DOWNING STREET, LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine): During the first coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended a “bring your own booze” party. The PM has been under constant scrutiny for the same and offered a “heartfelt apology”.
He told MPs that the event in the Downing Street garden was “technically within the regulations,” but that he should have anticipated the public reaction.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party’s leader, said the Prime Minister must resign because of his “ridiculous” excuses and lies.
Mr Johnson is also facing heat from his own MPs regarding the May 2020 party.
William Wragg, a senior backbencher and chairman of the select committee, said the PM’s situation is “untenable” and that he should leave before senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report on Downing Street parties is published.
“I don’t feel it should be entrusted to the conclusions of a civil servant to decide the future of the prime minister and indeed who runs this nation,” Mr Wragg said on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
A challenge will be triggered if 54 of MPs write to the 1922 committee, a prominent backbench group that oversees Tory leadership contests.
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader and an MP and MSP, said he would write to the committee because the Prime Minister’s stance was “no longer tenable.”
“He is the prime minister, his government set these rules, and he must be held accountable for his acts,” Mr. Ross added.
Mr. Johnson was “battered and crestfallen” as he spoke to his MPs, according to a senior Tory source, adding he had “lost what made him so successful with his party.”
Sir Roger Gale, a long-time critic of Mr. Johnson, claimed the PM was now “a dead man walking” politically.
Minister Rachel Maclean cautioned that anybody who disobeyed the law regarding coronavirus limits will face penalties.
‘The law of the country applies to everyone…including the prime minister,’ she stated on BBC Two’s Politics Live. The individuals who write the laws are also the people who are subject to the laws, which is why we have this inquiry to find out exactly what happened, and in case any laws were broken, there will be repercussions.”
At the commencement of Prime Minister’s Questions, the Commons went silent as Mr. Johnson acknowledged he had spent roughly 25 minutes at the Downing Street gathering on May 20, 2020, to “thank groups of employees” for their hard work.
“I assumed implicitly that this was a work event,” he stated.
“In hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside,” he said.
He should have found another way to thank them, and he should have recognised that, though it was technically within the guidelines, there would be millions and millions of people who wouldn’t see it like that, he added.
Sir Keir Starmer, in a statement, said: “That concludes our discussion. The pitiful sight of a man who has run out of road after months of lies and deception.
“His defence…that he didn’t realise he was at a party…is so absurd that it offends the British public.”
He went on to ask if Mr. Johnson would resign out of decency.
Mr. Johnson said he understood people’s “anger” at the suggestion that “people in Downing Street were not obeying those guidelines” after they had “made great sacrifices throughout the pandemic.”
He added, “I regret the way the event I have described was handled. I bitterly regret it. And wish that we could have done things differently.”