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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Booing Of Boris Johnson At Jubilee Celebrations Being “Over Interpreted” Claims Grant Shapps

Boris Johnson and wife Carrie were booed as they arrived at St Paul's on Friday for a Platinum Jubilee service for the Queen (Alamy)

4 min read

People are “over interpreting” the boos directed at Boris Johnson as he attended a Platinum Jubilee service, according to one of his closest Cabinet allies.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps suggested the scenes caught on film outside St Paul’s Cathedral did not mean the prime minister was no longer popular or an election winner.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, he cited the boos meted out to the former Chancellor George Osborne at the London 2012 Paralympics before the Conservatives went on to win the following general election in 2015.

Asked why Johnson was heckled as he arrived with wife Carrie for the event on Friday, Shapps replied: “But there were also people cheering and you're not asking me why they did that.

“Politicians don't expect to be popular all the time. Getting on with the running of the country is a job in which you have to take difficult decisions a lot of the time.

“I wasn't there, but I heard people booing, I heard people cheering. It's best to get on with the job at hand running the country, rather than being overly distracted.”

Pressed by presenter Sophie Raworth to explain why the PM was booed, Shapps added: “I remember booing going on at the Olympic Games in 2012, and the election was won in 2015.

“I think you're rather over interpreting if you don't mind me saying.”

He also played down an opinion poll out this weekend showing Labour 20 points clear of the Tories in Wakefield ahead of a crunch by-election there this month, which is seen as being crucial to Johnson’s continued survival after a wave of his own MPs said they no longer had confidence in his leadership.

The survey, by JL Partners, suggests voters are turning away from the Conservatives - who won the West Yorkshire seat for the first time in almost 100 years in 2019 - due to the damage caused by the partygate saga.

James Johnson, co-founder of JL Partners and a former Downing Street pollster under Theresa May, tweeted: "The main hesitations about voting Conservative: trust, Boris, and a sense the Tories are out of touch and only care about the rich.

"All signs are that partygate has crystallised historic concerns about the Tories and turned the people of Wakefield decidedly against them.”

This weekend Johnson told PoliticsHome that the cost of living packaged unveiled last week by Chancellor Rishi Sunak had fallen flat with the public because policies announced by the government are now "attached" to Johnson's negative image.

"Voters now don't trust the Prime Minister to deliver on other things," he said.

There are also concerns the Tories may lose the by-election in Tiverton and Honiton to the Liberal Democrats, which is being held on the same day, despite having a large majority of 24,000.

It comes as the growing voices of dissent from his backbenches suggest Johnson may face a vote of no confidence as soon as this week.

Under Conservative party rules If 15% of their MPs, currently 54, call for a vote then it triggers a secret ballot.

While far fewer than that have publicly announced they have written letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, a report in The Sunday Times says the true figure could already be as high as 67.

When the House of Commons returns tomorrow we could find out if the threshold has been hit, with suggestions Wednesday has already been pencilled in as the day for the leadership vote.

In that scenario it would need more than half of Conservative MPs to vote against Johnson to oust him, a total of 180, which Shapps said was unlikely to happen.

The transport secretary told the BBC he did not think there would even be a contest this week, but asked if there was one if the PM would win, he replied: “Yes.”

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