Boris Johnson will tonight hold a drinks reception with Tory MPs that were first elected in the 2015 and 2017 elections in a bid to improve faltering relations with his backbenchers.
Johnson will welcome the MPs to Downing Street, just a day after he was widely criticised by MPs in his own party for a bizarre speech to business chiefs at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference.
It also comes after he held a similar drinks reception for the intake of 2019 Conservative MPs last week.
Johnson’s relationship with Tory MPs is at an all-time low in the wake of a series of gaffes and scandals, with many anonymously voicing concerns in the media.
The botched attempt at getting ex-MP Owen Paterson off the hook for a parliamentary suspension, the cancellation of HS2 to parts of the North and cost-cutting changes to his social care plan have all contributed to growing anger among the Conservatives about the performance of their leader.
This was compounded yesterday when Johnson gave a frostily received speech at the CBI, which saw him talk at length about Peppa Pig, lose his place for 20 seconds and compare himself to Moses.
A minister told City A.M. yesterday that Johnson’s speech at the CBI was “appalling” and that the Prime Minister resembled TV character Mr Bean, while a backbencher said it was “shambolic”.
A senior Downing Street source told the BBC: “There is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM….it’s just not working. Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse. If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it.”
Tonight’s drinks will be seen as an attempt to curry favour with an increasingly restless parliamentary party and reset relations.
One MP said Johnson needed to bring in staff to Number 10 that are charged solely with interacting with backbenchers to better understand their concerns.