Tuesday 5 July 2022 10:45 PM Boris Johnson: Cabinet insider spills on Westminster's biggest day of drama ... trends now

Tuesday 5 July 2022 10:45 PM Boris Johnson: Cabinet insider spills on Westminster's biggest day of drama ... trends now
Tuesday 5 July 2022 10:45 PM Boris Johnson: Cabinet insider spills on Westminster's biggest day of drama ... trends now

Tuesday 5 July 2022 10:45 PM Boris Johnson: Cabinet insider spills on Westminster's biggest day of drama ... trends now

The timing was lethal. At the very moment the TV channels were running a pre-recorded interview with Boris Johnson, in which the Prime Minister was begging his peers and the country for his political life, Rishi Sunak released his damning resignation letter.

Only minutes earlier, Health Secretary Sajid Javid – Sunak’s predecessor as Chancellor – had also quit. One bullet to wound the boss. Another to finish him off.

Sunak and Javid are friends. Last night, few believed the claims that the timing of their double resignation was pure coincidence.

These sensational manoeuvres, later bolstered by Tory vice-chairman Bim Afolami quitting the Government live on television, capped what was surely the most dramatic day in Parliament since the overthrow of Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

Last night, in the tearooms, bars and terraces of the Commons, and in the maze of corridors across the Palace of Westminster, there was only one question. Is it all over for Boris?

Echoing Oscar Wilde, one veteran Tory quipped to me: ‘To lose a Health Secretary is unfortunate. To lose a Chancellor a few minutes later is disastrous. It’s over.’

As the Mail went to press, Downing Street was struggling to find a senior minister to appear on the airwaves this morning to defend the PM, with Sunak’s deputy Simon Clarke refusing to do so.

Another minister told me: ‘In the past 24 hours, the mood among my colleagues has darkened considerably. People are sick of being sent out to defend things that are indefensible.’

The day had started badly – and soon got worse.

Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street on Tuesday evening as he struggles to find a way to survive in office

Mr Johnson returned to Downing Street on Tuesday evening as he struggles to find a way to survive in office 

Mr Sunak's resignation letter

Mr Javid's resignation letter

In his resignation letter (left), Mr Sunak told the PM that 'we cannot continue like this'. Meanwhile, Mr Javid (right) publicly questioned Mr Johnson's integrity, competence and ability to act in the national interest

In a hint of what was to come, Sajid Javid looked grim and had his head bowed. He resigned as Health Secretary this evening

In a hint of what was to come, Sajid Javid looked grim and had his head bowed. He resigned as Health Secretary this evening

The Prime Minister told his sombre top team they must 'help people through the current difficult times'

The Prime Minister told his sombre top team they must 'help people through the current difficult times'

Most likely contenders to Boris's crown should he go after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak's shock resignations

Boris Johnson's leadership faces a fresh leadership crisis tonight after Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid dramatically quit the cabinet. 

Possible candidates to succeed him if he is forced from office come from all wings of the party, from the libertarian right to the One Nation Tory centre.

Among the front-runners are Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and one of her predecessors in the post, Jeremy Hunt, both of whom have made little secret of their desire to take the top job.

Other candidates expected to join a leadership race include Defence Secretary Ben Wallace - who like Truss is very popular with grassroots Tories due to his tough position over the Ukraine war.

And outsiders could include people like Tom Tugendhat, the former British Army officer and chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and Mark Harper, the former chief whip turned critic of the PM's handling of the Covid pandemic.

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No10 had desperately hoped to begin the week by moving on from the toxic headlines surrounding the Chris Pincher affair: specifically, what Boris did or did not know about the allegations of drunken sexual misconduct against the Tory MP when he made him deputy chief whip in February.

As dawn broke, Deputy PM and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab –seen as a safe pair of hands in interviews – was readying himself to appear on the airwaves and hammer home the Government’s message about its efforts to help with the rising cost of living.

But at 7.30am, Lord McDonald released his bombshell letter, in which he claimed Boris had not only known about Pincher’s alleged previous behaviour, he had been ‘briefed in person’ about it.

In words that will surely enter the political history books, McDonald published his letter online, saying: ‘This morning, I have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards – because No10 keep changing their story and are still not telling the truth.’

It was just 20 minutes before Raab was set to be interviewed on BBC One’s flagship Breakfast programme, watched by millions. As the interview with presenter Jon Kay progressed, the usually slick and unflappable Raab, an Oxford- and Cambridge-educated lawyer, was left floundering as he insisted: ‘It was news to me that the Prime Minister was briefed on the specific complaint that was made and the outcome.’

Raab and the PM are believed to have spoken about the Pincher affair during the previous 24 hours – but it seems that Boris did not furnish him with all the facts.

‘Raab was flabbergasted by the letter,’ says a colleague. ‘And it showed in his answers.’

The deputy PM can now be added to the long list of ministers sent in to bat for Boris with insufficient information, and becoming tarnished as a result. ‘To say he is livid is an understatement,’ another source told me last night.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing another leadership crisis after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both resigned in shock fashion

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing another leadership crisis after Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both resigned in shock fashion

Mr Johnson chairing Cabinet on Tuesday, with Mr Javid and Mr Sunak beside him, before their resignations were announced

Mr Johnson chairing Cabinet on Tuesday, with Mr Javid and Mr Sunak beside him, before their resignations were announced

Boris Johnson later told Sajid Javid he was 'sorry' to receive his resignation letter as health secretary

Boris Johnson later told Sajid Javid he was 'sorry' to receive his resignation letter as health secretary

Mr Johnson responded to Sunak's departure praising his 'outstanding service'

Mr Johnson responded to Sunak's departure praising his 'outstanding service'

Who's staying and who's gone from the Government?

QUIT

Rishi Sunak

Sajid Javid

Nicola Richards

Jonathan Gullis

Saqib Bhatti

Virginia Crosbie

Andrew Murrison 

NOT QUITTING

Dominic Raab

Ben Wallace

Priti Patel

Liz Truss

Brandon Lewis 

Michael Gove

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Therese Coffey 

Nadine Dorries

Nadhim Zahawi

Michelle Donelan 

ON WATCH

George Eustice 

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The situation deteriorated only minutes later in the prestigious 8.10am spot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, when McDonald himself was invited on air to twist the knife even further.

Cynics argued that the letter’s appearance just before the Today interview hinted at collusion between the BBC and the diplomat: it was a double-punch likely to inflict maximum political damage on the PM.

If that was the plan, then the day’s events showed how well it was executed.

On Today, Lord McDonald delivered his most devastating line: ‘Telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping that people are not too forensic in their subsequent questioning... is not working.’

Glued to their radios, loyalist MPs tell me they were

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