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PM dominates front pages as party problems persist and Covid rules return

·4-min read

Boris Johnson features on the front page of every national newspaper on Thursday, with most depicting a premier under pressure due to his handling of developments over allegations of a rule-breaking Downing Street Christmas party.

The 57-year-old also comes in for criticism for unveiling new tighter pandemic measures.

The Daily Mail and The Sun highlight an apparent double standard over the new restrictions, with the former using the headline “One rule for them, new rules for the rest of us” and the latter mocking up Mr Johnson as the Grinch instructing the public to “Do as I say.. not as I Christmas do”.

Mail columnist Sarah Vine questions if Allegra Stratton, who resigned on Wednesday, has been held to a higher account than former Downing St staffer Dominic Cummings or other colleagues.

“Where is Ed Oldfield, the man who threw her that question, in all of this? Why does it always have to be the woman who carries the can for the mistakes of men?” Ms Vine asks.

The Sun’s editorial lists numerous Government embarrassments including Mr Cummings’s eyesight-testing trip to Barnard Castle and the bungled parts of the Foreign Office’s evacuation of Kabul.

“To the public mind, it’s madness and amounts to a failure of leadership by the PM that cannot and must not continue,” it writes.

The Daily Telegraph’s splash covers the “immediate backlash” to the “irrational” new curbs, while columnist Allister Heath adds that the situation is still salvageable for Mr Johnson if he acts quickly.

“This is an appalling state of affairs: the country cannot be left rudderless,” Mr Heath writes.

“It is not too late for Johnson: many prime ministers have bounced back from far worse. But for the first time, his grip on power is starting to look shaky, and his MPs are openly discussing a post-Johnson future.

“He needs to act decisively to stop the rot, and to rebuild No 10 before the country is again engulfed in a traumatic Covid crisis.”

The PM is quoted in The Times as denying a suggestion by Tory MP William Wragg that he had introduced the new restrictions as a political “diversion”.

The paper’s leader piece focuses on Mr Johnson for failing to use “common sense” with the shifting narrative provided to the press about the alleged illegal revelry.

“To both deny there was a party and say that any party did not breach the rules failed logic and propriety,” the editorial says.

“The Prime Minister used to say he could guarantee this Christmas would be better than the last. It is unlikely that anyone in Downing Street is feeling festive at the moment, nor should they,” it added.

The PM has a softer place to land on the front of the Daily Express, where he touts Plan B as offering the best chance for a “close to normal” Christmas.

But it is a different story inside the paper, where columnist Leo McKinstry writes: “What makes this far bigger than any previous furores that have temporarily engulfed Johnson is the depth of public indignation.

“Decent, law-abiding Britons who obeyed the guidelines, avoided social gatherings and refrained from meeting loved ones are furious at the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of Government.”

Mr McKinstry added that Plan B would serve as a useful distraction for Mr Johnson “but the events of this week will make it harder for him to persuade the nation to accept new controls”.

Jason Beattie, the head of politics at the Daily Mirror which broke the story of last December’s allegedly illicit parties at No 10, said the results of recent by-elections would not give Mr Johnson much confidence for the future.

“The common theme behind all these scandals is Johnson’s arrogant belief that he is above the rules,” Mr Beattie writes.

“While the Tories were comfortably ahead in the polls he was able to get away with it.

“But recent by-elections show voters are starting to turn against the Conservatives.

“It is probably too early to write Johnson’s obituary – but this week may have sown the seeds of his demise.”

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