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- British Conservative Party politician (born 1975)
The British public should “move on” from the scandal over parties held at No 10 during the pandemic, foreign secretary Liz Truss has said.
Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson amid fresh allegations that two further drinks gatherings were held at Downing Street last April while strict Covid restrictions were in place – the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral.
However, Ms Truss suggested the prime minister’s apology for attending a “bring your own booze” event in the No 10 garden in May 2020 was good enough to draw a line under the matter for now.
Asked about questions over the PM’s “moral authority”, the senior minister told reporters: “The prime minister apologised on Wednesday. He was very clear that mistakes have been made.”
Defending the PM, Ms Struss said: “I do think we need to look at the overall position we’re in as a country: the fact that he has delivered Brexit, that we are recovering from Covid – we’ve got one of the fastest-growing economies now in the G7 and we’re delivering the booster programme.”
She added: “He has apologised, I think we now need to move on and talk about how we are going to sort out issues,” adding that people should “wait for the results of the Sue Gray inquiry”.
Ms Truss, one of the favourites to succeed Mr Johnson, said: “I completely understand people’s anger and dismay about what has happened. The prime minister apologised to the House on Wednesday – I 100 per cent support him to continue getting on with the job.”
The new allegations that two Downing Street parties took place the week after Prince Philip’s death, and on the eve of his funeral, emerged on Thursday evening.
The Telegraph reported that staff gathered after work for two separate events on 16 April 2021 to mark the departure of James Slack, Mr Johnson’s former director of communications, and one of the PM’s personal photographers.
Mr Slack apologised on Friday for the “anger and hurt” caused by his leaving gathering and said it “should not have happened”.
The revelation came as Andrew Bridgen, a leading Conservative backbencher, was the latest to publicly announce he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson.
He was the fifth Tory MP to say he had written to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, calling for a vote on the PM’s future as head of the party.
As many as 30 letters have been submitted so far, according to reports. A total of 54 are needed to trigger a vote.
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, who has called on Mr Johnson to go, said: “I clearly don’t know, and I shouldn’t know, how many of my colleagues have put in letters – I’m not canvassing them or seeking support for what I have done myself – but I believe that there is some momentum which is growing.”
Senior Tory MP Julian Knight said he was "open-minded" about the future direction of the Tories. Mr Knight, who is chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told Times Radio he had many people write to him to complain about Mr Johnson.
“I’d say about half of those – because I do monitor it very closely – are new correspondents and that is always a red sign on the dashboard,” he said.
It was reported that an inquiry into alleged lockdown-busting events by senior Cabinet Office official Sue Gray was expected to find no evidence of criminality. However, The Times reported that the investigation could censure Mr Johnson for a lack of judgment.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle warned the government it would be “entirely inappropriate” for any details of the inquiry into alleged Whitehall and Downing Street parties to be leaked.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has called on Mr Johnson to publicly address the latest party allegations.
Security minister Damian Hinds denied Mr Johnson was hiding from scrutiny by saying the PM had to reduce his social contacts after a close family member tested positive for Covid. Downing Street said Mr Johnson would be taking precautions until Tuesday.