- Boris Johnson has been meeting backbench MPs to try and win back support.
- It comes ahead of a hotly-anticipated report into claims of illegal parties in Downing Street.
- The prime minister has been 'pleading', while his enforcers are 'trying to scare people', MPs said.
Boris Johnson's leadership was thrown into turmoil Tuesday, as the publication of a report into allegations of illegal parties in Downing Street appeared to edge closer.
Initially, it had seemed as though the conclusions of the inquiry led by senior civil servant Sue Gray would be pushed back after Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick confirmed her force had opened an investigation into some of the claims.
However both Number 10 and the Met insisted they were not looking to delay publication, and the partygate report could come Wednesday morning, according to the Daily Mirror.
Johnson's "avengers," as one senior MP called them, went into overdrive, trying to shore up support for the beleaguered prime minister.
His team were approaching "waverers" to see what can be done to prop up his ailing leadership, said another Conservative MP. "It's full-on 'save the PM'."
A third MP put it more bluntly: "[Johnson] is seeing people to plead for his job."
Another backbencher said Chris Pincher – the housing minister who is running a shadow whipping operation for Johnson – had been "trying to scare people with the threat of election under a new leader, but that's actually nonsense".
He added: "They need to be careful."
Support is beginning to ebb from Johnson, as underscored by a shock ministerial resignation on Monday afternoon. Lord Theodore Agnew, the minister for efficiency and transformation, quit Johnson's frontbench blaming the government for failing to grapple with COVID-19 fraud, which he blamed on "a combination of arrogance, indolence, and ignorance".
His departure follows that of Lord David Frost, who quit as Brexit minister in December.
Others are increasingly frustrated and no longer willing to put their head above the parapet.
One loyal minister, who told Insider he had lost loved ones during the pandemic, said he was "sick of the psychodrama" caused by the prime minister's protracted response to allegations, which had led to a constant "drumbeat" of leaks.
"It's just ramping things up – we have got to have a reckoning at some point," he added. "It is a really high bar to get rid of a prime minister. I want to know where the PM sits with [partygate]… I don't want to condemn the PM without direct evidence."
Both supporters and agitators were operating a "scorched earth policy" that would damage the Conservative party, he said, warning the local elections in May would result in "collateral damage" with councilors losing their seats.
"It is sort of like Brexit all over again," the minister added."You have a party to put back together afterwards and neither side really cares what they leave behind."
Asked if he thought Johnson can survive, a minister replied: "Let's see on that."
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