Johnson’s new chief of staff promises ‘smaller state’ under party pressure

Boris Johnson’s new chief of staff has promised it is now a ‘priority to restore a smaller state’ as the Prime Minister struggles to keep the Tories on his side while facing questions from police investigating alleged breaches of the lockdown.

Steve Barclay, who was given the role as part of No 10’s reshuffle in response to the partygate scandal, said the changes would include “stepping back from people’s lives” as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic is waning.

Steve Barclay (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Prime Minister will leave Westminster this week insisting he’s ‘getting to work’ while touting his personnel changes as helping him focus on his ‘levelling up’ policy as he bat to stay on.

The No 10 said he was due to start the week with a tour of a manufacturing site in Scotland before heading to an oncology center tackling coronavirus backlogs in the North West of England .

But the trip comes within seven days of Mr Johnson having to avoid a fine by answering a legal questionnaire from Scotland Yard officers investigating whether he broke his own Covid laws.

Mr Barclay wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “Now it is a priority to restore a small state – both financially and by taking a step back from people’s lives. It is time to return to a more empowering approach. Trusting people, empowering communities, and freeing businesses to deliver.

The Cabinet Minister pledged to ‘ensure that the center of government performs like the best run businesses’.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said: ‘I am leaving London this week and I take with me a simple message – this government continues its work of unifying and leveling the country.

But traveling north of the border will present its own challenges, with ally Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing Douglas Ross of being ‘light-hearted’ after the Scottish Conservative leader called for Mr Johnson’s resignation.

Calls for the prime minister to quit will only intensify and become more widespread if he fails to convince police that he has not breached regulations in up to six events.

As he employs the help of personal lawyers, the Telegraph quoted Mr Johnson’s allies as reporting he planned to argue he was working at his official Downing Street flat on the night of the alleged ‘party Abba” in November 2020.

The Times said that even if fined he would not resign, likely prompting Tory MPs to impose a vote of confidence in his leadership.

Scotland Yard says the questionnaires ask for an “account and explanation of the recipient’s attendance at an event” and have “formal legal status and must be answered honestly”.

Fifteen Tory MPs have publicly called on Mr Johnson to resign, while others are said to have written privately to the 1922 committee of backbench Tories asking for a vote of no confidence.

Others are set to do so if the Prime Minister is found to have broken his own coronavirus laws, or if other damaging details emerge from the Sue Gray investigation.

He will face a vote of no confidence if 54 Tory MPs write to the chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, and would be ousted if more than half of his MPs subsequently vote against him.

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