Boris Johnson is facing calls to quit from his own MPs after he apologised for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 during England’s first lockdown.
The prime minister apologised for attending the party for 25 minutes on 20 May 2020 – when people in England were being told by the government to only meet with one person outside.
But Johnson insisted he believed it had been a “work event” and Downing Street said he had never been sent an email encouraging staff to bring a bottle and “make the most of the lovely weather”.
While ministers rallied round the embattled PM following his admission and apology, four Tory MPs have broken ranks and called for Johnson to resign.
Caroline Nokes: 'He either goes now, or in three years' time at an election'
Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes said on Wednesday night that Johnson had “put himself in an impossible position”.
She told ITV’s Peston: “The message I’ve had from my constituents is they feel let down they feel disappointed, and I know how hard they worked through the pandemic to abide by the rules…
Watch: Boris Johnson repeatedly asked to resign at PMQs
“They now see that the prime minister wasn’t in it together with them, that the rules were being broken in Downing Street, and that’s very serious.”
Nokes said she recognised Johnson “did a fantastic job” at the 2019 election, but she said: “Now regretfully, he looks like a liability, and I think he either goes now, or he goes in three years’ time at a general election, and it’s up to the party to decide which way around that’s going to be. I know my thoughts are is that he’s damaging us now.”
Sir Roger Gale: ‘He knew there was a party, so he misled the House’
Veteran Tory Sir Roger Gale said the prime minister had “misled the House” about rule-breaking parties in Downing Street and argued that he should resign following his apology at PMQs.
Gale told the PA news agency: “The prime minister has said what he has said at the despatch box: he spent 25 minutes at what he described as a work event.
“Well, I’m sorry, you don’t have ‘bring a bottle’ work events in Downing Street, so far as I’m aware. And you don’t have ‘bring a bottle’ work events that are advertised or invited by the prime minister’s private secretary.
Gale highlighted how the PM said last month that he was “reliably assured that there were no parties” but now admitted attending one.
He added: “So he knew there was a party, so he misled the House. He said he believed there were no parties but he attended one – how do you square that circle?
“I think the time has come for either the prime minister to go with dignity as his choice, or for the 1922 Committee to intervene.”
William Wragg: ‘The prime minister’s position is untenable’
William Wragg, who is also the vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench MPs, said Johnson should go – but suggested the PM should take the decision to resign himself.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM that it was “a tragedy things have come to pass in this way”, and he said: “Unfortunately, I wasn’t reassured. I fear this is simply going to be a continuing distraction to the good governance of the country.”
He said it would be “preferable” for Johnson to offer his resignation himself as MPs were “tired” and “frankly worn out of defending what is invariably indefensible”.
Wragg added:“A series of unforced errors are deeply damaging to the perception of the party.
“The prime minister’s position is untenable.”
Douglas Ross: ‘If the prime minister was there… then I felt he could not continue’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross is perhaps the most high-profile Tory MP to call for Johnson to resign.
Ross said as the PM had now accepted he was at the event in the Downing Street garden, he felt Johnson could no longer continue in the position.
Asked if he thought the PM should resign Ross told STV News: “If the prime minister was there, and he accepted today that he was then I felt he could not continue.
“What we also heard from the prime minister today was an apology and he said with hindsight he would have done things differently, which for me is an acceptance from the prime minister that it was wrong and therefore, I don’t want to be in this position, but I am in this position now, where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives.”
Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has also backed Ross in his demand that the prime minister quits, tweeting: “A tough call to make. But the right one.”
Watch: Scottish Tory leader calls for Johnson to resign