Plotters against Boris knew lies would spread, writes NADINE DORRIES
Gold wallpaper in No10 never existed and Boris didn’t go to ANY wild lockdown parties, but the plotters knew a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its boots on, NADINE DORRIES reveals in the book that’s rocking Westminster
With a strong No 10 machine behind him, Boris would have got through to the next General Election and comfortably won it because he was a colossal force of nature, especially with the public, who got him in a way that Westminster often didn’t. That was the view of the highly-placed source I codenamed Moneypenny.
‘But,’ she went on, ‘not with his closest advisers working so hard to bring him down, like a ball and chain around his ankle.’
At first, the members of The Movement had backed him as an election-winning machine. Dougie Smith and Boris weren’t totally aligned on all policy levels, but Dougie thought that, once Boris won, they would inﬂuence and control him.
The trouble was that Boris won too big and, on election night in 2019, they were furious, fearing that the conﬁdence his 80-seat majority gave him would make it more difficult to control him. And they were right. Boris constantly pushed back against all of them; and that made them more determined and furious.
‘They were so subtle, so organised, so strategic,’ explained Moneypenny. ‘From day one, when Boris wanted to get stuff done, they pushed back against him. There was always a bottleneck. People in key positions were keeping things from him. It was all so toxic and threatening.’
Watch Nadine Dorries reveal the secrets from her explosive book on the Daily Mail’s YouTube channel here.
In the third exclusive extract from her riveting exposé of the sinister forces at the heart of the Tory Party, Nadine Dorries reveals how the campaign to undermine Boris Johnson was fuelled by their fears he would be too difficult to control
Special word of comfort: Boris’s wife Carrie, holding daughter Romy, consoles him after his resignation speech outside No 10 last year
As my highly recognisable source — a man I codenamed M — told me, sipping cappuccino in the cosy and very private sitting room of the highly discreet Mayfair club 5 Hertford Street: ‘The thing was, Boris when he was Prime Minister was captured by what was a very organised web and network of control in No 10, right down from when he got up and his first meeting, to who he spoke to and had access to, and they were really clever the way they did it.
‘I mean, think about the relevance of the fact that via a process of being ‘unfairly smeared’, according to the media, ‘by Boris aides’ they removed the professional Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, right at the beginning. They had to because he wouldn’t have allowed that to happen because he was a pro. Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove insisted he was replaced by Simon Case. Ask yourself this: why?’
The appointment of Case, it sent a shockwave through Whitehall. He was inexperienced, mistrusted. He was rumoured to be a friend of journalists. There is no place in a well-run Civil Service for someone who talks to journalists, nor in the Royal Household for that matter.
Why Case? Everyone asked that question and it was Cummings who appointed him.
Leaking to the Press was a way they forced through decisions of their own making. I was told: ‘The news that we were locking down was whizzing along the wires before the PM knew it had been leaked, and I think it is the only time I personally ever heard him really angry.
‘The Prime Minister was always about proportion, but they were certainly all aligned on the very hard end of delivering lockdown. It was Gove who made it happen but, as with all things associated with Gove, few actually knew that, and those who did were on Gove’s side. Cummings, Gove and Lee Cain [Boris’s director of communications] were totally aligned on a hard lockdown; not one person backed the Prime Minister. They bounced him on numerous occasions into doing things he didn’t want to do and that history tells us probably weren’t necessary.’
Pictured: Nadine Dorries with Boris Johnson on his last day in No10 Downing Street
Their plotting to get him out began by trying to discredit him and undermine his credibility. Moneypenny reminded me of the expression ‘a lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on’. ‘That happened so many times,’ she said.
It began with Wallpapergate, the furore about the Johnsons’ supposedly extravagant refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. ‘Only there was no gold wallpaper,’ explained Moneypenny.
‘It never existed. It wasn’t quoted for; it was never hung. Does such a thing even exist? What Boris and Carrie did was have the dining room wall painted red to celebrate the red-wall victories in the Election. But the story was authenticated by a senior aide in 10 Downing Street and was backed up by two other senior aides from within the building, even though they were supposed to be Boris’s Praetorian Guard, protecting him from adverse and untrue and harmful publicity.’
