The Times says Boris Johnson has been warned by cabinet ministers that he is in the “last chance saloon” after he was forced to apologise to the Queen about two parties held at Downing Street the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral during Covid restrictions.
It also reports that Sue Gray, the senior civil servant overseeing the investigation into events at No 10 feels “blindsided by revelations” and is concerned Downing Street staff are deliberately concealing information.
Both the Financial Times and the i newspaper report there are signs of the PM’s rivals preparing for a leadership contest.
According to the i weekend, Chancellor Rishi Sunak met more than 100 Tory backbenchers this week, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is understood to be having dinner with Conservative MPs this weekend. A Tory donor tells the FT they were also sounded out by two cabinet ministers expected to run if Mr Johnson is forced out.
But in its lead, the Telegraph reports that the prime minister is plotting a leadership fightback, with his allies systematically contacting Tory MPs. The paper also reveals that Plan B Covid restrictions are widely expected to be lifted in 11 days’ time.
The Telegraph’s columnist Charles Moore warns Conservative MPs that for all the prime minister’s faults there is no other Tory politician who has his political reach – and that he “deserves respect”.
“Wine Time Fridays” is the Daily Mirror’s headline which reports that Downing Street staff regularly held drinks at the end of the working week throughout the pandemic.
The paper says it has been told by sources that Boris Johnson often witnessed people sitting drinking as he walked up to his flat – and that he would stop for a chat. The Mirror reports staff invested in a “booze fridge” in December 2020, which could hold up to 34 bottles. At the time, no social mixing, except between members of the same household or support bubble, was allowed indoors in England.
No 10 tells the Mirror an investigation to establish the facts about the nature of the gatherings would be made public in due course.
In its lead, the Daily Mail brands the Labour leader a “Covid party hypocrite”.
It reprints a photo – which appeared in the Sun newspaper in May last year – of Sir Keir Starmer drinking beer with party workers in Durham. At the time the picture was taken – 13 April – people were banned from socialising inside with someone from another household.
Labour say that no rules were broken by the party leader because it was a work “meeting” and that those attending had “paused for dinner”.
The Sun says the decision to strip Prince Andrew of his titles was planned by Prince Charles over Christmas and that he consulted Prince William.
The paper claims the two heirs told the Queen of their view, who – with a “heavy heart” – replied she was of the same opinion. The Sun quotes royal experts who say the episode shows how Charles is flexing his muscles to help the Queen.