What next for Nadhim Zahawi?

One by one, cabinet ministers are confirming that they are not resigning this evening, leaving a very small group of ministers who have said nothing. One of the most conspicuous silences comes from Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary. He has been mooted as a potential leadership contender, and has refused to rule out a bid. Tonight, he is not answering calls from colleagues. He is reading messages on WhatsApp but not replying to them. It has now been too long for him just to be a bit busy. Zahawi has one of those things that Westminster types are obsessed with: a backstory Currently we have two cabinet resignations and a

What will the anti-Boris rebels do now?

Looking at these Tory losses, it is hard not to conclude that the rebels would have got the 180 votes they needed to oust Boris Johnson if they had been organised enough to wait until after the by-elections before going for a vote of no confidence. But having had a vote two weeks ago, it is not credible to suggest changing the rules immediately to allow another one. However, judging from the conversations I have had with Tory MPs this morning, more of them would now like the option of having another vote sooner than a year from now. Some talk about the autumn, others about March. In a way, Oliver

Geidt of the long knives: what the PM’s ethics adviser’s resignation means

Boris Johnson has lost his second ethics advisor since entering No. 10. This evening Lord Geidt announced his resignation as the Prime Ministers’s independent adviser on ministers’ interests: ‘With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests.’ It’s clearly not good news, yet the timing could have been worse There have been rumours for some time that Geidt – who previously served as the Queen’s private secretary – could be on the brink of resigning. He was brought in last April to replace Sir Alex Allan, who quit the role in late 2020 after Priti Patel, the Home

Are the Australian election results a bad sign for the Tories?

Scott Morrison’s Liberals were absolutely thrashed in the Australian elections this weekend. The party’s vote collapsed, and there were big-name defeats, with the man touted as Morrison’s successor – Josh Frydenberg – ousted in Kooyong, a suburb which had been in the party’s hands for 121 years. Whatever went wrong for the Morrison government, Saturday’s results might have relevance closer to home, even if teasing out domestic lessons from elections on the other side of the world is problematic. Australia is a different country, with a different political culture and a different electoral system. Scott Morrison was also an unloveable figure — stolid, gaffe-prone and not outwardly empathetic. When women marched

Is Boris Johnson planning an emergency Budget?

Boris Johnson is running out of time to produce things the Tories can show the voters at the next election. The theme of his Queen’s Speech – if there was one – was an attempt to fix that. That next election campaign was countered by Keir Starmer in the chamber this afternoon. The main focus was on the cost-of-living crisis and how much worse things are going to get. Funnily enough, Starmer didn’t mention the members of the government who’d broken Covid rules The Labour leader repeatedly accused this government of not being ‘up to the challenge’, with the Tories producing only a ‘thin address bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding

Mark Harper is an honourable politician

This is a short story about Mark Harper MP, who is making headlines. These days Harper is probably best known as a backbench critic of Covid restrictions, but he once had a promising career as a minister, including a spell in David Cameron’s cabinet between 2015 to 2016. But that career hit a bump in early 2014 when he quit his post as immigration minister. I was running the Telegraph’s political team at the time. Many ministerial resignations are unmemorable, but Harper’s sticks in the memory. He quit because he learned that a cleaner he paid to look after his London flat did not have legal permission to live and

Kemi Badenoch: the curriculum does not need ‘decolonising’

When the government published a report last year by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) into racism in the UK, it was the subject of controversy. The report concluded the UK does not have a systemic problem with racism (while accepting there are issues), and a number of charities dubbed it ‘deeply troubling’. A year later and the government finally set out its response to the report and how it intends to deal with the inequalities highlighted in it.  Taking its founding principles from the original report, it essentially accepts the chair Tony Sewell’s logic that the different outcomes for different minority groups means that it is the wrong approach to attribute every problem to racism.

Rishi Sunak is no Gordon Brown

How at home Rishi Sunak looks in the company of academics. The chancellor delivered the 34th Mais Lecture this afternoon at the Bayes Business School in east London. Standing at the lectern in his dapper blue suit, he had the air of a cerebral super-monk bred on figs and yogurt. He’s the first British chancellor to hold an MBA from Stanford and he seemed perfectly at ease in this warm, well-lit room full of brain-boxes with double-firsts in economics. He speaks their jargon fluently. Instead of a ‘job’ he talks about ‘an employment outcome ’. His term for a ‘career’ is ‘a fulfilling professional experience.’ And when he refers to

What is Boris’s partygate defence?

The presumption of many MPs — and maybe many of you — is that the Met is bound to issue a fixed penalty notice to the Prime Minister for attending parties in Downing Street, because the half dozen ‘events’ he attended look, swim and quack like a party, and therefore must have been a breach of Covid rules. So what is Boris Johnson’s defence? He thinks he has one, so he is paying out of his own pocket for a lawyer — who is also being used by his wife Carrie Johnson. And the Met Police have sent the relevant questionnaires for the PM and Carrie direct to this lawyer.

Boris vs the Scottish Tories

As the Foreign Secretary warns an invasion of Ukraine by Russia could be ‘imminent’, Boris Johnson has been spending the day on a ‘Levelling Up’ tour in a bid to get his premiership back on track. The stops include both the North of England and Scotland. For the latter part, the Prime Minister today visited Rosyth Dockyard where new Royal Navy warships are under construction.  Only Johnson cut a rather lonely figure — with no Scottish Conservatives coming out to meet him. While his long time ally Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, is simply away so unable to join, for others it appears to be more personal. The leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross was absent today. He

Another letter goes in — how close is Boris to 54?

