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Those who missed the first instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall can read it here.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June cannot have been an easy one for the Prime Minister, who turned up with his wife Carrie at the public events.

Pressure was mounting for a vote of confidence by Conservative backbenchers.

On the morning of Sunday, June 5, the last day of the Jubilee weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that there would be no such vote, but even if one took place, Boris would win it (video):

By the time the Queen had celebrated her historic jubilee that weekend, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, had received the requisite number of letters from the Party’s backbench MPs to trigger such a vote.

The vote took place on Monday, June 6. Shapps was correct in saying that Boris would win it. Shapps went on to run for the Party leadership himself in July.

Unfortunately, after the confidence vote, more events occurred making Boris’s position as Party leader untenable.

Earlier, in May, the Conservatives had taken a drubbing in the local elections.

Then came the two by-elections on Thursday, June 23.

One was for Neil Parish’s seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. The farmer had stood down on April 30 after two fellow Conservative MPs saw him viewing tractor porn on his phone in the Palace of Westminster. Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won handily.

The second was further north, in Wakefield, where another disgraced Conservative-then-Independent MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, had to stand down for being convicted on April 11 of assault on a 15-year-old boy in 2008. On May 23, Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The West Yorkshire seat reverted to Labour, with the election of Simon Lightwood.

Then came the Chris Pincher groping scandal. Pincher was Deputy Chief Whip but resigned on Thursday, June 30, after a lubricious episode at the Carlton Club in St James. The Carlton is a private club for Conservatives. Pincher had allegedly groped two men at an event there.

Boris had to sign off on Pincher’s appointment as Deputy Chief Whip. However, even if Boris had objected, the Chief Whip could have appointed Pincher, anyway. As I explained on July 6, whoever the Chief Whip wants for a deputy, the Chief Whip gets.

However, the Party whip had not been withdrawn from Pincher, and MPs were incandescent.

On Friday, July 1, an article appeared in The Telegraph: ‘The “disturbing” call about Chris Pincher’s lurid behaviour that forced Boris Johnson to act’.

GB News interviewed Neil Parish, who was furious.

The Telegraph article says:

The low point of yet another chaotic 24 hours for Boris Johnson came when disgraced “tractor porn MP” Neil Parish popped up on the airwaves to give him a lecture on moral standards in government.  

As the Prime Minister and his aides were holed up in Number 10 deciding how to respond to the growing Chris Pincher scandal, the “very cross” former backbencher was giving them both barrels on television. 

“I can’t believe they haven’t done it,” he said incredulously, when asked why the whip had not been removed. Referring to his own punishment for watching pornography in the House of Commons, he added: “It’s double standards. Come on, let’s be fair.”

His righteous outrage encapsulated how untenable Downing Street’s insistence that Mr Pincher would be able to remain a Conservative MP, despite accusations he drunkenly groped two men, had become.

Someone must have been watching GB News that afternoon or the fury from MPs must have increased to the extent that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, withdrew the Party whip:

Just over two hours later, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Chief Whip, put out a statement reversing that decision, following a day of growing anger amongst backbench Tories at the Prime Minister’s failure to act. 

However, there was a problem in that, the day before, Boris did not think things needed to go that far. He thought that Pincher’s resignation from the Deputy Chief Whip role sufficed (emphases mine):

Downing Street was bullish as the news broke at 8pm, with a Tory source insisting: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”

Even into Friday afternoon, Boris’s stance had not changed:

… at noon, No 10 still remained defiant – with the Prime Minister’s spokesman telling reporters he considered the matter closed, since Mr Pincher had resigned and that there was no investigation into his conduct.

Heaton-Harris and Boris received pushback for their inaction.

Finally, later on Friday Pincher became an Independent MP:

Early in the evening Downing Street was eventually forced to act and announced it had stripped Mr Pincher of the whip, given that a formal complaint had been made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

The question was how much did Boris know about Pincher — past and present — and when did he know it?

