Embattled Boris orders ministers to hold Covid-style press conferences on cost-of-living crisis as PM attempts to stage fightback over latest scandal and allies urge him to ‘hunker down’ until recess
Boris Johnson has told senior ministers of his plan to hold Covid-style press conferences in order to highlight Government efforts to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
The Prime Minister, who is being battered by another Tory sleaze scandal, today insisted the squeeze on household budgets would remain his ‘top priority’ over the coming months.
The economic pain for families is set to worsen further with predictions that rocketing inflation could reach as high as 11 per cent in the autumn.
Downing Street suggested the appearance by top ministers at regular press conferences would demonstrate the Government is treating the cost-of-living crisis with ‘the same level of seriousness’ as the Covid pandemic.
Number 10 denied the plan, and its announcement today, was a means of distracting from Mr Johnson’s latest woes.
The PM’s leadership is under renewed pressure following the resignation of his deputy chief whip Chris Pincher following claims he drunkenly groped two men.
Mr Johnson has been revealed to have been aware of previous allegations against the 52-year-old – including a complaint that was upheld when Mr Pincher was a minister in the Foreign Office – prior to appointing him deputy chief whip in February.
Allies of the PM today urged him to hunker down and wait for Parliament’s summer recess at the end of this month, when an immediate threat to his premiership from Tory rebels would subside – at least for a few weeks.
Boris Johnson has told senior ministers of his plan to hold Covid-style press conferences to highlight Government efforts during the cost-of-living crisis
Allies of the PM today urged him to hunker down and wait for Parliament’s summer recess as he contends with another Tory sleaze scandal
Boris warned he might be safe for the summer – but could still be gone by Christmas
Boris Johnson is facing a renewed threat to his leadership following the latest Tory sleaze scandal.
Claims against ex-deputy chief whip Chris Pincher – and No10’s handling of the row – has emboldened Conservative rebels in their attempts to get rid of the PM.
Their challenge in achieving that aim is the fact that Mr Johnson won a no confidence vote over his leadership only last month.
This granted him immunity from another challenge for 12 months.
But, in a new rebel plot, critics of the PM are attempting to win key positions on the 1922 Committee – the influential body in charge of Tory leadership contests – in a battle with PM loyalists.
If rebels secure a majority on the Committee’s 18-strong executive, they could change the rules to allow Mr Johnson to face another no confidence vote sooner than next June.
The 1922 elections are not due to take place until next week and MPs then go on their summer break on 21 July.
This means there is little time for Tory rebels to change the rules and also stage a no confidence vote before MPs head away from Westminster until September.
No.10 will take confidence that the PM, therefore, is safe for the summer – which they might hope will act as a ‘firebreak’ in cooling the fury of rebel MPs.
Mr Johnson will plot an autumn fightback with his Tory conference speech in October.
But some are still predicting the PM – despite being granted a summer respite – will still be gone within months.
One northern Tory MP, who has not been a regular rebel, said: ‘I’ll be amazed if Boris gets to Christmas.’
At a Cabinet meeting this morning, Mr Johnson hailed tomorrow’s changes to National Insurance thresholds and described them as the ‘single biggest personal tax cut in a decade’.
‘The PM said that it will be in people’s pay packets from tomorrow onwards and amongst other things it is there to help people up and down the country with the cost of living,’ Downing Street said in a readout of the meeting.
No10 revealed how Mr Johnson had told his Cabinet that ‘tackling inflation and addressing cost of living pressures will remain the top priority’.
The PM also told his top ministers that they would be ‘holding regular Government press conferences over the next six months to explain the details of different elements of the government’s plan for the economy’.
During the early stages of the Covid pandemic, the PM and other ministers – as well as top advisers such as Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty – fronted daily press conferences.
Downing Street said the cost-of-living press conferences would not be as regular – and not necessarily weekly or fortnightly – but would be held ‘at the right moment’ and could coincide with the publication of latest economic statistics.
Asked whether the plan was a sign that the inflation crisis was as serious as the pandemic, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘It can be risky to draw equivalence, given we are talking about individuals who lost their lives, sadly.
‘It is right that this is something that is a significant burden on people up and down the country, and indeed globally.’
That meant the cost-of-living crisis ‘should be treated with the same level of seriousness in terms of trying to address the problem’, the spokesman added.
The latest Tory sleaze row over Mr Pincher has embolden Tory rebels to renew their efforts to rip up Conservative Party rules and force Mr Johnson to face another no confidence vote – despite him having won such a contest last month.
But a senior Conservative MP who is loyal to the PM played down the idea that the current scandal would prove terminal for Mr Johnson – although they criticised No10’s ‘very frustrating’ handling of the row.
They told MailOnline: ‘When recess kicks in it isn’t going to last… we’ve got two weeks from Thursday. The story will run until then.
‘The bottom line is it’s very frustrating that a story about a misjudgement in a single appointment has been unnecessarily made much bigger by botched comms.’
The MP also insisted the PM was ‘not going’, as they suggested he had clung on through more serious controversies.
‘Just look at all the other things over which he hasn’t gone,’ they added.