British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come up with a list of cabinet officials to submit resignations over the partygate scandal in a bid to retain his premiership, according to a report by The Independent.
Dubbed “Operation Save Big Dog” by Johnson himself, the blueprint includes a drive to work out which heads should roll following the publication of senior official Sue Gray’s findings, as well as highlighting the prime minister’s achievements, sources told the daily.
Johnson’s Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield and his private secretary, Martin Reynolds, are thought to be among potential candidates for resignations.
"While putting names to the plan is a matter of hot debate, a more broadly accepted idea is that at least one senior political appointee and a senior official must be seen to leave Downing Street over the affair, as both groups share blame,” the daily said.
A former Tory cabinet minister further told The Independent that although they supported Johnson, they believed a “root and branch” overhaul of No. 10 and parts of the Cabinet Office would prove essential to move on from Partygate, explaining that it would be a “bare minimum to translate contrition into action.”
The “save big dog” scheme also includes a communications “grid” in the lead up to the investigation’s conclusion and beyond, the report added, noting that it comprises lines for supportive ministers to take in press interviews, highlighting a repentant prime minister and boasting his achievements amid the difficult choices posed by the pandemic.
The operation further includes echoing support among backbenchers for possible leadership rivals --including chancellor Rishi Sunak, foreign secretary Liz Truss and even former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt, however, is unlikely to command enough support to win the leadership, the report noted, though No. 10 aides believe he could play an important role in any leadership contest.
The plan reflects how precarious the position of Downing Street and the Cabinet Office has become following a bundle of highly detailed reports on parties amid COVID-19 restrictions.
The development came as former director general of the government’s Covid taskforce posted an apology on social media on Friday for holding drinks in the Cabinet Office during coronavirus restrictions days before Christmas in 2020.
It followed an apology from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace after reports by the The Daily Telegraph about two No 10 parties held on the eve of Prince Philip’s socially distanced funeral.
This is while officials have so far refused to confirm or deny if Boris Johnson was aware of these parties, after he admitted to attending at least one drinks party and was pictured at a second.
Johnson’s spokesman said on Friday, “It is deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning and No 10 has apologized to the palace.”
Meanwhile, a recent opinion poll revealed that voters are deserting the British prime minister over the party scandal, with 70 percent demanding his ouster and almost as many dismissing his Commons apology as bogus.
The survey, conducted by Savanta, further found that only 21 percent of respondents backed Johnson to remain in power.