Regarding the Carlton Club:

The Prime Minister had also been “troubled” by a “disturbing” call from one of the MPs who witnessed the incident and relayed to him a detailed account of what had happened, according to a source close to him.

The article has the details of what happened with Pincher at the club.

One MP was so unnerved that he rang Heaton-Harris at 3 a.m.:

One Tory MP who was present at the scene told The Telegraph how they “threw out” a “very drunk” Mr Pincher after being told about one of the two sexual assaults and then called the chief whip at 3am to inform him.

Another waited until daylight to inform him:

A second MP who witnessed at least one of the groping incidents also informed Mr Heaton-Harris the following morning. “This is not something that should be brushed over,” the MP told The Telegraph.

That MP says Pincher’s reputation was known, and it is true that he did have to stand down from another post when Theresa May was Prime Minister:

“Given the nature of the behaviour and the seniority of the role he held, it was highly inappropriate behaviour. This is not the first time there have been conversations about this person either. Many of us were surprised when that appointment was made.”

It is the second time that Mr Pincher has been forced to resign from the whips’ office over allegations of sexual impropriety. In 2017, he quit a more junior position after being accused by a former Tory candidate of trying to chat him up.

Returning to Boris:

“Boris has set the level and now everyone else is trying to imitate him, it is a constant drip drip. It all adds up, doesn’t look good,” one former minister told The Telegraph.

“The worrying thing is this is beginning to shape up so much like sleaze in the 90s under Major, where it was a whole series of inappropriate and pretty seedy actions by ministers and Tory MPs that completely undermined him.”

Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader, said the Prime Minister had been too slow to act, with a “whole day of everybody speculating and talking”. He added: “These things need dealing with decisively.”

That day, The Telegraph had a related article, ‘Boris Johnson v John Major: How Tory sleaze scandals under the two leaders stack up’. The scores are pretty even. I remember reading it and thinking that things did not look good for Boris.

There were two other things that did not bode well for him that week: a proposed treehouse for his son and an upcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee over Partygate.

Let’s look at the treehouse first. Labour MPs were apoplectic that Boris wanted to have one built at Chequers for young Wilf.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases his):

Eyebrows were raised in Downing Street over the weekend after the publication of a story in The Sunday Times that Boris had looked into having a £150,000 treehouse built for son Wilf at Chequers. The story – undisputed since publication – goes he had once again entered into discussions about Lord Brownlow forking out for the cost, however plans were eventually scuppered by police security concerns given the house would be visible from the road. Despite the design including bulletproof glass, which raised the cost significantly…

Guido was amused to learn that Downing Street’s eyebrows weren’t raised by the Sunday Times’s story, instead by Labour MPs’ attacking the plans on the grounds of Boris being out of touch. Vauxhall’s Florence Eshalomi, Rhondda’s Chris Bryant, Wallasey’s Angela Eagle, and Hull’s Karl Turner were all among those laying into the PM.

Guido points out Labour’s hypocrisy, because it was Tony Blair who had a tennis court complex installed at the Prime Minister’s weekend retreat (purple emphases mine):

No. 10 sources wryly note, however, that it wasn’t that long ago when it was a Labour PM splashing huge wads of cash to renovate Chequers – without a whimper of controversy. In 1999, one Tony Blair added a luxury tennis court complex to the PM’s Buckinghamshire residence, something since enjoyed by successive MPs including David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Sources in the know tell Guido that the courts weren’t built using public cash, nor did they come out of the Chequers Trust, implying the extortionate costs either came out of Blair’s personal pocket, or a private donor. Given Guido unfortunately can’t make it to Blair’s big centrist jamboree today, perhaps an on-hand hack might like to raise the question of who paid for the courts…

Labour: it’s okay when they do it.

The Privileges Committee are investigating Boris for Partygate, specifically on whether he deliberately lied to the House of Commons in saying he was unaware any coronavirus rules were breached. That was before he received his fine.

