Partygate: The senior Tory MPs who haven't backed Boris Johnson

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens during a joint press conference with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) inside the Downing Street briefing room following a bilateral meeting at 10 Downing Street on April 8, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by  Ben Stansall-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
A number of Tory MPs have not rushed to the defence of the PM after the Met Police issued him with a fine for rulebreaking in Downing Street during lockdown. (Getty Images)

A number of senior Tory MPs have failed to defend Boris Johnson after he and Rishi Sunak were issued with fines for attending a rule-breaking gathering in Downing Street during lockdown on 19 June 2020.

Both the PM and the chancellor have issued an apology over the incident, with ministers and backbenchers jumping to their defence in the face of calls to resign from the opposition.

However almost 24 hours on from the fine, a number of ministers have been notably silent, including home secretary Priti Patel, attorney general Suella Braverman, policing minister Kit Malthouse, and leader of the House of Lords Baroness Evans.

Read more: Boris Johnson's actions 'stupid and indefensible’, says Tory minister

Other prominent MPs that are yet to comment include potential Tory leadership candidates: trade policy minister Penny Mordaunt, and chair of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat.

Just one Tory MP has publicly called for the PM to step down.

Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley, said: “I don’t think the PM can survive or should survive breaking the rules he put in place…we have to have higher standards than that of people at the top. He’s been fined, I don’t think his position is tenable."

In contrast, senior ministers including foreign secretary Liz Truss and health secretary Sajid Javid went public with their support.

Truss said: "The prime minister has apologised and taken responsibility for what happened in Downing Street.

"He and the chancellor are delivering for Britain on many fronts including on the international security crisis we face. They have my 100% backing."

Staunch Johnson ally and culture secretary Nadine Dorries, became the first cabinet minister to come out in support of the prime minister on Tuesday.

"PM has been clear about what happened on 19th June 2020 & offered a full apology. It was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room, less than 10 minutes during a busy working day," she tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel (L) and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) attend the second day of the annual Conservative Party Conference being held at the Manchester Central convention centre in Manchester, northwest England, on October 4, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
Close ally of Boris Johnson home secretary Priti Patel still had not come to the prime minister's defence almost 24 hours after news of the fine broke. (Getty Images)

Read more: 'There weren't any pole dancers': Tory MP defends Boris Johnson after Partygate fine

Justice secretary and deputy PM Dominic Raab said: "The PM has accepted the Met’s decision & apologised.

"I fully support the PM and chancellor as they focus on maintaining the UK’s international leadership against Russian brutality in Ukraine, and delivering our recovery from the pandemic for the British people at home."

On Tuesday, the prime minister said he understood the "rage" the public felt over his rule breaking on Downing Street – but insisted he wasn't aware it breached the law "at the time".

“And I have to say, in all frankness, at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules. But of course the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation," said Johnson in a broadcast clip.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak during a visit to Fourpure Brewery in Bermondsey, London, after Sunak delivered his Budget to the House of Commons. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021.
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak apologised for breaking the law on Tuesday but did not resign. (PA)

Sunak also issued an apology.

"I understand that for figures in public office, the rules must be applied stringently in order to maintain public confidence. I respect the decision that has been made and have paid the fine," he said.

Read more: Boris Johnson's actions 'stupid and indefensible’, says Tory minister

“I know people sacrificed a great deal during COVID, and they will find this situation upsetting. I deeply regret the frustration and anger caused and I am sorry.

"Like the prime minister, I am focused on delivering for the British people at this challenging time."

Labour have lambasted the pair, calling on them to resign and accusing them of lying to the British public given both previously emphatically denied they had broken lockdown legislation.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz (not pictured) inside 10 Downing Street in London, on April 8, 2022. (Photo by TOM NICHOLSON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by TOM NICHOLSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Defenders of Boris Johnson have argued that the prime minister needs to focus on Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis and therefore now is not the time for him to resign. (Getty Images)

"This is the first time in our country’s history that a Prime Minister has been found guilty of breaking the law - at a time when Britain made unimaginable sacrifices. And then lied about it," Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted.

"Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have dishonoured their office. They must resign."

Former Scottish Tories leader Ruth Davidson also called on the prime minister to resign.

"Met confirms what we already knew: the PM introduced liberty-curtailing rules for public health reasons," said Davidson.

Read more: Boris Johnson: I don’t believe I ever lied about Partygate in Parliament

"This caused huge hardship for those separated from ill or dying loved ones. He then broke the rules he imposed on the country & lost the moral authority to lead.

"He should go."

Watch: PM pays partygate fine; apologises for lockdown ‘mistake’

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