(Bloomberg) --

The U.K. must avoid a “divisive leadership conflict,” the chairman of the Conservative Party said in standing by embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Oliver Dowden spoke as some Conservative Party members of parliament call for Johnson to step down after a string of damaging reports about parties at No 10 Downing Street during the country’s coronavirus lockdowns. 

On Sky News, Dowden said Johnson should stay on after making the “right call” on the nation’s Covid-19 vaccine booster program, but also needed to make a commitment to “addressing the culture on Downing Street.” 

“It’s essential we should address the kind of failings that allowed this to happen,” Dowden said on “Trevor Phillips on Sunday” of the happy hours and parties held while the U.K. was under lockdown. “He is committed to upping our game.”

According to a senior Westminster source in the Sunday Times, 35 Tory MPs have submitted letters of no-confidence in Johnson. That’s still short of the 54 that would be required to trigger a vote on his leadership.

One Conservative speaking up was Tim Loughton, who called Johnson’s position untenable in a statement posted Saturday on Facebook. 

“Most people have expressed genuinely held views and have been deeply troubled, angered or appalled by recent events involving Number 10,” Loughton said. “That includes people who have previously been great supporters of Boris Johnson as well as Conservative Party members.”

Another MP, Tobias Ellwood, told the Telegraph that among his constituents emailing about the recent reports were “many party members saying: ‘I’m simply shocked by this.’”

With his back to the wall, the Times reported that Johnson is considering staff changes, and also plans to soon announce a range of measures, from banning alcohol at his office to setting plans to help the National Health Service end its years-long backlog of patients. 

Most immediately, Johnson is expected to soon lift most or all of England’s “Plan B” coronavirus measures as of Jan. 26, as cases tumble to a one-month low and hospital admissions stabilize. 

Recent opinion polls have shown Johnson’s Conservative Party shedding support in the traditionally Labour-voting districts in northern England that the Tories flipped in the last election.  

Nationally, Labour now holds its biggest lead over the Conservatives since 2013, according to an Opinium poll taken for the Observer. 

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