Labour’s Harriet Harman is leading the investigation. Labour’s Chris Bryant recused himself from that responsibility because he has made no secret of his dislike for Boris.

However, as Guido pointed out on June 17, Harman is hardly impartial:

It’s now emerged his replacement, Harman, has not been neutral on the question up until this point either. She has tweeted her views relating to allegations around the PM’s truthfulness, with one saying “If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons”. You wouldn’t favour your chances going to trial if the judge was on the record with such levels of preconceived bias…

Conservative MPs are also aware of her bias:

Yesterday in the Commons, Andrew Murrison asked Michael Ellis whether he agreed “that those placed in a position of judgment over others must not have a previously stated position on the matter in question”. The Cabinet Office minister replied:

It is, of course, an age-old principle of natural justice that no person should be a judge in their own court.

Where an individual has given a view on the guilt or innocence of any person, they ought not to then sit in judgment on that person. I know that point he is referring to, and I have no doubt that the right honourable lady will consider that.

It seems to be yet another own goal by Labour, mind-made-up Harman’s appointment totally undermines the impartiality of the privileges committee investigation…

The investigation formally began on June 29:

The problem with this investigation is that it has to prove intent on Boris’s part to mislead the House. How will Harman prove it?

If Boris is found guilty of deliberately misleading the House, it will have severe ramifications for parliamentary proceedings. Ministers might fear expanding on certain subjects in case they get a figure or another type of detail wrong.

We should find out the result in September.

What Labour are trying to do with this process is ensure that Boris loses his parliamentary seat for good, which is what will happen if he’s guilty. That way, he can never be an MP again.

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs were disgruntled that Boris had won the confidence vote in June. Under the current 1922 Committee rules another one cannot be held until 12 months have elapsed. They wanted Sir Graham Brady to change the rules to allow another vote before then.

On Monday, July 4, Mail+ said that Boris was ‘still the best man to lead Britain’:

THE Prime Minister returns to his desk today after an impressive display of statesmanship on the world stage.

Following a Commonwealth conference in Rwanda aimed at building a common future, he returned to Europe to galvanise Nato and a wavering G7 into hardening their support for Ukraine.

Sadly, though, his achievements were overshadowed by yet another Tory sleaze row, leading to inevitable further attacks on his leadership. There are even reports that rebel backbenchers are plotting another attempt at regicide – just a month after the last one failed.

When will this self-mutilation end? Yes, the Chris Pincher affair is ghastly and should have been handled better. But there are far bigger issues at stake.

There’s a painful cost of living crunch, war in Europe and a migration crisis. Meanwhile, Tony Blair and his embittered Remainer chums are on a renewed mission to strangle Brexit.

Instead of dissipating energy on brainless infighting, the parliamentary Conservative Party needs to focus on the problems its constituents actually care about. They can only do that by getting behind their leader.

For all his recent troubles – some self-inflicted – this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country.

None of the potential replacements has his almost unique ability to connect with voters across the social and political spectrum. Crucially, he is the only one capable of winning the next election

That Mail+ editorial has its finger on the pulse of the nation. I will come back to what voters think in a future post.

On Tuesday, July 5, Chris Pincher was in the news again after Baron McDonald of Salford — Simon McDonald — the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote about the MP’s past and what he thought Boris knew to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

I wrote about this at length on July 6, concluding that there was bad blood between the life peer and Boris. Boris sacked him when the Foreign Office was merged with the Department for International Development. To soften the blow, Boris elevated him to the House of Lords. It should be noted that Baron McDonald is also a Remainer.

Wikipedia has a summary of Pincher’s parliamentary history of appointments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson:

Pincher served as an Assistant Whip and Comptroller of the Household in 2017, before he resigned after being implicated in the 2017 Westminster sexual misconduct allegations, having been accused of sexual misconduct by Tom Blenkinsop and Alex Story. Two months later, in January 2018, he was appointed by Theresa May as Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household. After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. In the February 2020 reshuffle, he was appointed Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he returned to his former role of Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household.

