Angela Rayner defends her criticism of Boris Johnson

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Anyone who has ever looked for an opportunity to take down Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party is jumping on this moment, with allegations of sleaze and cronyism rampant across Whitehall. The Prime Minister has taken the unusual step of acting on the allegations, proposing a plan to limit MPs from holding second jobs as consultants. But is it enough?

An exclusive in the Guardian on Thursday showed the PM’s plan to stamp out MPs working as high-paid consultants on the side would impact less than 10 MPs in total.

On Wednesday, MPs voted 297 to nil to back Downing Street plans to restrict outside work to “reasonable limits” and prohibit parliamentary advice or consultancy, with Labour abstaining.

The crisis, which had been brewing for some time but erupted with the Owen Paterson row, has seen Boris Johnson doing something unusual: rather than his usual pattern of keeping his head down and weathering the storm, he is acting, and fast.

He told a panel of backbench MPs on the 1922 committee his initial decision to back Mr Paterson was a “total mistake” and said: “On a clear road I crashed the car into a ditch”.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Steven McCabe, a lecturer, researcher and economist and the Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, said it was “ludicrous” to imagine Mr Johnson resigning in the wake of this scandal.

He said: “It’s important to remember [the PM has] previously survived scandals that would’ve finished the careers of most others.

“His tenacity and ability to move on without apology is legendary. However, as recent events have shown, he may have overreached the limits of tolerance of not just the public but, equally significantly, a fair number of his own MPs.

“Nonetheless, any notion that Johnson will resign is ludicrous. Johnson, ever the gambler, ever the survivor, will seek to move on from the sleaze scandal by redoubling emphasis on the policies that gave him a thumping majority just under two years ago.”

However, as things currently stand, an election held tomorrow would give Mr Johnson anything but a “thumping” majority.

Opinion polling across the board has shown the recent revelations have hit the Tories hard, with Labour now neck-and-neck with the ruling party on voting intention.

Britain elects, the UK’s largest poll aggregator, said Labour “now leads in most polls”, with the most recent release from Survation on Westminster voting intention showing Conservative and Labout both on 37 percent.

While an early election would be entirely unlikely at this stage, given the Conservative’s uphill battle, there is a real chance voters will be called to the polls sooner than planned in 2024.

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In September, MPs voted to approve the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill, which scraps laws introduced in 2011 to fix each Parliament to five years, meaning the Prime Minister is once again free to call a general election whenever he likes.

The bill still needs to pass the House of Lords, but if it does so, it would be at Boris Johnson’s discretion when a vote would be called.

Dr McCabe said it’s “certain that there will be no general election in the next few months”, with the Government “less than two years into its term and has yet to achieve the ridiculously ambitious agenda of levelling up”.

However, that doesn’t mean voters won’t be called to the ballot box early.

“If the circumstances are portentous, no government waits until the end of its five-year term. Too much can go wrong,” Dr McCabe said.

“Therefore, it’s likely that any general election will be held in 2023.”

He added: “What we can expect to see in in the meantime is, perhaps, a more contrite Boris Johnson leading a party committed to adhering to its commitment to fulfilling the will of the people.

“Nevertheless, as recent weeks have demonstrated, Parliamentarians collectively, though predominantly Conservative MPs, urgently need to do more to remedy the image problem created through sleaze.”

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