Tory Backbencher Claims BoJo is Liability to Ukraine Crisis After Partygate Fine
10:38 GMT 14.04.2022 (Updated: 15:18 GMT 28.05.2023)
Defence Select Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood has been a constant critic of PM Boris Johnson over Brexit and other issues. But his latest attack line is that the prime minister's role in the "Partygate" row could undermine the West's Ukraine effort against Russia.
A vocal Tory Europhile has renewed his demand for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign, claiming Russia could "exploit" the small fine he was charged over a surprise birthday party.
Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Parliamentary Defence Select Committee, was just the third Conservative backbencher to submit a letter calling for a new party leadership contest over the Partygate
scandal in early February.
But he launched a new attack line on Thursday when he told Radio Four's Today Programme that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use the row to erode what he said was the UK's image as a "beacon of democracy".
"I think the prime minister has made his intentions clear — he wants to stay — but this is bigger than the prime minister", he said of the fine, which is legally equivalent to a parking ticket.
"This is something Putin will no doubt exploit – how can a lawmaker also be a law-breaker? This is not a good look", Ellwood claimed.
Ellwood was criticised by Armed Forces Minister James Heappey after he made a secret trip to Kiev in mid-February, just over a week before Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine to defend the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics, which Moscow had recognised in late February.
He later became one of the leading voices in British politics calling for NATO to impose a military "no-fly zone"
over Ukraine, a move that Johnson and other leaders dismissed as bound to lead to a conflict between nuclear-armed states.
The MP echoed opposition Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy, who told BBC News on Tuesday that replacing a prime minister during a military conflict was not without precedent. However, Lammy falsely stated that Winston Churchill succeeded Nazi appeaser Neville Chamberlain before the Second World War in 1939, while in reality he resigned in May 1940 after Germany invaded France and the Low Countries.
Johnson's popularity took a major hit from allegations that he allowed his Downing Street staff to have wine and cheese soirees after work hours and that he was "ambushed" with a cake and a surprise gathering in the Cabinet Room for his 56th birthday in June 2020.
But his approval ratings have recovered since 24 February as the Ukraine conflict gave him a forum to act tough with Russia, imposing stricter sanctions
than the European Union while supplying more and more arms to the Ukrainian forces — which include ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi militants.
"Every month, every year, European security is going to deteriorate well beyond Ukraine", Ellwood lamented, then insisting the British defence bureaucracy could maintain order until a new PM was elected.
"Our formidable government apparatus, our well-oiled MoD [Ministry of Defence] machine, allows us to do just that — to replace people if that is required", he claimed. "Our approach to Ukraine would remain consistent, so I do hope that we won't use the war as a fig leaf to dodge these tough questions that, absolutely, we must address".
Ellwood was himself forced to apologise
for breaking lockdown rules in December 2020 after it emerged that he spoke at a dinner event with 27 guests when social gatherings were limited to just six.
The MP has long been a public critic of Johnson over Britain's exit from the EU.