As to what the peer alleges Boris knew about Pincher, here are two possibilities:

The matter was discussed on that morning’s Today show on BBC Radio Four.

Guido has the dialogue, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab responding for the Government. Raab said:

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

McDonald was on next. He said:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

Guido said:

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, addressed the matter in Parliament, intimating that Boris forgot a prior briefing on Pincher:

From that point, the spiral turned ever downward.

That day, Sajid Javid resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary.

Shortly afterwards, Rishi Sunak resigned as Chancellor.

That evening, an article by Lord Frost appeared in The Telegraph: ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

No one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can’t be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left

I can’t honestly see what this Prime Minister’s economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of “levelling up”, and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed. 

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility …

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that [reform of Downing Street] was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

On Wednesday, July 6, all hell broke loose.

The Times reported:

The prime minister’s authority over his party is crumbling as three more ministers plus two parliamentary aides resigned this morning and a string of previously loyal MPs turned on his leadership.

Rebel MPs believe that a routine meeting of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers this afternoon could be the trigger point for changing the rules that at present mean Johnson cannot be ousted for another 11 months.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, has told the 16 members of the executive to arrive promptly for the meeting, an instruction being taken by some of those on the executive as a sign that he wants to discuss options for ousting Johnson …

At midday he will take prime minister’s questions knowing that about half — perhaps more — of the Conservative MPs on the benches behind him want him gone

Rebel Conservatives have been contacting Brady today to demand a rule change that would allow Johnson to be ousted as soon as possible. “It is being made very clear to Graham that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said one …

One former minister said that there was a very strong feeling amongst MPs that the issue needed to be brought to a conclusion. “Boris has made very clear that it will take a forklift truck to get him out of Downing Street. So it’s now up to us to assemble the forklift truck.”

The article goes on to list the resignations which came in by 11:30 a.m. that day. More followed in the afternoon.

To make matters worse, Boris got a grilling during his appearance at the Liaison Committee, comprised of the heads of the Commons select committees.

That evening during a telephone call, Boris sacked Michael Gove, who was the Levelling-up Secretary.

Gove had contacted Boris that morning to tell him he should resign before PMQs at noon.

Somehow, the news reached the media.

The Times has the story:

Gove’s allies claimed it was Downing Street that had briefed the media that Gove had told Johnson to resign. They said it was an attempt to make him look disloyal and distract attention from the wider revolt.

“It did not come from us,” one said. “They want to paint Michael as the villain trying to orchestrate a revolt against the PM. Nothing could be further from the truth.” They added that the sacking had then come out of the blue in a call from Downing Street. “He just told Michael that given their conversation in the morning he had no choice but to sack him,” the ally said.

I wonder. Gove is incredibly untrustworthy and, according to the article, he and Boris have had a difficult relationship since their days at Oxford.

Before Boris sacked Gove, a number of Cabinet ministers had urged him to stand down, including Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse, who had worked with Boris during his time as Mayor of London:

Patel’s intervention was striking because of her longstanding support of Johnson, having been home secretary throughout his time as prime minister.

In a one-to-one meeting in No 10 she is understood to have conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party. She said there was no way he could continue to govern without the support of his party.

A similar message was conveyed by Malthouse, her deputy, who was also one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London.

[Brandon] Lewis travelled back from Belfast to tell the prime minister that he believed he should resign. On his flight a passenger heckled him, telling him: “You are complicit in the betrayal of this country by Boris Johnson,” the BBC said.

[Grant] Shapps told the prime minister that he stood little chance of commanding a majority in a second confidence vote. [Kwasi] Kwarteng told Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, that Johnson should resign for the good of the country.

I will have more on the resignations tomorrow.

Advertisement

Tuesday, July 5, 2022 proved to be a memorable day for Boris Johnson for all the wrong reasons.

