Conservative legislators are considering whether to trigger a no-confidence vote amid public anger over the “partygate” scandal that has jolted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suffered an embarrassing defection from his Conservative party over revelations of lockdown-breaching events in Downing Street, but vowed to fight on.
Christian Wakeford took the dramatic step of joining the opposition Labour party on Wednesday, minutes before Johnson faced Labour leader Keir Starmer at their weekly joust in the House of Commons.
Wakeford said in a message to Johnson that "you and the Conservative Party as a whole have shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves".
Wakeford represents the seat of Bury South near Manchester in northwest England, one of many that the Tories under Johnson captured from Labour in the 2019 general election.
Johnson shrugged off the blow, as a laughing Starmer pointed to Wakeford sitting in the Labour ranks at Prime Minister's Questions.
'Defending the indefensible'
"The Conservative party won Bury South for the first time in generations under this prime minister...and we will win again in Bury South at the next election under this prime minister," Johnson said.
But Starmer said Johnson was "defending the indefensible" over the parties, including two held as Britain was in mourning for Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II's consort for seven decades.
With the opposition Labour party surging in the polls, and inflation reaching a near 30-year high in the latest data, Johnson is struggling to regain the initiative, starting with an announcement that he is lifting most Covid restrictions in England.
Criticism intensified after Johnson gave a strained TV interview on Tuesday, in which he claimed not to be aware that at least one "bring your own booze" event in Downing Street would breach the Covid lockdown rules that he set.
Meanwhile, a group of more than 20 Tory MPs met to "discuss their concerns about Johnson's leadership", The Times newspaper reported.
It said a number of those were preparing to submit letters of no confidence after Prime Minister's Questions, at which Johnson faced repeated calls from MPs to resign.
Several were named by media as those elected for the first time in Johnson's landslide election victory in 2019, including younger Tories from the opposition Labour party's former heartlands of northern England.
At least 54 Tory MPs need to send letters calling for the prime minister's resignation to trigger a party leadership challenge.