Nick Gibb has become the latest Tory MP to declare that he has submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister to Graham Brady. The former schools minister writes in the Telegraph that ‘to restore trust, we need to change the Prime Minister’. Gibb’s letter will worry the Johnson operation because he is not a usual suspect. Yes, he left government in last September’s reshuffle. But he has hardly been a serial critic since then. If parliamentarians like him are coming out publicly, No. 10 will worry about how many more are submitting letters behind the scenes. The whole question of how many letters are actually in, as

Why Munira Mirza’s resignation matters

Boris Johnson’s great strength has always been his ability to spot, recruit and hire a great variety of brilliant people. He did so when he edited this magazine and as London Mayor with a superb crop of deputy mayors. As Foreign Secretary he couldn’t hire anyone, so he struggled. As Prime Minister, his gift seemed to have come back when he hired Munira Mirza as policy chief. She was one of his deputy mayors and having her in No. 10 was, to me, a promise of great things to come. Her resignation, today, suggests a prime ministerial team that’s falling apart rather than being rebuilt. She is an academic, a thinker, a fighter, writer (she once wrote a

Isabel Hardman

Boris is finished — it’s when, not if

This week, Michael Gove’s lengthy Levelling Up white paper talked about the ancient city of Jericho. This was largely because of its size and natural irrigation, but perhaps the Biblical story of the city’s walls falling might be more fitting given the state of Downing Street. The response in the Conservative party to not one but four senior resignations — for unconnected reasons — is pretty fatalistic. Martin Reynolds and Dan Rosenfield were doomed because of the former’s ‘BYOB’ email and the latter’s unpopularity with Tory MPs. But the Munira Mirza case is stranger: senior staff don’t tend to quit. Ministers like to resign in a blaze of glory, but

Boris Johnson’s fightback has been cut short

Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence select committee, has this morning announced that he is sending a letter to the 1922 chairman calling for a no confidence vote in Boris Johnson. In a way this is not a surprise: Johnson cut Ellwood from the government when he became Prime Minister and the two are temperamentally very different. But the worry for No. 10 is that there are rather a lot of former ministers on the backbenches these days, and if a lot of them start writing letters then a no confidence vote will become a near certainty. Another concern for No. 10 this morning is whether they can live up to

Inside Boris Johnson’s showdown with Tory MPs

After Tory MPs spent the afternoon laying into Boris Johnson over Sue Gray’s summary of her report, the Prime Minister finds himself in a much more fragile position than when he started the day. Tonight he addressed Tory MPs at a meeting of the 1922 committee. Given Johnson’s Commons appearance rattled MPs rather than improving relations, Johnson went into the meeting on the backfoot. The demand to hear the PM speak was so great that MPs arriving late were turned away. The demand to hear the PM speak was so great that MPs arriving late were turned away Johnson began the meeting by telling MPs he had a really torrid

Rishi, it’s not the 1980s anymore

The stench of death clings to Boris Johnson. Bury South MP Christian Wakeford has crossed the floor to join Labour. David Davis has told him to resign ‘in the name of God’. Tory MPs reportedly continue to hand in letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee. Once they reach 54, there will be a vote of confidence. Fresh polling on the Red Wall, conducted by JL Partners for Channel 4, puts Labour at 48 per cent and 37 per cent for the Tories, a near inversion of the 2019 election result. Sir Graham Brady — and Sir Keir — should expect some more knocks on their doors. The revelation

Did Johnson mislead the Commons?

Boris Johnson had hoped to move attention this week from parties — with a series of policy announcements planned as part of ‘Operation Red Meat’, his fightback plan. Nadine Dorries this afternoon told MPs in the Commons of plans to freeze the BBC licence fee for two years while No. 10 plan to bring the military in to tackle the channel crossings — a move that led MPs to congratulate the government on the Tory WhatsApp group. Yet as No. 10 waits for Sue Gray’s report into Partygate, the situation is moving. This afternoon, Boris Johnson’s former aide turned tormentor-in-chief Dominic Cummings published a blog on his Substack in which he made new allegations

Do the Tory whips have Boris’s back?

Whips are made for leadership crises. They are a party leader’s early warning system; they can sniff out plots before they get going. So it is, as I report in this week’s magazine, far from ideal for Boris Johnson that relations between him and the whips office remain strained. The problem dates back to the Owen Paterson affair. The whips were furious that their chief, Mark Spencer, received so much of the blame when they felt he was just following orders from No. 10. The result, one Johnson ministerial loyalist complains, is that ‘the whips’ office are on a go-slow’. When Labour went on the attack with an urgent question on Tuesday,

Katy Balls

The jury’s still out for Boris Johnson among MPs

When Michael Gove addressed Tory MPs on Wednesday evening at a meeting of the 1922 committee, he began with a tribute to Boris Johnson. After a rocky few days for the Prime Minister in which he has apologised to the House for attending a drinks party in the Downing Street garden during lockdown and faced calls from his own side to resign, Gove took the opportunity to remind MPs of Johnson’s selling points. The levelling up secretary told MPs that their leader ‘gets the big calls right’ citing Brexit, vaccines and Johnson’s recent decision not to bring in extra Covid restrictions over Christmas. Given that Gove was one of the ministers calling for

Boris Johnson is running out of road

There has been no good news for Boris Johnson today. After an email leaked on Monday evening showing that the Prime Minister’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds invited over 100 staff to a drinks party in the No. 10 garden in May 2020, the Prime Minister has come under fire from his own side. Downing Street has refused to deny reports that both Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were present at the event. Instead, all No. 10 will say is that Sue Gray’s inquiry into alleged Covid rule breaking at various Downing Street parties is ongoing.  The atmosphere in the Commons has been notably muted. The Tory benches were rather quiet when