Cabinet minister defends Boris Johnson over party - 'He'd just come out of hospital'

Watch: Cabinet minister defends Boris Johnson attending Downing Street 'BYOB' party

A Cabinet minister has defended Boris Johnson attending a party in Downing Street during lockdown, saying he'd "recently come out of hospital".

Johnson is currently facing the biggest political fight of his life after admitting spending 25 minutes at a "bring your own booze" event in Number 10's garden in May 2020.

He apologised in the House of Commons on Wednesday, but is facing increasing calls for his resignation – including from senior members within his own party.

Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis defended his boss on Thursday morning as pressure mounts from across the political spectrum.

He told Sky News: "If we go back to 2020 and how things were, it is a working environment, including the garden itself.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Boris Johnson is facing the biggest political fight of his lifetime

"Having the staff together as the country was going through a very difficult period, the prime minister himself was only recently out of hospital, we were still trying to work and get the PPE up.

"The prime minister was going outside to thank the staff for the phenomenal effort that team were doing.

"In hindsight he should have said for them to come back in, but he went out to thank the staff."

Johnson spent a number of days in hospital after contracting COVID-19 in April 2020, with the then-foreign secretary Dominic Raab having to assume power while Johnson recovered.

He added that he could see the "logic" of going outside - despite people in England being banned from socially gathering in more than pairs at the time.

"The garden is actually an integral part of Downing Street," Lewis said.

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"I absolutely can see the logic of the prime minister going outside to talk to the staff who have been working together focussed on things around COVID all day to thank them.

"He has rightly said in hindsight that's not something he would do."

Lewis also backed Johnson to win the next election - despite currently facing calls from within his own party to resign.

Although some Cabinet ministers have jumped into action to defend Johnson, the late interventions of foreign secretary Liz Truss and chancellor Rishi Sunak – both tipped as potential successors – did little to instil confidence in his future.

File photo dated 21/10/2021 of Rishi Sunak who said it is
Chancellor Rishi Sunak's backing of Boris Johnson was tepid. (PA)

Sunak had notably spent the day away from London on a visit in Devon.

Johnson is facing open revolt from one wing of his party, as MP for Moray and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called on him to quit.

He has reportedly been joined by all 31 Tory MSPs wanted the PM to resign.

In total, four Tory MPs — Sir Roger Gale, Caroline Nokes, William Wragg and Ross — have called for Johnson's dismissal.

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