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Tories Say ‘Certainly Lost’ Next Election After Gray Report

  • Sue Gray’s report into COVID-19 breaches by UK government officials released Wednesday.
  • Conservatives MPs said after the release that they have “certainly lost” the next election.
  • They think Boris Johnson is “safe” for now but his backbenchers fear lasting public backlash.

Conservative MPs are openly predicting electoral disaster while Boris Johnson appears to be clinging on after Sue Gray published her long-awaited partygate report on Wednesday.

The investigation into multiple breaches of COVID-19 lockdown rules in Downing Street and the surrounding departments — which has resulted in 126 police fines — makes for lurid reading, including details of excessive drunkenness resulting in people vomiting, fighting, and breaking a child’s swing, as well as being rude to the cleaners.

But while Gray blamed “leadership failings,” as she did in her previous report, she stopped short of naming names. 

An hour after the report was made public, Johnson gave a statement to the House of Commons, in which he defended his own behaviour but said he was “humbled by the whole experience.”

He also said he was “appalled by some of the behaviour, particularly in the treatment of the security and the cleaning staff.”

During a back and forth with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Johnson accused his political rival of hypocrisy, branding him “Sir Beer Korma” — a reference to allegations that Starmer also broke lockdown rules by drinking a beer and eating a curry with aides, in what is known as “beergate.”

Conservative MPs were thin on the ground during the debate, with just a handful intervening to offer the prime minister their overt support.

Several others, including Aaron Bell, who has previously been outspoken in his criticism of partygate, asked Johnson probing questions.

Speaking to Insider afterwards, several Tory backbenchers expressed their dismay. They were granted anonymity to speak freely. 

One said: “I’ve concluded from today’s report — the PM is safe but we’ve certainly lost the next general election.”

Another senior MP, who sits on a four-figure majority, said he was now expecting to lose his seat at the next vote, and was considering his future career. 

A former minister told Insider: “The emails are starting to come in though. The public have not moved on.”

A fourth MP said that “at least one” new letter of no confidence had been submitted this morning. 

On Tuesday, sources suggested that Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, had received as many as 50 letters already, and that a vote of no confidence could be imminent

Johnson is expected to address the 1922 committee early Wednesday evening, after which 100 MPs have been invited to an overnight event to plan the party’s future election strategy.

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