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Removing Boris Johnson from office would not be in the national interest, the Tory Party chair has claimed.
Johnson is once again fighting for his political future following the return of the Partygate row which saw him become the first serving prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law, after being fined for attending a Downing Street gathering during lockdown in June 2020.
On the one hand, Johnson faces being removed through a confidence vote by his own Conservative MPs angry at how the row will damage their electoral prospects.
On the other, the PM faces a vote on an inquiry into whether he misled Parliament over the scandal - something which would further intensify pressure on him to resign.
Party chair Dowden appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme to defend his boss, saying the “hurt and anger” caused by the Partygate scandal needs to be balanced with “the really good things he has done as prime minister - delivering the vaccine programme, getting Brexit done or the actions in Ukraine - but also with the challenges we face right now, whether that’s national security or energy security, these unparalleled challenges.
“And I actually think instability and uncertainty caused by a change of leadership would not be in the national interest.”
Johnson had appeared to recover some of his standing amid the UK’s response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but the return of the Partygate scandal this month is once again damaging his authority as PM.
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Downing Street is also said to be braced for Johnson to receive a second fine after police reportedly began issuing fines relating to the “bring your own bottle” drinks do in the Number 10 garden in May 2020.
Dowden, though, insisted “he’s got plenty more fuel in the tank”, saying he expects Johnson to be leading the Tories in the next general election and that it is “quite a speculation” to suggest he'll be handed further fines.
Meanwhile, appearing on the same show, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer defended the attention he has paid to Partygate amid the cost of living crisis.
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While admitting more people are concerned about spiralling bills than they are about the Downing Street lockdown parties and gatherings, Starmer said: “If you or anybody else think that I’m not bothered by standards in public life, that it doesn’t matter that the prime minister has broken the laws that he made, that it doesn’t matter that his authority to lead the country is shot through, that it doesn’t matter that his own MPs now… don’t really want to defend him because they are sick of defending the indefensible, then I am sorry, I am not going to shy away from that.”
He added: “No prime minister in the history of our country has even been in that position before. So he’s brought this on himself. His moral authority, his authority to lead, is shot through and his own side have now had enough of defending him.”