Things are going from bad to worse for Boris Johnson—who has now been accused of blackmail. Senior Tory MP William Wragg claimed on Thursday that party whips were “threatening to withhold investments from MPs’ constituencies that are funded from the public purse”.
Wragg is chair of the House of Commons public administration and constitutional affairs select committee. He has advised other Tory MPs to take complaints of blackmail by ministers, whips and advisers to the police, who so far have refused to investigate Downing Street lockdown parties.
Wragg also claimed that “members of staff at Number 10, special advisers, government ministers and others” were involved in a smear operation against Johnson’s opponents.
He said they were “encouraging the publication of stories in the press, seeking to embarrass those they suspect of lacking confidence in the prime minister”. Wragg added this seemed to him “to constitute blackmail”.
The revelations are another sign of the crisis engulfing the Tories as Johnson’s supporters try to protect him from a vote of no confidence by his own MPs.
Many Tory MPs are now waiting for the outcome of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report into the parties before making a move. She was given the task by Johnson himself.
Gray’s report on the parties will delve into “drinking culture” in Number 10 and Johnson’s knowledge about parties including the “bring your own booze” party held in his own garden in May 2020.
Johnson denied any real wrongdoing in the House of Commons, believing “implicitly” it was a work event. He “categorically” said that nobody told him that any of the gatherings he attended broke his own rules.
To force a vote of no confidence 54 Tory MPs—15 percent—would have to submit letters to the backbenchers’ 1922 Committee.
In an attempt to save his own skin, Johnson is ready to sack all the officials and advisers involved in the parties held during the first lockdown in 2020. And health secretary Sajid Javid said he was “looking forward to disciplinary action” being taken against those involved.
Johnson—and all the Tories—should go. The defection of Bury South MP Christian Wakeford to Labour shows the Tories sense anger against the government and are desperate to keep their seats. Wakeford said party whips told him he would lose funding for a new secondary school in his constituency if he did not vote in line with Johnson.
It also shows the lengths Labour will go to in order to appeal to the right and establishment—by welcoming Tories but expelling socialists. Indeed, Wakeford said he was a “centrist… just wearing a different rosette”.
Meanwhile, the cost of living crisis is mounting for ordinary people. Working class people cannot just wait for Johnson to fall at the hands of Tory MPs—or for a Labour Party that offers no alternative.
Yet the union leaders sit on their hands. The TUC union federation emptily demanded the Tories “come forward with a plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis” when the new inflation figures came out on Wednesday.
Every trade unionist and campaigner should build solidarity for workers’ struggles that are taking place, such as the all-out strike at Chep UK. And they should fight to raise the level of struggle by fermenting strikes in their own workplaces.
The UCU university union leaders should call hard-hitting action that can become a focus for wider resistance.
Taking to the streets, and pressuring union leaders to act, to demand Johnson leaves now will set the tone for whoever takes his place.
The whole establishment is in crisis—we need resistance and to put forward socialist solutions.