Last weekend, details emerged of Conservative MP Chris Pincher’s inebriated groping of another man at the Carlton Club in London’s St James. The Carlton Club is the private members club for Conservatives. Chris Pincher had been a Government minister and Deputy Chief Whip.

Lest anyone think the furore about Chris Pincher and blaming Boris for it is about cleaning up government, the end goal remains: get rid of Boris because Boris represents Brexit.

Chris Pincher

Chris Pincher has been a Conservative MP since 2010, the year David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Theresa May gave him his first ministerial role, that of Comptroller of the Household, in 2017. A few months later, she appointed him Treasurer of the Household, the next move up from Comptroller of the Household. In 2018, he then became Deputy Chief Whip, which is a role given by the Chief Whip, not the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson gave Pincher other ministerial roles. I watched him at the despatch box regularly as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas and Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he once again became Treasurer of the Household, a Boris appointment, and Deputy Chief Whip, a Chief Whip appointment.

Then the Carlton Club scandal broke, with Pincher freely admitting in writing what he had done. He has had the Conservative Party whip removed, although he remains an MP for now.

The question from Boris’s enemies is how much blame should the Prime Minister carry.

It looks to me as if it all started with Theresa May, especially as he resigned his 2017 appointment as Comptroller of the Household when sexual misconduct allegations involving MPs swirled into a scandal that year. Pincher was accused of misconduct at the time by then-MP Tom Blenkinsop and Olympic rower Alex Story.

Shortly afterwards, in January 2018, Pincher became Deputy Chief Whip, so the Whip’s office is partly responsible, too.

On July 5, the veteran journalist and columnist Charles Moore explained in The Telegraph how the Whips Office selection process works (purple emphases mine):

The coverage of the row about Chris Pincher, the allegedly groping and confessedly drunk former deputy chief whip, suffers from a false premise. It is said that Boris Johnson appointed him. This is true only in a formal sense. I feel that lobby [press corps] journalists should have made this clear.

This custom is not just a reflection of the fact that any prime minister pays less attention to junior appointments than to Cabinet-level ones. It is also – and mainly – because the whips are a law unto themselves. The idea is that they will know best how to achieve the necessary geographical and ideological spread to look after all sections of the party. The Chief Whip is therefore free – “100 per cent” in the words of one former chief to me – to appoint whoever he thinks fit. This seems sensible: how on earth would a prime minister know that level of detail about who’s who in the parliamentary party? Backbenchers would be suspicious of a whips’ office filled with a prime minister’s favourites.

Each prime minister sees the government chief whip’s list before it is announced and is free to comment on it, but the chief decides. So Boris Johnson would have been breaking the unwritten rules if he had either forbidden or insisted on Mr Pincher’s appointment. If it can be shown that he did the latter, he is in a bit of trouble on the issue. If not, then not.

Lord McDonald

Until July 5, I had never heard of the life peer Baron McDonald of Salford, or Simon to his friends.

Lord McDonald was the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020.

On July 5, he wrote to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

Guido Fawkes posted a copy of the letter, which takes issue with a BBC report of complaints made against Pincher and says that, indeed, allegations had been raised against the MP in 2019.

Two brief excerpts of his letter follow.

In the summer of 2019, after Pincher received his first ministerial appointment (at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) under Boris Johnson:

… a group of officials complained to me about Mr Pincher’s behaviour. I discussed the matter with the relevant official at the Cabinet Office … An investigation upheld the complaint; Mr Pincher apologised and promised not to repeat the inappropriate behaviour. There was no repetition at the FCO before he left seven months later.

The BBC had changed the text of their present-day article about whether Boris knew or not.

Lord McDonald’s letter says:

Mr Johnson was briefed in person about the initiation and outcome of the investigation. There was a “formal complaint”. Allegations were “resolved” only in the sense that the investigation was completed; Mr Pincher was not exonerated. To characterise the allegations as “unsubstantiated” is therefore wrong.

