempt to rally staff in the wake of the shock exits, Mr Johnson channelled The Lion King's philosopher baboon Rafiki in a speech to aides.

Speaking to staff in the Cabinet Room following a chaotic 24 hours at No10, the Prime Minister said: "As Rafiki in The Lion King says, change is good, and change is necessary even though it's tough."

Asked if Mr Johnson has seen the film, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I don't know."

The under-fire Prime Minister was also said to have given his familiar "half-time pep talk" in which he talks about spitting out the "orange peel" and getting back on the "pitch".

His attempt to get his staff onside follows a mass exodus at No10, with his head of policy Munira Mirza first to leave Downing Street in a shock exit.

Read more: Tories weigh up slashing time between no-confidence votes as PM sweats over future

Mr Johnson channelled the Disney film's philosopher baboon Rafiki (middle) in a speech to aides.
Mr Johnson channelled the Disney film's philosopher baboon Rafiki (middle) in a speech to aides. Picture: Alamy

Ms Mirza, who has worked alongside Mr Johnson for the last 14 years, quit her role in anger over his use of a debunked Jimmy Savile smear at Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. 

The PM made the baseless claim earlier in the week that Sir Keir failed to prosecute Savile when he was director of public prosecutions.

Ms Mirza claimed she resigned after Mr Johnson refused to apologise for his remarks, despite her urging him to do so.

Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield followed Ms Mirza, as did principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and communications director Jack Doyle, who were all implicated in the Partygate saga.

Read more: 'How dare he?': Jimmy Savile victim tells LBC she was furious over Boris remarks

'Not a good day again for Boris Johnson, no doubt about that'

The exodus continued on Friday when policy advisor Elena Narozanski quit, further adding to the turmoil as Mr Johnson clings onto power.

The string of departures came after Chancellor Rishi Sunak broke ranks and took a swipe at the PM over his Jimmy Savile comments, saying: "Being honest I wouldn't have said it and I'm glad that the Prime Minister clarified what he meant."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, principal private secretary Martin Reynolds and director of communications Jack Doyle were leaving by "mutual consent".

"The departures of those three individuals were agreed with the Prime Minister ahead of Munira's departure yesterday. Those were mutual decisions," the spokesman said.

Asked if the same applied to Elena Narozanski, a special adviser in the policy unit who also reportedly quit, the spokesman said: "No, I don't believe so."

He added: "I have seen that departure reported. My understanding is that it is correct."

Boris Johnson's head of policy Munira Mirza has resigned

Speaking to journalists, Mr Johnson's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has acknowledged it's a challenging time as we go through a period of change but as he reiterated to the whole team today, there is an important job to do, the public expects us to be focused on it, whether it is the situation in Ukraine, recovering from the pandemic or, as the Chancellor was setting out yesterday, on issues such as cost of living."

It comes after the Prime Minister promised a shake-up at No10 earlier this week, following the publication of Sue Gray's Partygate report.

Some Tory MPs have implied that the resignations were Mr Johnson showing "swift action".

'He shot himself in both feet and put his feet in his mouth?!'

Tory MP for Bassetlaw Brendan Clarke-Smith claimed: "The PM is taking swift action to shake things up and whilst others continue to dwell on their own priorities, we are getting on with it and focusing on the priorities of the people we represent.

"Building a strong team is vital to that and great to see this is happening so quickly."

Another Tory MP, Mark Jenkinson, quoted a tweet referencing the resignations, saying: "No10 changes in full swing."

Downing Street has insisted that relations between Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are "good".

Iain Dale reacts to resignations of senior Number 10 advisers