Pressure mounts on Boris over ‘bring your own’ party
Boris Johnson is facing pressure to quit over allegations he attended a coronavirus lockdown-busting “bring your own booze” party in the Downing Street garden.
The prime minister continued to support senior official Martin Reynolds, who invited colleagues to the gathering in May 2020 during England’s first lockdown, and has refused to say if he attended it himself.
Downing Street said Mr Reynolds, the prime minister’s principal private secretary, “continues in his role” after ITV news published the email he sent to colleagues encouraging them to bring alcohol to the event to “make the most of the lovely weather”.
Asked whether Mr Johnson still had full confidence in one of his most senior aides, the prime minister’s official spokesman said he did.
There was mounting anger within the Tory ranks over the latest scandal involving the prime minister, whose future could now hinge on the findings of an investigation into allegations of rule-breaking parties.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said Mr Johnson should come clean about whether or not he was at the event.
Saying he felt “furious” when he heard reports of the party, he told the PA news agency: “I’m angry. I think that reflects what people across Scotland and the UK are feeling right now.”
Mr Ross restated his view that the prime minister could not continue if he is found to have misled Parliament about the so-called ‘partygate’ rows.
The leaked email, which came to light on Monday, was an invitation to “socially distanced drinks” following an “incredibly busy period” as the government dealt with the initial wave of Covid-19.
Mr Johnson will face a difficult session of Prime Minister’s Questions today but dodged scrutiny in the Commons yesterday, sending paymaster general Michael Ellis to face an urgent question instead.
The prime minister has refused to say whether he attended the gathering along with his now wife Carrie – although it has been widely reported he was there – insisting it was a matter for the investigation being led by senior official Sue Gray into a series of alleged rule-breaking parties held in Whitehall and Downing Street during the pandemic.
But Mr Ross said: “Nothing would undermine what Sue Gray is trying to do, for the prime minister to come out and answer a very simple question. Was he at the party or not?”
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 decides to launch an inquiry.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said the prime minister’s absence from the urgent question “speaks volumes” and “the public have already drawn their own conclusions”.
l Morning View, page 18