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Military in the Channel and scrapping the licence fee: Johnson plots policies to save his job

The UK Prime Minister is on the brink.

prime-minister-boris-johnson-centre-leaves-the-houses-of-parliament-in-westminster-london-as-public-anger-continues-following-the-leak-on-monday-of-an-email-from-the-prime-ministers-principal-pri Johnson leaving the House of Commons last week. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

UK 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 Queen Elizabeth II 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 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.

The first is a plan that would see heads roll. 

Sacrifice staff to save “Big Dog” and curb drinking in No 10 

Nicknamed “Operation Big Dog”, there are reported efforts to blame Johnson’s staff in order to save his position as Prime Minister.

The Sunday Times suggested Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, could go after he sent the email inviting more than 100 staff to the “bring your own booze” event in No 10’s garden on May 20 2020.

Despite this being during the first Covid lockdown, the Prime Minister admitted attending the gathering but insisted he believed it was a work event which could “technically” have been within the rules.

Chief of staff Dan Rosenfield is also said to be in the firing line, as well as members of the communications team.

Dowden has also said there are plans to “address the kind of culture that has allowed” alleged rule breaches, with reports suggesting this will include a crackdown on drinking in Downing Street.

Red Meat

Scrap 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 (€190) 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 Cov restrictions

Johnson seems set to end England’s Plan B measures, including mask-wearing and work-from-home guidance, on their current expiry date of 26 January.

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.

Channel crossing crackdown

Johnson is considering tasking the UK military with reducing the number of small boats crossing the Channel, rather than the Border Force which currently oversees these efforts.

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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 further crossings and details of how that can be achieved will be made known in due course.”

Investing in northern England

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove is reported to be preparing to publish his “levelling up” plans to improve lives in neglected areas across the country.

But it has been suggested he will be given no new money to implement his proposals and has been touring Whitehall departments seeking already costed announcements.

New plans are also expected to alleviate the impending cost-of-living crisis and further tackle the backlog of operations in the health service caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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