Boris Johnson is heading off to Ukraine, but he doesn’t leave his troubles entirely behind him.
Tory MPs are, for now, rallying around the PM who – after weeks of insisting he did nothing wrong – apologised yesterday after Sue Gray documented “failures of leadership” in No10.
“He survives another day”, said one of his loyal MPs. Hanging on is a win for now.
Fall-out continues after the publication of the Sue Gray report – follow the latest developments
Speaking to some of the prime minister’s critics last night, most said they expected him to weather the scandal – at least in the short term.
Some of the “pork pie” plotters are publicly recanting – one of them, Gary Sambrook, tweeting that he now supports the PM.
But even his allies concede that if the police find he personally broke the law, hand him a fixed penalty notice, or any damaging photos – after all 300 have been handed to the police – come to light, the mood could turn quickly.
The gathering in his flat, allegedly to celebrate the departure of Dominic Cummings on 13 November, which the PM and his wife have both denied, is the biggest cause of concern for his MPs.
Sir Keir Starmer told Sky News this morning that the prime minister is “unfit for office” and Tory MPs are “debasing themselves” by keeping him there.
How can the bombshell that 12 gatherings in Downing Street – three of them thought to have been attended by the prime minister – are being investigated by the police, have passed with everyone left standing?
Boris Johnson has seized on Sue Gray’s suggestion that he will waste no time in overhauling his operation. He told MPs last night that would create panels of MPs to feed in policy ideas – promptly triggering calls from some in the room for him to reduce environmental taxes on energy bills, which the PM then defended.
Several MPs said the PM told colleagues to contact him with their ideas. He was saying “WhatsApp me. You’ve got my number”, one said. “I know I can be slow to reply… he’s raised expectations very high”.
The PM also promised to bring in new people to No10 – although did not comment on the future of any of his current staff, and to take advice in some capacity from his old campaign manager Lynton Crosby.
Whether or not any of this can turn around public perceptions, or head off anything more damaging coming out, he’s been given some breathing space.