Tory minister tries to defend PM in car crash interview – ‘It’s an opposition campaign’

·4-min read

A Tory minister has been mocked for her attempts to defend Boris Johnson after he admitted attending a Downing Street party during lockdown.

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean spoke on BBC's Politics Live in the immediate aftermath of Prime Minister's Questions, during which Johnson apologised for spending 25 minutes at the garden party, and claimed he thought it was a work event.

On Monday, a leaked email was published by ITV news inviting staff to the party and telling them to "bring their own booze".

Despite widespread public outcry, Maclean claimed that the issue was a "an opposition driven campaign" and downplayed suggestions that Johnson should resign.

Maclean described the PM's actions as a "lapse in judgment".

She said: "No of course I don't think he should resign. This is clearly an opposition-driven campaign.

Read more: Boris Johnson admits he went to No10 party during lockdown - 'I understand your rage'

Tory minister Rachel Maclean said that the fury against Johnson is an
Tory minister Rachel Maclean said that the fury against Johnson is an "opposition driven campaign" (BBC)

"I think there are some people who are furious, rightly, and all of us share that anger on all side of the house and the general public.

"But let's face it, if Boris Johnson resigns the opposition are not going to be happy with any Conservative prime minister so I think we just need to separate the political issues here from the issues at hand which is this particular party, this instance, and no I don't think he should resign."

During the interview former Tory MP Anna Soubry tweeted: "Could someone tell Rachel McClean she’s making things worse and should stop digging now - she’s embarrassing herself."

Maclean seemed to stumble after suggesting that the PM should follow his own laws, before refusing to repeat what she had said when pressed on it.

"The law of the land applies to everybody," she said.

"Including the prime minister. The people that make the laws are also subject to the laws.

Read more: Moment Boris Johnson asked to say sorry to daughter of COVID victim he met in No 10 garden

Labour MP Alison McGovern could not believe what she was hearing (BBC)
Labour MP Alison McGovern said she could not believe what she was hearing. (BBC)

"And that's why we've got this due process of this inquiry to find out exactly what went on and if any laws were broken there will be consequences."

When challenged by the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg, who suggested that if the inquiry found he did break the rules and therefore should resign, Maclean refused to repeat what she had said previously.

"I'm not going to repeat what I've just said, but clearly there are consequences."

Johnson is now facing the biggest challenge of his political career, facing calls to resign from not only Labour, but from within his own party.

He admitted attending the gathering inside the walls of the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020, despite meetings between more than two people from different households being banned.

Johnson issued an apology and said he only went because he thought it "was a work event".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has slammed the apology, calling it ridiculous" and "insulting", and calling on Johnson to resign.

He said: "There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has finally run out of road.

"His defence that he didn't realise he was at a party is so offensive to the British public' 'is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?"

Senior Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said it was clear Johnson misled parliament and that he is politically a “dead man walking”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday January 12, 2022.
Johnson pictured after apologising for attending a party in Downing Street during lockdown. (PA)

“Unfortunately what the prime minister has said today leaves people like me in an impossible situation,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One.

“We now know that the prime minister spent 25 minutes at what was quite clearly a party. That means that he misled the House.

“I fear that it is now going to have to be the work of the 1922 (Committee) to determine precisely how we proceed.

“If you look at the Twittersphere after prime minister’s question time today, it sounds to me I am afraid very much as though politically the Prime Minister is a dead man walking.”