Informants I’ve spoken to say the sources for the wallpaper stories were very likely Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.
Their spinning was the foundation of a narrative placed in the mind of the public that all was not well in No 10, designed to undermine Boris’s credibility and dent his popularity.
Then there was Partygate.
As the No 10 aide who had first pleaded with me to write about all this put it: ‘Parties, my a***. He was never at any parties; if he was, that’s what the police would have fined him for — not for being with a group of people, of which Rishi [Sunak] was one, that he worked and met with all day, walking into his office to sing Happy Birthday while he was sat at his desk. That’s also the opinion of one of the highest KCs in the land.
‘Whatever Boris knew about parties, Rishi knew, too; they worked in the same building, cheek by jowl, and it was Rishi who lived in the flat above No 10, not Boris. What Boris knew or didn’t know, Rishi did or didn’t know — it’s as simple as that.’
‘Tell me about Partygate,’ I said to the source I codenamed Skyfall as we sat in the private sitting room of 5 Hertford Street.
‘Where do I start?’ She took a sip of her drink. ‘Why don’t I tell you about Sue Gray instead?’
I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I stayed silent. ‘So the first thing to say about Sue Gray is she was head of propriety and ethics and that meant there was almost nothing about any government minister she didn’t know about.’
‘What’s the second thing?’ I asked, as I gulped my coffee.
‘The second is that everywhere Michael Gove goes, she goes, too. She was also working with Oliver Dowden at the Cabinet Office; he is very close to Gove and is a total puppet of Dougie Smith. Oliver Dowden is a part of the extended group.’
Next, I texted someone who had been involved in the Sue Gray report. The message I had sent was this: When Gray was writing the Partygate report, did she show any special favours or consideration to anyone in No 10?
The reply was as I expected: Nothing Lee Cain told her was challenged. What he said was simply placed into the report. Lee worked for Cummings, who was the other half of Gove.
Another No 10 insider, a close ally of Boris, told me: ‘Anybody who thinks that he was having unauthorised parties in No 10 with his mates is out of their tiny mind. The idea that he was partying with people or that he knew about unauthorised social events — we didn’t have social events in No 10, we didn’t have them. We were basically fighting a pandemic, the whole thing is nauseating.’
‘Why did he keep apologising for something he had no knowledge of and hadn’t done?’ I asked.
NADINE DORRIES: The first big question here is who was leaking information about parties to the Press? I think it was a Cummings leak, initially, to cause Boris harm, but it ran away with him
‘He was being urged to, mostly by Oliver Dowden, who kept saying to him: ‘You can’t apologise enough, keep on apologising.’ Bulls**t, it was a disaster; the apologies just made him look culpable but Dowden was part of it.
‘The repeated apologies meant that in the mind of the public, he had been partying the whole time. I mean, what was he apologising for? He knew nothing.’
The first big question here is who was leaking information about parties to the Press? I think it was a Cummings leak, initially, to cause Boris harm, but it ran away with him. He couldn’t hold that particular tiger by the tail once it was out.
The second is whether Boris was actually involved. I established that there was a Downing Street tradition, going back to the Tony Blair days, of the people in the press office getting together on a Friday night. The parties weren’t a new thing but they went to a new and debauched level, messy affairs where things got broken and wine was spilt up walls.
READ MORE: MP who had sex with prostitute on a billiard table… while four Tory MPs cheered him on: At any one time there are about 30 MPs behaving in similarly shocking ways – and the shady figures who really control the party don’t hesitate to blackmail them
But my understanding was that Boris didn’t have a clue about them because, on Fridays, he was in his Uxbridge constituency or up at one of the red-wall seats, and he went straight from there to Chequers for the weekend.
The problem was that the people who should have informed him of what was going on were the very people who were up to their necks in potential Covid rule-breaking and had a huge amount to hide. They had families and marriages as well as careers to save.
Those partying in the press office didn’t want to be discovered, so they threw journalists off the scent by putting Boris in the frame.
A No 10 insider confirmed to me: ‘Boris had absolutely no knowledge they were taking place. He wasn’t even in the building for the main one that was investigated. Nobody mentioned to him that they were happening.’
