Ministers are setting out a flurry of policies, under the title Operation Red Meat, which are designed to revive Boris Johnson’s fortunes as he faces continuing anger over “partygate” allegations.
Fury over the gatherings was compounded when it emerged that two events were held in No 10 the day before the Queen had to sit alone at the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, last year.
The Prime Minister had already apologised for personally attending a “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Six Tory MPs have publicly called for Mr Johnson to go, while many others are believed to have privately agitated for a vote of no confidence in him as Tory leader.
But, anticipating the potential flashpoint of senior civil servant Sue Gray delivering the result of her inquiry into the partying allegations, the Government has launched a fightback on multiple fronts.
– Threat to scrap the BBC licence fee
Among the “red meat” initiatives designed to please riled Tory backbenchers and voters is putting the BBC on notice that the licence fee could be replaced after the current deal ends in 2027.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is expected to confirm that the annual payment will be frozen at £159 until 2024.
She said the next review of the BBC’s funding model in five years’ time “will be the last”, signalling a major upheaval for the public broadcaster.
Labour has described it as a “really obvious, pathetic distraction from a Prime Minister and a Government who has run out of road and whose leadership is hanging by a thread”.
– Ending coronavirus restrictions
Mr Johnson seems set to end England’s Plan B measures, including mask-wearing and work-from-home guidance, on their current expiry date of January 26.
Not only would this be warmly welcomed by the lockdown-sceptic MPs on the Conservative backbenches, it would also prevent another massive rebellion if he tried to renew them.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden signalled over the weekend that the “signs are encouraging” for lifting the remaining restrictions.
– Tougher action against Channel crossings
The Prime Minister is considering tasking the military with reducing the number of small boats crossing the Channel.
Plans are being drawn up to send migrants, including asylum seekers, to countries such as Rwanda and Ghana for processing, according to the Times.
The Ministry of Defence did not deny it could be called in, with a spokesman saying: “The Government is exploring every avenue to prevent… Nokia News – Short Summary.