Friday, January 21, 2022

Operation Save Big Dog: Johnson’s plan for officers to fall

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Boris Johnson creates a list of officials offering resignations via Partygate in a bid to save his prime ministerial post. LatestPageNews have learned.

Dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” by the prime minister himself, the draft includes an attempt to find out which heads should be rolling after senior official Sue Gray’s findings were released, as well as highlighting the prime minister’s achievements, sources said. Officials have also started using the code name, LatestPageNews understands.

Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, and Martin Reynolds, his private secretary and author of the “BYOB” email, were both noted as possible departures.

While naming the plan is hotly debated, a widely accepted idea is that at least one senior political officer and one senior official must leave Downing Street over the affair as both groups share blame, two Whitehall sources said.

A former Tory Cabinet minister said LatestPageNews that although they supported Mr Johnson, they believed that a major overhaul of No. 10 and parts of the Cabinet Office would prove essential in getting away from Partygate. It would be a “minimum necessary to turn repentance into action,” they said.

The Save Big Dog plan includes a communications “grid” leading up to the completion of the investigation and beyond. This includes lines for supporting ministers for press interviews, emphasizing a contrite prime minister and listing his achievements amid the difficult decisions the pandemic is bringing.

The operation also includes seeking support from backbenchers for possible leadership rivals, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Secretary of State Liz Truss and even former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Hunt is unlikely to have enough support to take the lead, but the No10’s aides believe they could play a major role in any leadership contest.

The plan reflects how precarious the position of Downing Street and the Cabinet Office has become following a series of very detailed reports on parties amid Covid-19 restrictions.

On Friday, the former director-general of the government’s Covid Taskforce posted an apology on social media for leaving drinks at the Cabinet office during the coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.

Sheffield City Council chief executive Kate Josephs said she was cooperating with an inquiry by senior official Sue Gray and admitted to a “gathering… with drinks in our office”.

An apology from Downing Street at Buckingham Palace followed, according to reports The Daily Telegraph of two No 10 parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral. Officials have refused to confirm or deny whether Boris Johnson knew about those parties after he admitted to attending at least one drink party and was photographed at a second. On Friday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It is deeply regrettable that this has come at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologized to the Palace.”

It is not clear if Downing Street has admitted to breaking Covid rules with a social gathering in its apology to the Palace. One of the gatherings was a farewell party for Mr Johnson’s communications director James Slack, who said on Friday that “at the time it happened, the event should not have happened”.

Downing Street also declined to comment on the existence of a plan to save Mr Johnson, but when asked about the name “Operation Save Big Dog”, a spokesman said: “We absolutely do not recognize that phrase.”

poll for LatestPageNews Voters appear to be leaving Mr Johnson over the party scandal, with 70 per cent calling for his resignation and almost as many dismissing his Commons apology as bogus.

Savanta’s poll found that just 21 percent supported the prime minister staying in power.

Equally worrying for the embattled leader was that 68 per cent didn’t believe his apology – in which he claimed he hadn’t realized a “bring your own booze” gathering in his backyard was a party – was not genuine.

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