'Beginning of the end' for PM in wake of Lord Frost resignation and lockdown party scandal

18 December 2021, 20:30 | Updated: 19 December 2021, 17:18

LBC has been told it could be the 'beginning of the end' for Boris Johnson after weeks of political turmoil, including the resignation of Lord Frost yesterday
LBC has been told it could be the 'beginning of the end' for Boris Johnson after weeks of political turmoil, including the resignation of Lord Frost yesterday. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The resignation of the UK's top Brexit negotiator could be the "beginning of a very rapid end" for Boris Johnson, a political journalist has told LBC.

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Trevor Kavanagh, political columnist for the Sun, told LBC's Andrew Castle he could not see "how a challenge to leadership can be avoided".

"This could be the beginning of a very rapid end of Boris Johnson," Mr Kavanagh said.

"I cannot see how a challenge to leadership can be avoided in the next few days or weeks."

Lord Frost originally planned to leave his role in January, but decided to quit with immediate effect after his plans became public on Saturday night.

His departure is thought to be partly down to the implementation of Plan B measures to tackle coronavirus - a plan that saw Boris Johnson suffer his the biggest Tory rebellion since he came to power in 2019.

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In a letter to Mr Johnson, Lord Frost said Brexit - and the process of building a new relationship with the EU - would be a "long-term task" and so the Prime Minister and him agreed he would "hand over the baton to others" in January.

But he went on: "It is disappointing that this plan has become public this evening and in the circumstances I think it is right for me to write to step down with immediate effect."

He said it had been a "huge honour and privilege" to work with Mr Johnson, whom he called an "outstanding leader".

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"Many said that it would be impossible to deliver what we did," he wrote.

"You and I have always shared the same approach on Brexit and I do not think we would have achieved so much without that close common understanding of our aims.

"Brexit is now secure. The challenge for the Government now is to deliver on the opportunities it gives us."

He said he had concerns about the "direction of travel", saying: "I hope we will move as fast as possible to where we need to get to: a lightly regulated, low-tax, entrepreneurial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change."

He wished Mr Johnson "every success".

In response, the Prime Minister said he was "sorry" to receive Lord Frost's resignation, adding: "I am grateful for all you have achieved and hope that you will be able to serve this country again in the future."

In response to Lord Frost's resignation, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen tweeted: "The Prime Minister is running out of time and out of friends to deliver on the promises and discipline of a true Conservative Government."

Referencing the Tory rebellion against vaccine passports and the Conservatives' crushing defeat in Thursday's North Shropshire by-election, Mr Bridgen went on: "Lord Frost has made it clear, 100 Conservative backbenchers have made it clear, but most importantly so did the people of North Shropshire."

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Lord Frost's resignation reportedly comes after months of disillusionment about the direction of the Conservative Party, including tax rises and the cost of net-zero environmental policies.

His departure is particular striking because he was a close ally to Boris Johnson, united in their ambition to 'get Brexit done'.

Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said Lord Frost's resignation showed "the government is in chaos".

"As if we didn’t already know, Lord Frost resigning shows the government’s in chaos," she said in a tweet.

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"The country needs leadership not a lame duck PM whose MPs and cabinet have lost faith in him.

"Boris Johnson needs to apologise to the public and explain what his plan is for the next few weeks."

It is the latest in a series of political blows for Mr Johnson, who has been falling under increasing pressure to resign - or at least apologise - after a series of allegations about illegal Christmas parties in Downing Street last year.

After announcing an investigation into the allegations led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Mr Case was quickly replaced after it was alleged he held an event himself.

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The parties were all allegedly held at a time where indoor mixing was banned under coronavirus restrictions.

The public's repulsion at the accusations has been reflected in the polls, with the Tories suffering a crushing defeat in the North Shropshire by-election - which was itself spawned by a political fallout, after former Conservative MP Owen Paterson was found to have broken lobbying rules and subsequently resigned.