Another ‘red wall’ Tory MP criticises Johnson’s Partygate apology

Boris Johnson came under further pressure from angry backbenchers after another “red wall” MP said trust in the government was at the point of collapse.

Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow, became the latest MP to publicly question the prime minister’s position, saying an apology was “insufficient” in a letter to constituents.

On Wednesday, Johnson came under fire from a slew of angry commentators in a Mumsnet interview, whose first question was: “Why should we believe anything you say when it’s been proven you’re a habitual liar?”

During the exchange, Johnson said he was “very, very surprised and taken aback” to be fined by the Metropolitan police for his surprise birthday party, which he called a “miserable event”.

Asked about the pressure he was under from MPs, Johnson said: “I’m not going to deny the whole thing hasn’t been a totally miserable experience for people in government.”

He said he was not considering resigning. “I just cannot see how actually it would be responsible right now, given everything that is going on, simply to abandon … the project on which I embarked to level up.

“I am still here because we have got huge pressures economically and we’ve got the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and we have got a massive agenda to deliver.”

Fell, who was elected to Barrow, a “red wall” seat, in 2019 and was part of the “pork pie plot” of MPs who met to discuss their loss of faith in Johnson earlier in the year, stopped short of saying he had written a letter of no confidence in the prime minister.

“I’m left feeling angry and disappointed. It beggars belief that when the government was doing so much to help people during the pandemic, a rotten core with an unacceptable culture carried on regardless of the restrictions placed on the rest of us,” he wrote in a letter to constituents.

“To many of us, these findings are a slap in the face. The culture that Ms Gray’s report details is unforgivable and I certainly will not be defending it. There were no exceptions in the rules for the activities that took place, and there is no excuse whatsoever for them.

“As Ms Gray details, a corrosive culture and a failure in leadership allowed this to happen and apologising after the fact is insufficient … Trust matters. And standards in public life go to the heart of maintaining it – once trust is lost, the whole house of cards is at risk of collapse.”

Fell’s letter makes it 45 MPs who have either submitted a letter of no confidence or stated explicitly that they have lost faith in his leadership – eight of whom are from the 2019 intake.

Those from the 2019 cohort who have submitted letters calling for Johnson to go include Aaron Bell, Alicia Kearns, Elliot Colburn and Anthony Mangnall. Other MPs including Paul Holmes, Duncan Baker and Robert Largan stopped short of explicitly calling for Johnson’s resignation but have expressed concern that the prime minister cannot recover public trust.

The culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, said a vote of no confidence in the prime minister would be an “indulgence” and that attempts to remove him were doing the opposition’s work for them. “I can assure you that the overwhelming number of Conservative MPs are fully behind the prime minister [and] absolutely back him,” she said.

“There is obviously, I think probably led by one or two individuals, a campaign behind the scenes to try, attempt to remove the prime minister for individual reasons to do with personal ambition or other reasons.”

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