Boris Johnson to face MPs as ‘partygate’ outrage grows

·4-min read

Boris Johnson will on Wednesday face MPs in the Commons as outrage grows over the ‘partygate’ scandal that has engulfed No10.

The Prime Minister has been warned his position will be “untenable” if he knowingly attended a “bring-your-own-booze” party in the No 10 garden in May 2020 in breach of Covid rules.

He has been under growing pressure to say whether he was at the gathering after an email from his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds to Downing Street staff was leaked on Monday.

Downing Street has refused to say if he was present.

Mr Johnson was spotted leaving Downing St on Tuesday but will have to return to face MPs at PMQs on Wednesday. He dodged scrutiny in the Commons on Tuesday, sending paymaster general Michael Ellis to face an urgent question instead.

The Prime Minister has said it is a matter for Sue Gray, the senior civil servant who is investigating a series of reported parties in Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall in the course of 2020.

Conservative backbencher Nigel Mills warned any senior figure who willingly attended the event could not have a position setting Covid-19 policy.

“It is utterly untenable, we have seen people resign for far less than that,” he told BBC News.

“If the Prime Minister knowingly attended a party, I can’t see how he can survive having accepted resignations for far less.

“He accepted the resignation of his spokesperson (Allegra Stratton) for not attending a party but joking about it at a time of much lighter restrictions. I just think that’s untenable.”

Mr Mills added: “I don’t think we need an inquiry to work out whether the Prime Minister was there. He knows whether he was there or not. Just come out and say what happened.

“If he was there he better try a hugely fulsome apology and see if the country will buy it but I’m not sure they will.”

Sir Charles Walker, the vice chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, said there was a lot of anger over what had happened and said the Prime Minister urgently needed to rebuild public trust.

“I think the Prime Minister needs to spend the next six months restoring trust in No 10 and making some good and strong decisions. I think that is the challenge for him,” he told Channel 4 News.

Asked if Mr Johnson had that long to win back support, Sir Charles said: “That is for him to decide, for the parliamentary party to decide. But I think the Prime Minister is a fighter and he’ll want to prove to his doubters that he is up to the job.”

Majority think Johnson should quit

Amid growing public anger two snap polls found a majority now believed Mr Johnson should stand down as Prime Minister.

A Savanta ComRes study found 66 per cent of British adults thought he should quit, with 24 per cent saying he should stay while a YouGov survey for Sky News found 56 per cent believed he should go, with 27 per cent saying he should remain.

In the Scottish Parliament First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Johnson should resign, claiming he was “not being truthful” about his knowledge of the various parties.

Responding to opposition calls for Mr Johnson to resign in the Commons, Mr Ellis told MPs the Prime Minister was “going nowhere”, adding that he “retains the confidence of the people of this country and he did so two years ago with the biggest majority in decades”.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Mr Ellis said the Gray inquiry “will establish the facts and if wrongdoing is established there will be requisite disciplinary action taken”.

The investigation could be paused if evidence emerges of a criminal offence and the Metropolitan Police decide to launch an inquiry.

Scotland Yard said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the latest allegation.

The Tory benches were sparsely populated, in a possible indication of a lack of support for the Prime Minister’s position on the issue.

Earlier, health minister Edward Argar told the BBC he could “entirely understand” why people who had lost loved ones or who had their lives hugely disrupted by these restrictions were “angry and upset”.

Hannah Brady, of the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, whose father’s death certificate was signed on the day of the “socially distanced drinks”, wrote to the Prime Minister calling for him to say whether he attended the event.

She said: “It is a matter of common decency and respect for not only us or the British people, but the office you hold as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to tell us whether you attended this flagrant breach of the Government’s own rules.”

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