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Watch: 'PM's going nowhere', minister claims amid party backlash
A minister has insisted Boris Johnson is “going nowhere” as he faced calls to step down over an alleged lockdown-breaking party in Downing Street.
Paymaster General Michael Ellis — who was sent out to answer an urgent question from Labour in the PM’s place — dismissed suggestions Johnson should resign if he was found to have broken the law.
Labour’s Ben Bradshaw asked: “If the prime minster broke the law, he will resign, won’t he?”
Ellis hit back: “It is an entirely hypothetical position. The prime minister is going nowhere.”
The prime minister is once again battling claims that he flouted Covid lockdown rules by attending a Downing Street party of 40 people on May 20, 2020.
An email leaked to ITV news shows his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, had invited 100 Downing Street employees to the “bring your own booze” event “to make the most of the lovely weather”.
The UK was in a national lockdown at the time, with shops, pubs and restaurants closed and people only able to meet outdoors with one other person or members of their own household.
Police have since confirmed they are “in contact with the Cabinet Office” following reports of the party.
Johnson has so far refused to confirm whether he attended the event, instead saying it was matter for civil servant Sue Gray to investigate.
Sky News understands Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie were among around 40 people to attend a drinks event in the Downing Street garden during the UK's first national #COVID19 lockdown.
Read more about this story: https://t.co/xm7PGHZxTFpic.twitter.com/P3m9v6IzwX
— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 10, 2022
In a clip widely seen on social media, Johnson is seen smiling at the suggestion he may have attended the gathering.
His response and absence from the Commons sparked anger among MPs, some of whom demanded his resignation.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said Johnson’s absence “speaks volumes, as does his smirks in the media”.
But she added: “The public have already drawn their own conclusions. He can run but he can’t hide.”
Watch: Angela Rayner says PM's 'absence speaks volumes' at Commons party questioning
Meanwhile Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, remarked on empty Conservative benches and urged his opponents to “force him [Johnson] from office, and do it now.”
Ellis attempted to fend off furious questions over whether Johnson had attended the party and what he knew about it by repeatedly referring to Gray’s investigation into the claims.
He said the probe would “establish the facts” and he added: “If wrongdoing is established there will be requisite disciplinary action taken.”
Despite huge public and press interest, the prime minister’s official spokesman also refused to go into details while Gray’s investigation is ongoing.
“Given the claims and speculation that’s been reported on, what’s right is that the independent inquiry is allowed to carry out its work and we’re not seen to prejudge that in any way by only setting out our position to that investigation,” he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.