‘Prime Minister does not refer to himself as big dog’ – No 10

Reports suggest 'Operation: Save Big Dog' was launched as part of efforts to protect the Prime Minister.

‘Prime Minister does not refer to himself as big dog’ – No 10 iStockFlickr
An investigation is being carried out by Sue Gray into the 'party-gate' scandal.

The Prime Minister does not refer to himself as “big dog”, his official spokesman has said.

It follows reports of a bid to save Boris Johnson from censure following the so-called ‘partygate’ scandal, which saw a number of social events held in Downing Street during lockdown.

There were suggestions that a concerted effort dubbed ‘Operation: Save Big Dog’ had been launched.

But when the Prime Minister’s official spokesman was asked whether Johnson was referred to by staff as “big dog”, he said: “I’ve never heard that term used.”

Asked whether the PM referred to himself by the nickname, the spokesman said: “Certainly not that I am aware of.”

During a media briefing, No 10 also said it was “not accurate” to suggest that Johnson knew about a party held in the Downing Street garden on May 20, 2020.

They said: “We made clear over the weekend that it’s untrue to say that the Prime Minister was told or warned ahead of that.”

The spokesman also denied Johnson had said people were “over-reacting” about the gathering.

Meanwhile, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Boris Johnson of resorting to “cheap, populist policies” to distract from the scandals engulfing his leadership.

The SNP leader made the comments as she re-iterated calls from her party for the Prime Minister to resign.

She said: “Instead of Boris Johnson taking responsibility, he appears to be preparing to pass the blame to those who work for him and around him, which I don’t think is the kind of thing you would expect from somebody who is leader of his party and Prime Minister.

“But also, looking for cheap, populist policies to try to distract attention, to use refugees and those seeking asylum to save his own skin.”

Sturgeon added: “A line has to be drawn under this and it’s now up to the Tory Party to decide what’s more important – protecting Boris Johnson or acting in the wider interests of the country.”

Analysis: ‘Brutal week ahead’

Kathryn Samson, STV News Westminster correspondent

Number 10 is bracing itself for another brutal week as we await the publication of Sue Gray’s report into partygate. 

That could come out within days, but might push into the start of next week. 

Over the weekend, reports emerged of a plan to save the Prime Minister by clearing out some key Downing street officials –  allegedly called ‘Operation Save Big Dog.’ 

This morning at a briefing for lobby journalists, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said he was not aware of the Prime Minister referring to himself as a ‘big dog’ as talk turned to ‘red meat’.

This is the accusation that the government is flinging out policy announcements on migrant boats and reforming the BBC to appease and distract the Tory party faithful. Number 10 denies this and argues they have been seeking to address these issues for some time. 

So far, only half a dozen conservative MPs, including Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, have been prepared to call for the Prime Minister to go. 

Most still say they are waiting for Gray’s report before going public. 

Last week we were told one of the PM’s close family members had tested positive for covid and he was reducing social contact. 

We haven’t been told whether we will see Boris Johnson in public before Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday.

His challenge this week is to avoid becoming isolated from his own party.