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With the Prime Minister’s fate still in the balance as civil servant Sue Gray prepares to publish her report into the lockdown breaking Downing Street parties, Mr Johnson on Saturday picked up the phone and went on a charm offensive with unhappy backbenchers.
The Sunday Express understands that he mainly targeted members of the 2019 who were “wavering” over whether to continue to support him.
The Prime Minister has also been boosted in a Sunday Express poll by Redfield and Wilton which shows that 54 per cent think he made the right call to reject the advice of scientists and not impose greater restrictions over Christmas.
Mr Johnson’s message to wavering Tory MPs has been repeated by two of his cabinet ministers in today’s Sunday Express.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi wrote that the Prime Minister is a “Conservative hero” who has made all the right calls on covid during the pandemic.
He said: “In my former role as Vaccines Minister, I worked closely with the PM as we used evidence, expertise, passion and commitment to deliver a world leading vaccine programme.
“He backed me completely as I threw the kitchen sink at making sure that schools reopened after the Christmas break.
“Boris has got the big calls right, which is why we are able to now lift all covid restrictions – including ditching face masks in the classroom, a personal priory for me as Education Secretary.”
And in a message to help win over the many Tory MPs who are worried about further restrictions, he added: “The removal of restrictions is a huge victory for freedom and liberty.”
He warned: “If Labour were in power, there is every chance that we would still be in a national lockdown.
“Keir Starmer has called for further restrictions at every step of the way, while offering no answers or no solutions.
“But in Boris, we have a Prime Minister who has been willing to make the tough calls, and they’ve paid off.”
Meanwhile, in his Words of Wisdom column for the Sunday Express today, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg echoed another message from the Prime Minister to wavering MPs that they may be aiding those who want to undo Brexit.
He said: “The claims by [Remainers] Lord Heseltine and Lord Adonis that, without Boris Johnson, Brexit would be in jeopardy illustrates the underlying desire of many of his opponents. Brexiteers beware.”
The message is seen as particularly important to worried MPs in Red Wall seats where the “get Brexit done” election message helped win over many former Labour voters.
Allies of the Prime Minister have admitted that they are nervous about the report into the parties, which is expected to be published next week.
Mr Johnson only narrowly avoided a vote of confidence being initiated on Wednesday last week with allegations that it was avoided after brutal tactics used by his party whips in the Commons.
The Sunday Express understands that more than 40 of the 54 letters from Conservative MPs to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady needed to call a vote of confidence in Mr Johnson were still submitted.
But a Government insider has said that the putsch was coming from “many of the usual suspects who have always hated Brexit and the Prime Minister personally”.
The insider added: “A lot of the 2019 intake are inexperienced still and don’t understand you have to take the rough with the smooth in politics so may have been easily influenced by the recent problems.
“The Prime Minister has been talking to a lot of waverers including 2019ers but what has gone unreported is that he has been doing a lot of work getting on with the job.
“He has been taking a lead internationally on the Ukraine/ Russia crisis and held a lot of meetings about that.
“A lot of the cabinet time has been focussed on the future legislative programme for Parliament to take us on after covid.
“He has also been holding meetings with [Chancellor] Rishi [Sunak] and [Work and Pensions Secretary] Therese [Coffey] to work out what we can do about the cost of living crisis.
“It’s been a very busy week.”
However, rebel leaders last night were still confident they will be able to oust the Prime Minister once the Sue Gray report is published.
Brexit spartan and North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “I think he is toast. I didn’t get a call and wasn’t expecting one because I think I have burnt my bridges there.
“But he has to go and when the details come out in the report I suspect my colleagues will pile in and it will be over.”
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said Mr Johsnon was “unfit for office”.
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She said if she was an MP, she would submit a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister to the 1922 Committee.
Baroness Davidson said: “I didn’t support him for the leadership and I believe what has been exposed to have happened in the last few weeks shows that he’s unfit for office but, I mean, he’s perfectly convivial company.”
As well as anger over the lockdown parties, Baroness Davidson claimed some in the Tory party are tired of the “drama” coming from Number 10.
“I think one of the reasons that the Prime Minister is in such a perilous situation is not just because of the apparent rule-breaking, although that is a big part of it, but because there is a fatigue even within the party and certainly by my MP colleagues for the drama that has been emanating from Number 10,” she said.
Current Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has also called on him to leave.
Most Tory MPs contacted by the Sunday Express yesterday wanted to stay off the record, even supporters of the Prime Minister.
“It’s all a bit tense,” one said.
However, Express readers have come out strongly behind the Prime Minister.
In a telephone poll of Express readers 93 per cent agreed that Mr Johnson is “the right man for the job.”
Support for him is also reflected on today’s Sunday Express letter page.
Peter Prince of Brixham in Devon wrote: “Surely I am not the only person who is fed up with MPs blithering and drivelling on and on about parties and Uncle Boris’s decorating costs?”
Michael Carter, of Hertfordshire, added: “If the Tory Party fancy some time out of office then voting Boris out is the way to go.”
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