Tory MP suggests Plan B move was 'diversionary tactic' and PM’s integrity is 'dented'

11 December 2021, 10:11

By Seán Hickey

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood told LBC today that the Prime Minister's integrity has been 'dented' by the Christmas party scandal and suggested a hastily convened 'Plan B' press conference was an effort by No10 to 'move things forward'.

Andrew Castle asked Mr Ellwood this morning: "how long has Boris Johnson got?" following a week of controversy engulfing the PM.

"We need to get through this crisis," Mr Ellwood replied in reference to the danger posed by the Omicron variant.

But he added: "I think his integrity has been dented by this and trust needs to be rebuilt."

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The chair of the Defence Select Committee shared his concern with "the speed with which we jumped to plan B."

"My concern is that we're no longer following the science, we've been spooked into following more restrictions."

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Mr Ellwood also noted the government's reputation had taken a hammering ever since the Owen Paterson scandal: "You've had trust diluted and we have to rebuild that," he said.

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"Was plan B a big surprise to everyone in the party?" Andrew asked, which Mr Ellwood said it was.

Andrew went on: "Was it a diversionary tactic because of the hassle he was having in other areas?"

"I think it was actually The Telegraph that called this a big dead cat, and clearly the communications team in Number 10 thought 'let's move these things forward'.

"That actually shows why we need a revamp of how Number 10 actually operates" Mr Ellwood insisted.

Andrew said Mr Ellwood's remarks had "taken his breath away."

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"You've just told me that: Covid certification for large events in England, nightclubs and events of 900 plus; the advice if you can, to work from home; the cancellation of nativity plays; the possibility of theatres going dark and the restriction of our freedoms; now the possibility – it's not in plan B – that less people will be allowed in care homes.

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"You've just told me that this was probably brought forward as a diversionary tactic to take away from the aggravation and the political difficulties of the Downing Street party. You've taken my breath away, Tobias."

"These are things you're going to have to put to Number 10", Mr Ellwood said.

"I want to focus on getting that communications right because if you lose the faith and support of the British people they will not follow you into difficult places and that's actually where we are at the moment."

Ahead of a crucial by-election in North Shropshire next week, polling carried out on Thursday shows support for the Tories is plummeting.

A YouGov poll carried out for The Times found that Labour now has a four-point lead, its biggest in 11 months.

The YouGov poll found that three quarters of people believe there was a Christmas Party, and 68 per cent said they thought Mr Johnson was lying when he denied it.   

A separate Survation poll suggested that Labour's poll lead may be even bigger, at six points.

The change in public opinion suggests that allegations surrounding the Christmas Party being held in No 10 last December - in breach of lockdown rules - have cut through and angered the public.

LBC has been inundated by furious callers in recent days, criticising the Government for partying while their relatives lay dying and they were sticking to the rules.     

LBC has approached Number 10 for comment.