Boris Johnsons closest Cabinet allies name the number one problem behind the scenes

Kay Burley grills Grant Shapps on why Carrie was at a party

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The Prime Minister is facing increasing talks to resign after he admitted he attended one of the many parties held in Downing Street throughout the coronavirus pandemic when the rest of the country was under strict lockdown rules, set by the Government.

In a leak, it was revealed his wife, Carrie Johnson, held a surprise birthday party for the Prime Minister with more than 30 guests being invited – another breach of lockdown rules.

Now, one of Mr Johnson’s closest allies has claimed Carrie is the “number one problem” in his administration to former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft.

In a recent column in the MailOnline, Lord Ashcroft wrote: “Readers of my book can judge for themselves what Carrie’s actions say about her relationship with the PM and what they mean for the way Britain has been run under his premiership.

“One of his closest Cabinet allies has told sources quoted in my book that they believe Carrie is ‘the No 1 problem’ in Johnson’s administration.

“Many will wonder if it would be better for the country if the minister in question had the courage to tell the PM this to his face.

“As for Carrie Johnson, if she wants to help decide what the Government does and who works in it, maybe she should think about standing for election.”

Lord Ashcroft also claimed Carrie lost her post at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) after being accused of fiddling her expenses and taking too much holiday.

Last month, Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns claimed the Prime Minister was “ambushed” with a cake.

The MP for Bournemouth West told Channel 4 News: “It was not a premeditated, organised party.

“He was, in a sense, ambushed with a cake.

“They came to his office with a cake, they sang happy birthday, he was there for 10 minutes.

“I don’t think most people looking at that at home would characterise that as a party.”

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Ministers and backbenchers continued to rally behind Mr Johnson after five senior aides resigned from No10.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove declared that keeping the PM in his post was “the best thing for the country”.

He denied that the Government was in disarray, saying: “The PM wanted change and he said there would be change, and we’re seeing that change now.”

Tory backbencher Michael Fabricant said: “Come the General Election, scheduled for 2024, the Conservatives will have been in office for 14 years.

“It was always going to be difficult to win another term. But the Labour Party and I know that our best chance is Boris Johnson.

“If Boris can survive the next three months and make the reforms in No10 that he promised to Conservative MPs on Monday, Keir Starmer knows that he will be unlikely to succeed at the next General Election.”

Triggering a Tory leadership contest requires 54 letters of no confidence.

While the declared total on Thursday was nine, the actual figure is thought to be higher since most MPs do not publicise it.

Many have cited the PM’s participation in parties with staff in No10 during lockdowns as their motivation to challenge him.

The Met Police are investigating 12 gatherings and it is expected that Ms Gray’s full report will be published when that inquiry is completed.

On Friday, Mr Johnson delivered a rallying cry to Downing Street staff ‑ using a line from the Lion King blockbuster film that “change is good”.

Speaking to around 80 staff the PM said: “As Rafiki in the Lion King says, change is good and change is necessary even though it’s tough.”

Mr Johnson was said to have given his familiar “half-time pep talk” in which he talks about spitting out the “orange peel” and getting back on the “pitch”.

He reportedly received a “loud” round of applause.

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