What is Operation Save Big Dog? Boris Johnson plan to keep power amid Downing Street party row - who could go
‘Operation Save Big Dog’ and ‘Operation Red Meat’ are being seen as a concerted effort by the prime minister to limit the fallout over the partygate scandal
In a report dubbed ‘Operation Save Big Dog’, Mr Johnson is planning to overhaul his top team to save his own skin after a long line of allegations about rule-breaking in Downing Street.
It’s been claimed there will also be a renewed focus on “red meat” policies, including putting the military in charge of preventing small boats from crossing the Channel.
So, who might be kicked out of Downing Street? Here’s all you need to know.
Who is rumoured to leave Downing Street in the wake of the inquiry?
Civil servant Sue Gray will lead an investigation into a number of alleged breaches of lockdown rules within the government during Covid lockdowns.
Ms Gray is understood to have interviewed prime minister Boris Johnson about what he knows regarding a string of party claims at No 10 Downing Street - though no timeline has been released for the inquiry yet.
Some reports have suggested Ms Gray could present the results as early as next week - however in the past, it has taken months for findings of similar investigations to be reported.
After the results of the inquiry are reported under ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ - dubbed by Boris Johnson himself - heads are likely to start rolling.
The Independent claims Dan Rosenfield, Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, and Martin Reynolds, his private secretary and author of the “BYOB” email, are thought to be possible candidates for departure.
A Tory cabinet minister added that a “root and branch” shake up of parts of the Cabinet office and No 10 is needed to leave the Partygate row behind.
The operation also includes seeking out backbenchers for possible leadership rivals and creating a communications plan where supportive ministers take on press interviews and emphasise the prime minister’s pandemic achievements.
What are the ‘red meat’ policies being drawn up to deflect from partygate?
It’s been reported that “populist” policies are to be pushed by the government in a bid to allow Boris Johnson to survive the furore of breaching Covid-19 rules.
Newspapers reported over the weekend that Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to announce within weeks that the Navy will be brought in to spearhead controversial “pushback” tactics to turn away boats carrying migrants across the Channel.
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has said on Twitter she wants to put the cost of the BBC licence fee on ice for two years.
Other touted policy announcements as part of Mr Johnson’s attempted fightback include attempts to reduce the NHS backlog and a push on the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper.
But Education secretary Mr Zahawi said the policies are “on the list because these are the government’s manifesto”.
Speaking on Sky News, he said it would be a “good idea” to have a “single command and control” to tackle Channel crossings.
“And that includes not just naval vessels but all other vessels, including Border Force, so that you actually have a co-ordinated operation in terms of the small boats,” he said.
He said the Government wants to “go after the illegal smugglers who are putting these people’s lives at risk”.
But when told those are not the ones on the boats, he added: “Well, they’re the ones we want.”
Why did Labour’s shadow secretary call the policies a ‘dead cat strategy’?
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the prime minister is deflecting from the rule-breaking row with the ‘red meat’ strategies.
She said: “Let’s not pretend that this is anything other than it is, which is a pretty obvious dead cat strategy from the government to distract from the totally disastrous leadership context that the prime minister is facing at the moment.”
Mr Zahawi insisted Mr Johnson will stay in post after further allegations of parties emerged.
Asked three times on Today whether the Prime Minister is safe, he said: “Yes, he is, because he’s human and we make mistakes.
“And, actually, he came to the despatch box and apologised and said he will absolutely submit himself to Parliament, because that’s our parliamentary democracy.”
It comes as the Mirror said Mr Johnson attended a leaving do before Christmas 2020 during which he gave a speech to mark the departure of his defence adviser, Captain Steve Higham.
The claim is the latest in a long line of allegations about rule-breaking in Downing Street, including a “bring your own booze” garden party during the first coronavirus lockdown that Mr Johnson has admitted he attended – although he insists he understood it to be a “work event”.
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