Boris Johnson’s bid to secure leadership after local elections leave the Tours bruised

Boris Johnson will use the Queen’s Speech as an effort to secure his leadership following a bruising set of local elections which saw the Tours lose control of key authorities and suffer a net loss of almost 400 councillors.

he speech on Tuesday setting out the UK government’s priorities would focus on the economy, health and national security, Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi said as he urged Tory MPs to rally round the Prime Minister.

Mr Zahawi insisted the Prime Minister who delivered 2019’s general election landslide remained an electoral asset to the Tories despite issues in No 10 and Westminster being blamed for the local defeats inflicted on the party.

The loss of Wandsworth and Westminster in London to Labor after decades of Tory control and significant defeats to the Liberal Democrats in southern heartlands such as Woking could persuade more MPs to submit letters of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.

The partygate row, which has seen Mr Johnson and Rishi Sunak fined for breaching coronavirus laws, scandals involving MPs Neil Parish and Imran Ahmad Khan and the cost-of-living crisis all contributed to a difficult set of results for the Prime Minister.

In a message to Tory colleagues, the Education Secretary said: “People don’t like to vote for split parties, for teams that are divided.

“We are stronger when we are united, we’ve got a Queen’s Speech next week where we will demonstrate to the nation that the second half of this Parliament is all about dealing with repairing the economy, recovering from Covid, the backlog of the NHS and national security – here at home, safer streets – and, of course, abroad.

“All of these things we have a plan for.

“We are stronger when we are united and that would be my message to all my colleagues.”

He told Sky News that Mr Johnson “absolutely” remained an electoral asset: “Boris cuts through in places like Nuneaton, places like Newcastle-under-Lyme, other parts of the country as well – Harrow in London.”

Harrow provided a rare bright spot in the capital, with the Tories taking the authority from Labor, while the Conservative majority increased in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

But Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme, said the partygate row had come up on some doorsteps in the Staffordshire council and that the issues around Mr Johnson’s leadership had to be brought to a head.

Mr Bell, who has already submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “It’s not really up to me, it’s up to my colleagues and I’m sure when we get back to Westminster there will be a discussion about that.

“What I do think is it needs to be brought to a head sooner rather than later because I don’t think we can continue having this hanging over the party for many more months to come, with the Metropolitan Police and Sue Gray and then the Privileges Committee.”

Scotland Yard is still looking at parties in Downing Street and Whitehall, with the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report awaiting the conclusion of the police inquiry.

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