The former chairman of the Conservative Party has branded Boris Johnson a “moral vacuum” on the eve of the local elections.
Chris Patten, who was the last governor of Hong Kong, slammed the Prime Minister over the Partygate scandal and said it would be “foolish” to think his job had been saved by the war in Ukraine.
He was speaking ahead of a lecture at Newcastle University, where he was previously chancellor for a decade, on Wednesday night.
Lord Patten told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that any backlash at the ballot box on Thursday to Covid rule breaches in Downing Street will not be “a determining factor” in the PM’s future, but said: “I think the continuing pitter patter of fines from the Metropolitan Police and, above all, the Sue Gray report are likely to be issues. Against that, the background is pretty grizzly with the economy, all the problems associated with energy prices, all of which is made more difficult by Brexit.
“I am just not sure how much this will affect the exotic mood at Westminster. Whether we will continue to have a moral vacuum at the heart of government I just don’t know.”
The former minister, who chaired the Tory party from 1990 to 1992, added that it would be “foolish” to believe that Mr Johnson’s tenure had been rescued by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He said: “You could change a leader even if you are witness to a war going on somewhere else.
“I just don’t know what will finally shake him off. He is obviously going to have his hands on the doorknob at Number 10 clenching very hard onto that door.
“I guess they will have to be peeled off with some difficulty. What I hope for is to have a Conservative government some time.”
Mr Johnson, who visited the North East on the campaign trail earlier this week, insisted on Tuesday that he has the “right agenda for the country” and “of course” will lead the Tories into the next general election.
Lord Patten was on Tyneside to deliver a lecture, organised by the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, on the economic and political difficulties facing both Russia and China.
Arguing that the West was now facing up to a “post-peak” Vladimir Putin, he said: “One of the surprises for Putin must have been that Russian soldiers were not greeted with bouquets and cheers when they went into Ukraine, second that one of the consequences was not just the explosion of Ukrainian patriotism and courage in standing up for itself but also the extent to which the EU and European countries came together.
“He was hoping that he could divide NATO and the EU and, apart from one or two shaky members like Hungary, the rest of Europe has behaved extremely well.
“If you look at Putin’s card the economy is in tatters, the ruble is in the dirt, half his foreign exchange is confiscated, he has NATO, Europe and the US all working together, and the Russian army has been humiliated.”