Boris Johnson to spend crunch weekend pleading with Tory MPs for support ahead of ‘partygate’ report

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Boris Johnson to spend crunch weekend pleading with Tory MPs for support ahead of ‘partygate’ report
© Provided by The i Boris Johnson waves as he leaves Downing Street this week (John Sibley/Reuters)

Boris Johnson will spend the weekend pleading with Conservative MPs to support him as the senior civil servant tasked with investigating the “partygate” scandal that threatens to end his premiership compiles her findings.

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The Prime Minister will retreat to his Chequers grace-and-favour mansion, from where he will phone Tory MPs in an push to shore up his position, although No 10 claims that it is part of “regular” engagement.

At the same time, Sue Gray will be writing the report on lockdown-breaching Downing Street parties that could either trigger a decisive move against Mr Johnson or give him enough of a defence to save his job.

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The prospect of a Tory leadership contest being triggered this week fizzled out after Christian Wakeford’s defection to Labour momentarily united the party

Fresh revelations about Downing Street staff partying until 1am in a seven-hour drinking session the night before the Queen attended Prince Philip’s funeral threaten to make Mr Johnson’s job of winning over Tory MPs more difficult.

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Many are believed to be waiting for Ms Gray’s report before delivering judgement on whether to submit a letter of no confidence.

But some will be poring over fresh details about the party obtained by The Telegraph.

The newspaper said it had a photograph of No 10 staff, some with drinks, gathered in the Downing Street basement on the night in question, but it had not published it by Friday evening.

The picture could become a focal point in Ms Gray’s inquiry, which is expected to be published next week, but may not on its own prove fatal for Mr Johnson given he was not in the building at the time.

One Whitehall source told i that the PM and Cabinet were desperate to get past the Gray inquiry and start delivering on the Government’s priorities.

The source also claimed there was a feeling among MPs that the party was not blessed with politicians who had Mr Johnson’s ability to connect with the public, and so were questioning whether he should be replaced.

To trigger a Tory leadership contest, 54 MPs would have to submit letters of no confidence in the PM to the backbench 1922 Committee.

But they spoke as a Survation poll showed Labour extending its lead over the Conservatives to 10 points, on 43 per cent compared with the Tories’ 33 per cent.

One senior Tory said Ms Gray could “lay blame on Downing Street” but “may give the PM a ladder” to safety.

“My sense is it’s close whether the 54 number will be reached,” they said. “But I think he survives for now.”

The news came as Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary and a leading contender to take over from Mr Johnson, said “there is no leadership election” and that she wanted the Prime Minister to “continue as long as possible in his job”.

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