Boris Johnson was pictured ‘laughing and joking’ last night as he canoodled with a group of elites on a Whitehall terrace just hours after he announced his resignation.
The disgraced PM was seen hobnobbing with several colleagues and officials, giving out hugs and cracking jokes as the group drowned their collective sorrows on a balcony behind Dover House.
The atmosphere was light and jovial, according to witnesses, with the gathering quickly gathering pace as the evening drew on.
‘It definitely wasn’t commiserations… they were in good spirits,’ said one eyewitness who spotted the party while attending a military band concert held on Horse Guards Parade a stone’s throw away from Dover House and Downing Street.
‘Boris gave someone a hug. It looked like a ”bad day at the office, let’s have a drink and cheer up”. They were laughing and chatting on the balcony.
‘It started just after 7pm… when Boris went inside the party seemed to be in full swing.’
Meanwhile less than half a mile away, several of the cabinet ministers and government officials whose resignations and criticism hastened the PM’s downfall enjoyed some schmoozing of their own at The Spectator’s summer party.
Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and his successor Nadhim Zahawi – who accepted the position on Wednesday then publicly told the PM to resign less than 24 hours later – were among those pictured in attendance at the lavish press bash on Old Queen Street, a mere 500 yards away from the PM’s gathering.
Former housing and communities secretary Michael Gove, who was promptly sacked upon calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation, and former health secretary Matt Hancock also rocked up to the party whose guest list also included top political journalist Laura Kuenssberg and chairman of The Spectator Andrew Neil.
It comes as Tory MPs begin vying for Boris’ premiership in what is set to be a bitter shootout for the right to succeed the outgoing PM.
Boris Johnson was pictured ‘laughing and joking’ last night as he canoodled with a group of elites on a Whitehall terrace just hours after he announced his resignation
Meanwhile less than half a mile away, several of the cabinet ministers and government officials whose resignations and criticism hastened the PM’s downfall enjoyed some schmoozing of their own at The Spectator’s summer party (Rishi Sunak pictured with Spectator chairman Andrew Neil)
Newly-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi, arrives at The Spectator’s summer party on Old Queen Street
Former health secretary Matt Hancock (centre) is pictured at the lavish press bash alongside BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg (right)
Former housing and communities secretary Michael Gove, who was sacked by Boris Johnson less than 24 hours before the Prime Minister resigned, also attended the press bash
Former housing and communities secretary Michael Gove, who was sacked by Boris Johnson less than 24 hours before the Prime Minister resigned, attended the Spectator press bash
Newly appointed secretary of state for Wales Robert Buckland is seen at the Spectator party yesterday
TV personality Georgia Toffolo is seen exiting the Spectator party
Prime Minister Boris Johnson reads a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, formally resigning as Conservative Party leader after ministers and MPs made clear his position was untenable
The jovial atmosphere displayed by Johnson and co. on the Dover House terrace last night does not reflect the mood which hung in the air in Downing Street hours earlier.
Johnson’s team were said to be in tears as the Prime Minister finally conceded he had run out of options, while the Conservative leader himself was said to have been ‘sanguine’ rather than angry upon realising they had ‘tried everything’ around 8.30am yesterday morning.
He announced his resignation from the post yesterday afternoon before adding he would stay on in a caretaker role until a new leader is appointed – though it is believed some mutinous MPs want him gone as soon as possible.
Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, who yesterday was joint favorite with Rishi Sunak to succeed Johnson as the new PM, has reportedly ruled out running, as has Michael Gove, who was sacked by the PM last night and branded a traitor for urging him to go.
Senior Tories are now gearing up to launch leadership bids, and Nadhim Zahawi, who went from being the PM’s new Chancellor and savior to his assassin in the space of a day, is rumoured to have been planning his for months with the help of Johnson’s election guru Sir Lynton Crosby.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the hallway of No10 on Thursday before delivering his statement resigning as the leader of the Conservative Party
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, watched by wife Carrie Johnson (centre holding daughter Romy), delivers his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street, London
Carrie Johnson, the wife of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, cradles their daughter Romy as she listens to her husband resign his post as PM
A snap YouGov poll taken last night revealed that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is the clear favourite among Conservative Party members to replace Johnson – but he has not yet said whether he intends to run.
‘He’s still the Prime Minister’, Wallace reminded reporters yesterday, adding that once Johnson has left ‘I will be happy to talk’.
Former soldier and Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat meanwhile is understood to have taken an early lead in the leadership race with more than 20 backers.
He announced in a Telegraph column that he would be running for leadership, writing: ‘I have served before – in the military, and now in Parliament. Now I hope to answer the call once again as Prime Minister. It’s time for a clean start. It’s time for renewal.’
Sunak, whose shock resignation on Tuesday came just nine minutes after that of former health secretary Sajid Javid and plunged Johnson’s government further into crisis, already has a temporary campaign office set up in a hotel close to Parliament, according to the Mirror.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss is yet to declare – but she has long been suspected of harbouring leadership ambitions, posing for photos that recall Margaret Thatcher as well as echoing her passion for freedom and low taxes.
She has also been hosting ‘Fizz with Liz’ drinks in order to boost her support among fellow Tory MPs.
Liz Truss (left at G20 foreign ministers’ summit) will pitch herself as the female Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership race – a candidate who can win seats both in the South and the Red Wall
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) has not ruled himself out of the race for Tory leadership after Johnson resigned yesterday
Amid chaos at home, Ms Truss flew to Indonesia yesterday for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers, leaving her an 18 hour flight away in Bali today.
But it is understood she cut short her attendance at the meeting to fly back to London to canvass for a bid to succeed Boris Johnson.
The minister, who is finalising plans for her campaign, will argue she can keep together the coalition of voters who backed Johnson at the 2019 general election when he won a thumping majority.
A close ally told The Daily Mail last night: ‘She is popular in both the Red Wall and the Lib Dem-facing marginals we need to keep hold of.’
In a swipe at former chancellor Sunak who raised national insurance, Truss will declare that she is a ‘low-tax’ Tory who will ‘get the economy moving again’.
The ally added: ‘She is vastly experienced and knows how to drive difficult policy through Whitehall… She is tough and delivers and gets things done.’