Tory whips orders MPs to the House of Commons to support Prime Minister as Starmer goes on the attack

Tory MPs were ordered yesterday to back Boris Johnson as Labor tried to exploit divisions in government ranks.

Conservative whips pressured MPs from the back seat to pack the House of Commons chamber for the Prime Minister’s questions and applaud the Prime Minister as Sir Keir Starmer swung the knife over a series of U-turns and accidents.

“With the whips everyone was in today and that made a difference,” said a senior MP. “We all know the situation is not good, but no one needs to hear from Labour.”

Rishi Sunak also showed a pointed display of unity and nodded along as the prime minister defended his record.

The Chancellor’s appearance alongside Mr Johnson followed revelations in the Daily Mail yesterday that some senior figures in the government are blaming the Treasury for a toxic briefing against the Prime Minister earlier this week.

Tory MPs were ordered yesterday to back Boris Johnson as Labor tried to exploit divisions in government ranks

A ‘senior Downing Street source’ told the BBC there was ‘a lot of concern in the building about the Prime Minister’ after a botched speech to the CBI on Monday in which Mr Johnson lost his seat by more than 20 seconds.

The briefing has led to a hunt in Whitehall for the so-called ‘Chatty Pig’ responsible.

Several sources pointed the finger at Mr Sunak’s adviser, Liam Booth-Smith, head of Joint Economic Unit No 10/Treasury.

The claim was strongly rejected by the Treasury. A friend of Mr Booth-Smith said it was “not his style” to give harmful briefings.

Many in the government believe the real source of the briefing is located in No. 10, which has also been affected by infighting.

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A ‘senior Downing Street source’ told the BBC there was ‘a lot of concern in the building about the Prime Minister’ after a botched speech to the CBI on Monday in which Mr Johnson lost his seat by more than 20 seconds

But the claim has sparked renewed tensions between the Chancellor and Mr Johnson, which have been simmering for weeks.

The prime minister’s press secretary yesterday tried to downplay the spat, telling reporters the two men “worked well together.”

She added: “The Prime Minister and Chancellor, and the entire government, are focused on achieving and fulfilling the priorities of the people.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab was also sent to defend his boss and said Johnson is “in good shape”.

“The Prime Minister is an exuberant, resilient, optimistic, Tigger-like character and he delivers his speeches in a way that few politicians in the past and present have done, but actually there is a steely hardness to him as Prime Minister and indeed his team, and we work as a team,” he said.

But Tory’s unease about Mr Johnson’s Downing Street operation was compounded yesterday by a poll that suggested the prime minister’s approval rating has fallen to an all-time low.

The Savanta ComRes poll placed Johnson’s net approval score at minus 14. It also gave Labor a small two-point lead.

However, Mr Johnson was still rated ‘Best Prime Minister’ at 39 percent – well ahead of Sir Keir at 30 percent.

Senior Tories rejected reports that up to 14 MPs had filed letters of no confidence against the Prime Minister with backbench steward Sir Graham Brady. It takes a total of 54 letters to start a leadership match.

Rishi Sunak also put on a pointed show of unity, nodding along as the Prime Minister defended his record

Rishi Sunak also put on a pointed show of unity, nodding along as the Prime Minister defended his record

But a senior MP told the Mail: ‘Talking about letters is nonsense. There may be one or two, but people are not at that stage. But if we get to the middle of next year and things are still so chaotic, he could be in trouble.

“If he doesn’t get a grip, there will come a challenge at some point. Red Wall MPs are furious that they would lose their seats as things stand. The cabinet is dissatisfied with the feeling of drift and the constant U-turns. It’s bad.’

Another MP said: ‘This feels different from the usual chaos.

“There are three possibilities: either the Prime Minister recognizes where this is all going and acts on the need to regroup, reconnect and re-deploy an improved No 10 operation; or nothing changes and we slide down to the third possibility, where the parliamentary party becomes restless and realizes that Boris was a great campaigner – but not the leader to move us forward.”

The warnings came as Sir Keir tried to exploit the crisis.  The Labor leader taunted the prime minister over the backlash he has faced since his failed attempt to block former minister Owen Paterson's suspension for lobbying.

The warnings came as Sir Keir tried to exploit the crisis. The Labor leader taunted the prime minister over the backlash he has faced since his failed attempt to block former minister Owen Paterson’s suspension for lobbying.

The warnings came as Sir Keir tried to exploit the crisis. The Labor leader taunted the prime minister over the backlash he has faced since his failed attempt to block former minister Owen Paterson’s suspension for lobbying.

“The Prime Minister’s routine is running smoothly,” he said. “His Chancellor is afraid people are going to get wise, his supporters say it’s embarrassing… and senior people in Downing Street are telling the BBC it just doesn’t work.” With an air of sham concern, he added, ‘Is everything all right, Prime Minister?’

Mr Johnson replied, ‘I’ll tell you what doesn’t work, it’s that line of attack.’

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the House of Commons, also sought to capitalize on the issue, saying: “While the Prime Minister spends his time hunting chatty pigs and averting a leadership challenge from the Treasury, people in the real world is suffering from a Tory cost of living crisis.’

Johnson accused him of ‘talking about partisan issues when all the people of Scotland want to hear is what the heck the Scottish national government is doing’.

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