I repeated to Boris what I had been told.
‘Frankly, the event I was fined for, the bloody cake that wasn’t even taken out of its box, I was sat at my desk,’ said Boris. ‘It’s not like I organised a social event.
‘It was utterly mad. It was kind of like Salem. The idea of an illicit party. Absolute nonsense. There were people working around the clock to save others from a virus. My efforts were totally fixed on getting us a vaccine; that was the way out of this mess.
‘Nothing I attended in the way of thanking people, to keep morale up in the office with those I was sitting down with and working with all day long, went on for longer than was strictly necessary. Of course, the notion of Partygate was a fantastic piece of media. BBC and Sky, they ran with it.’
‘You called for the inquiry; it was you who wanted to get to the bottom of it all,’ I said.
‘I literally asked for a report because I didn’t know what had happened,’ he replied.
NADINE DORRIES: It is fair to say that Boris got the big calls right, such as Covid and Ukraine
‘Did you expect that report, which cherry-picked information, which bundled together a list of allegations that painted a picture of debauchery, of people vomiting in toilets, and karaoke, and all of this sort of nonsense?’ I asked.
He replied: ‘We tried, after Sue Gray’s report appeared, to track down the sources of her allegations. It all just crumbled away. Most people think, as a result of her narrative, that I was either at illegal parties or knew about illegal parties, and I did not.’
If it looks like a stitch-up . . . Certainly, in the course of researching this book, it would have been a great deal easier if the report had given some indication of who Sue Gray had spoken to. Trying to verify anything — other than the most obvious facts — is almost impossible.
Why Sue Gray quit to join Labour
It is a known fact and the worst-kept secret in Westminster that Sue Gray and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case cannot stand each other.
Whenever Gray is criticised, this is mounted in her defence, as in, ‘Yeah, but she has got the measure of Case, so she can’t be all bad.’
I have been told by a source that Case was ‘let go’ from No 10 during the time of Theresa May and went to work for the Royal Household as Private Secretary to Prince William.
During the time he was there, he lunched with Michael Gove on a regular basis.
The word ‘salad’ I was given to describe Case by civil servants appeared to come from the fact that he was so green – wholly untrained, unqualified and unable to do the job of Cabinet Secretary.
The response from permanent secretaries across Whitehall was one of universal utter amazement when the announcement was made that Dominic Cummings had demanded that he was given the job.
When Case was brought into No 10, my suspicion is that this is the point at which Gray, who had been loyal to Gove for so long, had maybe had enough and moved over to Labour.
I am sure, given that Gove has put his neck out so often to back Sue Gray, that it would be useful for him to have someone on the inside of Labour HQ
It is fair to say that Boris got the big calls right, such as Covid and Ukraine. It was the little calls that were difficult — the ones where others had the most input and leverage and created the most mischief. They provided ammunition for his enemies to exploit.
The source I codenamed M said: ‘These included those who will never forgive him for taking us out of the EU, former ministers bitter because they will never be ministers again and people who were never going to be given a job. And then there was the 2019 intake of MPs, who lacked spine and, like children, panicked every time they got an adverse comment on their Twitter feed.’
A close ally who had warned him about the forces against him explained: ‘Every single one of the Remainers in our party was involved in the effort to remove him. When I warned him that I suspected something was going on, he just said: ‘C’mon, we have to shake the country up after Covid. You are seriously saying the Government is going to be destroyed by these people, for what?’
‘What he couldn’t understand was, what was their purpose? There was no rival agenda, no kind of radical thinking going on. It was all personal ambition and hostility towards Boris for Brexit.
‘They simply wanted to gratify their lust for revenge. What was their big plan? Now, we’re losing levelling up, losing all radicalism on Brexit, we’re tanking in the polls. What was the point?’
Nor was he being helped by his Chancellor. Boris told me: ‘By the time we came out of Covid, people wanted a dynamic plan to kick-start the economy, so I kept saying to Rishi: ‘Come on, what’s the economic plan?’ But he just refused to engage with me.
‘Looking back, I can see that’s because there was a plan to remove me, and people were saying to him: ‘Don’t give him anything.’
