Partygate: Tory MP attempts to defend Prime Minister after fines
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Local elections are being held across parts of England, Scotland and Wales on May 5, while the Northern Ireland Assembly election will also take place. Major events have drastically changed politics across the world and in the UK since the last time most of the local authorities were contested in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis have all had major impacts on people’s lives.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also found himself at the centre of a political firestorm over parties held in Downing Street that broke COVID-19 rules — some of which he, his wife Carrie Johnson, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were recently fined for.
Now, Dr Nicholas Dickinson from the University of Oxford, has claimed that Mr Johnson may have “damaged” the Conservatives beyond repair ahead of the local elections.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “With Johnson as leader the polling is bad and if anything is getting worse.
“And the longer he stays, the longer that damage is prolonged.
“The longer his negative ratings begin to affect the Conservative Party in a more long-term way.”
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The Tories are tipped to lose more than 800 council seats in the local elections in just over a fortnight, according to polling published by The Daily Telegraph last week.
According to the forecast, conducted by Pollsters Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now, if the local results are repeated at the next General Election, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer could replace Mr Johnson as Prime Minister.
The polling was based on the responses of 12,000 people in 201 local authorities, carried out from April 4 and April 8.
It was published just days after Mr Johnson was fined by the Metropolitan Police for attending his own birthday party in Downing Street in June 2020.
The fine means the Tory leader is the first serving prime minister to be punished for breaking the law.
His wife Carrie and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak were also handed fixed penalty notices for breaking lockdown rules.
Mr Johnson apologised for flouting his own COVID-19 laws but vowed that he would not resign over the scandal.
He had already faced numerous calls to step down, including from senior Tories like Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
In February, a string of Tory MPs confirmed their intention to submit letters of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.
According to party rules, 54 letters must be sent to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady for a leadership challenge to be triggered.
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Ahead of the local elections, many Tory MPs have been focused on the campaign trail in their constituencies, rather than on Westminster and possible attempts to oust Mr Johnson.
Many are expected to await the outcome of the May 5 vote before considering bids to remove him as Prime Minister.
Dr Dickinson claimed that a bad local election result for the Conservatives could push some more hesitant Tories to try and replace their leader.
He said: “Assuming that we don’t have any more revelations that move this scandal on or push it into even more serious territory, I think it is going to be the local elections in May.
“Politicians do read polls and they do care about them, but they pay much more attention to election results.
“And I think if we start to see some of the negative polling crystallise in actual losses of Council seats, that will be the point really, at which I think the crunch point will come for the party.
“They will decide that the political damage is severe enough that they need to do something about it — they can’t leave it any longer.”
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