Boris Johnson faced further pressure on Wednesday to resign over the wake of the scandal over parties in Downing Street when three more Conservative MPs called for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chairman of the Commons defence committee and a former foreign office minister, Anthony Mangnall and Gary Streeter brought to 13 the number of Conservative backbenchers calling publicly for the prime minister to go.
Mr Ellwood said the prime minister did not seem to realise how worried Conservative MPs were about what was happening at the top of government.
“This is just horrible for all MPs to continuously have to defend this to the British public. The government’s acknowledged the need for fundamental change, culture, make-up, discipline, the tone of Number 10, but the strategy has been one, it seems, of survival, of rushed policy announcements like the navy taking over the migrant Channel crossings,” he told Sky News.
"And attacking this week Keir Starmer with Jimmy Savile. I mean, who advised the prime minister to say this? We're better than this, we must seek to improve our standards and rise above where we are today . . . I don't think the prime minister realises how worried colleagues are in every corner of the party, backbenchers and ministers alike, that this is all only going one way and will invariably slide towards a very ugly place. I believe it's time for the prime minister to take a grip of this; he himself should call a vote of confidence rather than waiting for the inevitable 54 letters to be eventually submitted."
The prime minister faced criticism from a number of Conservative MPs for suggesting this week that Sir Keir had been responsible as director of public prosecutions for the failure to bring Savile to justice. Sir Keir said at prime minister's questions on Wednesday that Mr Johnson was "parroting the conspiracy theories of violent fascists to try to score cheap political points".
Failures of leadership
Cabinet office official Sue Gray this week said there were failures of leadership in Downing Street that allowed parties to take place during lockdown which should not have happened. The Metropolitan Police are investigating 12 gatherings for possible, serious breaches of lockdown rules, including one in Mr Johnson's private flat.
“Standards in public life matter. At this time I can no longer support the PM,” Mr Mangnall said.
“His actions and mistruths are overshadowing the extraordinary work of so many excellent ministers and colleagues. I have submitted a letter of no confidence.”
The continuing repercussions from the Downing Street parties overshadowed the launch of the government's White Paper on "levelling up", which aims to tackle regional inequality in Britain. Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of the levelling-up agenda, promised more devolution for English regions, better public transport services and more funding to boost research and development around Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
“Our economy has been like a jet propelled by only one engine, now we need to fire up every resource we have,” he said.
“And the economic prize from levelling up is potentially enormous.”