‘Rishi’s problem was that he couldn’t see how a partnership with me worked for him in the longer term. He had been given the impression by someone that he should simply bide his time as Chancellor until the bigger prize became his.’
When the end came for Boris, it came in a spectacularly Machiavellian way, with Gove at the centre.
A highly-placed individual who was there in the final days told me: ‘Boris trusted Michael and that was one huge mistake.
‘The absolute most bizarre moment of those last days was when Gove phoned up to say: ‘I’m coming in to be supportive, to shore Boris up, you know.’
‘At that point there had been a handful of resignations, including Rishi Sunak’s, but they were more a damp squib than a thunderclap, and it was possible things could be turned around. It was July. We could have turned it around to get Boris safely into the recess.
‘But from the second Simone Finn — Gove’s ex-girlfriend, who worked in the outer office of No 10 — came into the room and said, ‘Michael wants to pop in,’ alarm bells rang.
‘But as suspicious as I was, I couldn’t have even guessed at how Machiavellian he was being. We asked Simone and she reassured Boris, ‘No, it’s all absolutely fine. He just wants to show you his support, I promise.’
‘Gove then came into No 10 and he says to the Prime Minister, ‘I think this is a conversation you and I can have alone.’
‘Simone just disappeared at that point; she slipped out of the room and shut the door behind her and I caught her expression, and I thought, hang on, does she know something? I think I knew right then, but it was too late, the die was cast.
‘So, we all followed her and walked out of the room and then, when it was over, when Michael left, Boris came out to us and said, ‘Michael has just told me I should go, I should resign now.’
‘We had quite literally been told by Simone, who Boris and Carrie regarded as a personal friend, that he was going to do the exact and total opposite.
‘Then it was time for PMQ prep, which we had to go straight into, and the guy in the room who was rehearsing Boris to give his best performance, on what would likely be his most difficult day in the chamber ever — and he’s had a few — was Gove.
‘It was obvious Michael knew exactly what he was doing. He wanted to destabilise Boris, to unnerve him before one of the biggest moments of his life.’
Until then, said the ally, the situation had been salvageable. ‘We were talking about a reshuffle. Getting some of the key agitators onside. And then, suddenly, reports started flashing up on Sky that Cabinet ministers were turning up at Downing Street to tell Boris to go. They weren’t doing any such thing. It had only been Gove.
‘There were no ministers in No 10, no MPs, and yet Sky was reporting that there were. Sky obviously had the information from a reliable source, and I don’t think it takes a huge amount of time to guess who that reliable source was. But then, because Sky was broadcasting it, that it was happening, it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
NADINE DORRIES: I am sure, given that Gove has put his neck out so often to back Sue Gray, that it would be useful for him to have someone on the inside of Labour HQ
‘Ministers were then falling over themselves to run across from Westminster and into No 10, already calculating that if that was what was happening and Boris was falling, they didn’t want to be seen to be loyal to him in case that precluded them from being offered another ministerial job by the next person to be Prime Minister. Their moment to jump ship and save their political skins had come.
‘They were just turning up unannounced and I had no idea how they got in. They were milling around in the dining room upstairs where a guy was working the room, telling them to go downstairs and tell Boris to go.
‘I was disgusted by their duplicity. The people around him weren’t working for him, but for Gove, or someone else, certainly not for him.
‘And that’s when the . . . you know, the bottom-pinching guy . . . what was his name? Chris Pincher. Pincher, a gay man, had too much to drink in the Carlton Club bar and wrongly grabbed another man’s bottom; that was what precipitated the beginning of the end.
‘Does that make sense to you? The reason why it doesn’t is because they were waiting for anything to get him, and once that anything, no matter how small, came along, they would blow it up, using Twitter and social media and every Remain journalist, the BBC, Sky, every Leftie, but mostly, Conservative MPs.’
And so the plotters had won. Boris was out.
- Adapted from The Plot by Nadine Dorries (HarperCollins Publishers, £25), to be published on November 9. © Nadine Dorries 2023. To order a copy for £21.25 (offer valid until November 19, 2023; UK P&P free on orders over £25) go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.
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