December 9, 2023


Supportive Business Potential

City heavyweights sour on Boris Johnson after ‘Partygate’

City heavyweights sour on Boris Johnson after ‘Partygate’

City heavyweights are losing patience with Boris Johnson after the ‘Partygate’ scandal, as support dwindles for a Prime Minister facing calls to quit from within his own government.

“The current Conservative Party has little credibility left with the City,” one asset management chief executive told Financial News. “Its tax and spend, goodies for everyone, and lack of managerial competence is almost [as] impressive [as] it is bad. Current business leaders – rightly or wrongly – are held to a high standard so Johnson’s clear flaunting of his own stupid rules doesn’t go down well.”

Investor concerns over the Prime Minister’s grip on the top job have resurfaced after he was fined by the Metropolitan Police earlier this month for breaking lockdown rules in attending what turned out to be a surprise birthday party for Johnson at 10 Downing Street. His wife Carrie Johnson helped organise the event. This was one of several gatherings held there while Covid restrictions were in place across the UK.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was also fined for attending the same gathering on 19 June 2020.

Veteran private equity boss Jon Moulton told FN that the Prime Minister is viewed as a “liability” and that “only the absence of a good alternative deters action”.

“I know no ardent supporters of the Prime Minister,” he said.

READ Boris Johnson has disappointed the City too — will ‘Partygate’ finish him off?

Another City veteran added: “We’ve never had much credibility in Boris, and it has got progressively worse. The general feeling is he’s made a fool of himself and the country, and he’s damaged our influence in the world.”

The comments come on the back of concerns raised over Johnson’s leadership after he addressed the Confederation of British Industry conference on 22 November.

During the now-infamous speech, Johnson extensively referenced Peppa Pig and impersonated a car, prompting some prominent City figures to question whether he was still up to the job.

At the same time, the Conservative Party is looking to bolster support in the Square Mile. A fundraising dinner was held in London on 26 April organised by Tory treasurer and investment banker Malik Karim, according to Sky News.

“There is no chance of most of the dinner attendees putting their hands in their pockets with this shambles in power,” said the fund management boss.

Analysis carried out by FN last year revealed that City donors increased their contributions to the Conservative Party in 2021, despite growing concerns over Johnson’s leadership as allegations of Covid rule breaches began to emerge.

Overall contributions from the largest City donors jumped by 21% in the 11 months to December 2021 to reach £982,100, compared with £790,916 for the whole of the previous year.

READ Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak to receive fines over lockdown parties

Gina Miller, the fund manager and founder of the True & Fair Party, said anyone donating to the Tories “is simply condoning the trashing of British values and principles”.

“A key metric in financial services is balancing cost, risk and returns,” Miller said. “Apply[ing] this when considering donating to Boris Johnson’s Conservative government would illustrate that he is costing the UK in terms of GDP, debt [and] lack of financial probity.”

She added: “We have a Prime Minister who does not do detail, failed to transition from a campaigner to a leader, failed business, failed to grasp financial probity, [and] failed to protect our precious international reputation.”

Number 10 was contacted for comment.

Steve Baker, Mark Harper and Nigel Mills are among a cohort of Conservative MPs who have called on the Prime Minister to step down following his fine for breaking lockdown rules.

Iain Anderson, who resigned as the government’s LGBT+ business champion earlier this month over Number 10’s decision not to ban conversion therapy for transgender people, said the City is “very keen to see the government deliver on its promises”.

“There should be huge investment opportunities opening up around levelling up and post Covid recovery, as well as innovative finance opportunities to support around the cost of living crisis,” Anderson told FN.

“Rather than more political change, all I hear is investors want to see delivery,” he said.

Johnson received widespread backing across the City ahead of the last general election in 2019, with business leaders and investors preferring him to the then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Conservative peer Baroness Ros Altmann said: “I do believe that the City would be very nervous about any prospect of a Labour government taking over the country – especially if there remain extreme left-wing elements who could drive policy.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Ricketts