I am aware that it is unusual to write to you and simultaneously publicise the letter. I am conscious of the duty owed to the target of an investigation but I act out of my duty towards the victims. Mr Pincher deceived me and others in 2019 …

He tweeted the text of his letter:

Hmm.

Could there be any bad blood between McDonald and Boris?

Downing Street claims that Boris forgot about the investigation into Pincher.

A commenter on Guido’s post about this claim makes pertinent points:

I find it strange that the criticism is of the appointment of Pincher as Deputy Chief Whip in February. He wasn’t promoted from the backbenches, he was already a minister in the Dept of Levelling Up. If he was unsuitable for ministerial office in Feb, he must have been unsuitable in Jan, so why the focus on the Feb appointment?

Lord MacDonald is another nasty CS mandarin in the Philip Ruttnam mould. His letter is very carefully phrased but disingenuous. If he was unhappy for Pincher to continue as a minister in the FCO for seven months after the 2019 complaint, what did he do about it? If he was content with the arrangement, then clearly the matter was indeed resolved.

Pincher was first appointed to the Whips’ Office by Theresa May. Is anyone in the MSM questioning her judgement?

Gordon Rayner’s Telegraph article, ‘Lord McDonald: The former civil servant who “never saw eye to eye” with Boris Johnson’ has an account of what happened between the peer and Boris, the then-Foreign Secretary during Theresa May’s premiership:

A former civil servant publicly accusing a Prime Minister of lying is a rare event, but Baron McDonald of Salford is unlikely to have had any pangs of guilt about calling out the man who effectively ended his career.

During his time as Boris Johnson’s Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Lord McDonald – or Sir Simon, as he was thenwas suspected by Mr Johnson of running a spying operation and orchestrating damaging leaks about the then foreign secretary.

Mr Johnson believed that media stories accusing him of being lazy and failing to attend properly to his red boxes of ministerial papers were being briefed by Lord McDonald’s department. When the Foreign Office merged with the Department for International Development, Mr Johnson, by then Prime Minister, saw to it that Lord McDonald was squeezed out.

So when he had the chance to expose Mr Johnson’s Downing Street operation for what he says is a lie over the Chris Pincher affair – an undeniably important intervention – he is unlikely to have spent much time wrestling with his conscience.

Does Brexit enter into this? You bet it does:

“They never saw eye to eye,” said one former minister. “Simon never made a secret of the fact that he was a strong Remainer and he has always had big issues with Brexit.”

Another insider said:

“So it does feel a little bit as though Simon has been waiting three years to get his revenge, and has finally had his chance, notwithstanding the fact that what he says may well be true.”

Lord McDonald took early retirement in September 2020. Since then, he has spoken freely:

In March last year Lord McDonald, 61, was interviewed by the think tank UK In a Changing Europe, when he said he was one of three senior civil servants on a Downing Street “s— list” who were “all for the high jump”.

He said that he was “one of those that were soaked” by former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings’ threat of a “hard rain” falling on Whitehall

Mr Johnson softened the blow by giving Lord McDonald a peerage, not an automatic appointment for retiring civil servants. But it has not prevented him from criticising the Prime Minister since then.

So now we know.

It is unlikely that Gordon Rayner’s article will be getting any traction in the media. Will GB News pick it up? I hope so.

McDonald’s letter sends Conservative MPs flying in all directions

Note that McDonald tweeted his letter at 7:30 a.m., just the right time to dictate the news narrative for the day.

And so it proved.

For those in the political bubble, BBC Radio 4’s Today show is required listening.

Guido has a summary of what happened. Deputy PM and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab gave an interview, followed by Lord McDonald (emphases in the original):

… Following ex-Foreign Office Permanent Secretary Sir Simon McDonald’s bombshell letter this morning, Dominic Raab had the task once again of spinning the latest unsustainable No.10 line to the press. Through plenty of coughing and spluttering, Raab insisted on the Today Programme that 

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

Just minutes later, McDonald appeared on Today himself to once again take a sledgehammer to No.10’s line that Boris wasn’t briefed on Pincher’s behaviour in person in 2019, and Raab’s claims that since no “further disciplinary action” was taken, the matter was resolved:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

In Downing Street that morning, a Cabinet meeting took place. Why cameras were allowed, I have no idea. What a silly thing to do, especially when all hell was breaking loose:

At lunchtime in the House of Commons, Michael Ellis, Minister for the Cabinet Office, had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner about what Boris knew of Pincher:

This is the most succinct quote from Ellis:

As I have articulated, there was an exercise in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the matter, which I believe went on for several weeks. I need to confirm the details, because I had insufficient time to do so this morning, but as I say, there was an exercise, and it concluded to the satisfaction of all involved. That was within the Department and, it appears to me, before the Prime Minister was made aware.

One of Guido’s readers sums the matter up as follows:

1. Pincher’s conduct in 2019 was investigated and did not result in disciplinary action in 2019.

2. Independent advice was sought from Simon McDonald and the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team, which also did not result in any form of disciplinary action.

3. The victim in 2019 DID NOT WANT aany disciplinary action against Pincher.

4. Pincher’s appointment to government had followed all set procedures, including oversight by an independent QC. Until this point, as Pincher had kept a clean disciplinary record up, there was no reason to block his appointment to government.

Boris would have no grounds to refuse Pincher’s appointment as there were no official disciplinary action against him up to that point, which is in line with the rules set out in Westminster.

All this drama over whether Boris knew of Pincher’s indescretions would not have changed anything in terms of his appointment to government as he had satisfied all the requirements in terms of pedigree (appointed by two PMs and vetting).

The Opposition benches were full for Ellis and the UQ.

Watching at home, I nearly applauded when Peter Bone got his chance to speak:

Recently, at a Brexit opportunities debate here, there were no Liberal Democrats and virtually no Labour Members. The only time they turn up here is to bash Boris. Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that our constituents in Northamptonshire, which we both represent, are more concerned about an MP they have never heard about, or the biggest tax reduction in decades, which will happen tomorrow?

Ellis replied:

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head, as usual. As he points out, Labour Members have made frequent requests for business in this House to be about not what our constituents primarily care about, but personalities. They do not raise the issue of policies, because when they do, they lose. Instead, they focus on personalities, and that has been the drive of the past six months.

Guido covered MPs’ reaction to the events of the day:

Number 10’s spin operation today after the McDonald letter has, unsurprisingly, gone down like a cup of cold sick with the Tory benches, including amongst Boris loyalists. Guido’s spoken to several MPs following the lobby briefing and Michael Ellis’s Urgent Question response, and they all agreed it was a “disaster“. One said it was “the last days of Rome”…

There were also raised eyebrows – and that’s putting it mildly – over No.10’s decision to allow cameras in to the Cabinet meeting this morning …

Where, one might ask, is the counter-attack? What is Downing Street doing to get on the front foot? What is CCHQ doing? MPs who are hardcore supporters of the Prime Minister are fed up. Trying to push the “biggest tax cut” talking point today won’t work to set the agenda when you put up the same taxes only a few months ago. If the government wants to shift the media’s focus on to the economy, what will they do that Starmer won’t? Tory MPs want a sense of purpose and direction, rather than constantly ricocheting at the hands of the media from one minor negative process story to another, that the general public doesn’t really care about… 

Chancellor and Health Secretary resign

Worse was to come later that afternoon.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid tendered his resignation, followed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.

Some pundits say there was no connection between the resignations.

Others say that the two men are friends and agreed on a plan.

GB News covered the resignations and analysis all evening long. It was a good move. The shows were excellent.

In other news, Theresa May was at the opera with her husband Philip and friends:

Returning to GB News, the resignations happened just before Nigel Farage’s show at 7 p.m. Not surprisingly, Farage thinks that Boris should resign, something he has said many times before and will continue to say for weeks, if not months:

Farage used Guido’s video of that day’s Cabinet meeting:

Discussion continued on Mark Steyn’s show at 8 p.m. By the end of the show one hour later, Boris had appointed Steve Barclay as the new Health Secretary:

Dan Wootton came on at 9 p.m.:

By the time his show was halfway through, Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor of the Exchequer. The conversation between him and Boris in No. 10 was a long one. Apparently, Zahawi was eager to relinquish his role as Education Secretary and really wanted the No. 11 job. Michelle Donelan is the new Education Secretary, having been Minister of State for Higher and Further Education from 2020 to 2022.

Boris deflected a crisis within three hours.

Guido has an ongoing list of other Cabinet resignations, which are, as I write, for minor posts. Red Wall MP Jonathan Gullis, once a staunch Boris supporter, was among that number. It should be noted that the main Cabinet appointees are still in place.

Unfortunately, during that time, Lord Frost, usually a voice for sanity, fell for the McDonald bait. He wrote an article for The Telegraph, ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

I resigned from the Government on a matter of principle. On Tuesday, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak did the same. Other Cabinet Ministers now need to consider whether they are truly happy with the current direction of travel.

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

PMQs on July 6 could have been worse. It was more of the same from the Opposition. On the Conservative benches, which were packed, only Tim Loughton, Gary Sambrook and David Davis (once again) rebelled, all saying that Boris should resign.

After PMQs, Sajid Javid was granted a statement about his resignation. Boris remained seated behind the despatch box. Javid put a big emphasis on ‘integrity’. He said that, for him, ‘loyalty and integrity’ were at loggerheads over the past few months, hence his resignation. He could no longer defend the indefensible, from Partygate to Pincher, especially to his constituents. He told his former Cabinet colleagues that not doing ‘something’ — i.e. resigning — would look bad. Boris left immediately afterwards to jeers of ‘Byeee, Boooris’ from the Opposition benches.

Lee Anderson withdraws support

In an unexpected development, Red Wall MP Lee Anderson has withdrawn his support for Boris:

Guido has the full text of Anderson’s letter, excerpted below:

With A Heavy Heart.

I have remained loyal to the Prime Minister since being elected in 2019.

However my position has changed over the past few days since the incident which led to the Deputy Chief Whip losing the party whip

I do not hold a position I can resign from so the only thing I can do is make my feelings known to my constituents and party members. This statement may upset some people and I am sure some people will be delighted with the demise of our PM but I have a job to do and I must do it with a clear conscience.

My focus has always been my constituents many of whom are friends, family and neighbours and my loyalty to them is paramount.

Finally, I will do all I can to make sure our party wins the next election to form a Government of low taxation and who will be tough on illegal immigration as I feel we could have done better, that said the thought of a Labour Government terrifies me so please keep the faith.

I hope that explains my position.

Perhaps he will throw his hat into the ring when the leadership contest begins in due course.

Meanwhile, Conservative voters are fuming

At home, Conservative voters are perplexed by the actions of what is supposed to be an orderly, no-nonsense Government. Most do not know who Chris Pincher is. They are interested in what Boris and his team are doing to improve our lives which, at the moment, isn’t much.

This is what we have at present, ably stated by a Guido Fawkes reader:

80 seat majority

1: Thousands of illegals being transported across the channel and housed in 4* hotels.

2: Petrol prices through the roof and unexploited known reserves in the North Sea

3: Hundreds of years of coal under our feet, coal fired power stations demolished

4: Fracking abandoned yet we could easily extract sufficient gas for our needs

5: Brexit Done! You’re having a laugh

6: Net zero! The future is frightening

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera

Guido, thanks for the Muppet Show extract.

I couldn’t agree more.

The story continues. More to follow next week, no doubt.

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