Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has said Boris Johnson’s position is “completely untenable” following allegations that he and his wife Carrie were among around 40 people present at a Downing Street garden drinks party at the height of the UK’s first national lockdown.
Ms Rayner told Sky News the prime minister has “not only broke the rules, but he’s lied to the British public” and said the fact Mr Johnson has not yet come forward to explain his account of the event “shows the measure of the man”.
The prime minister, who so far has avoided questions over the alleged “bring your own booze” event, will face the House of Commons at midday amid intense pressure from Conservative MPs and Tory donors.
PM urged to explain events
Both Conservatives and opposition MPs are demanding the prime minister confirms whether he attended a drinks gathering in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020.
Speaking to Kay Burley, senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood called on Mr Johnson to “act now and apologise for Number 10’s poor judgement”, while the Liberal Democrats are calling for the PM to resign, saying he has “become a threat to the health of our nation”.
“Boris Johnson has broken the law and lied to parliament and the country, and he must now go,” the party’s leader Sir Ed Davey said in a statement.
Amid increasing public anger at the latest “partygate” claims – with two opinion polls on Tuesday suggesting the public was turning on the PM – Wednesday’s PMQs is set to be one of the most important Commons moments of Mr Johnson’s political life.
Labour has confirmed that Keir Starmer has recorded two negative lateral flow tests on day six and day seven of his isolation period after testing positive for COVID last week and will be able to face Mr Johnson question at noon.
A YouGov poll showed 56% of respondents believed Mr Johnson should resign over the fresh “partygate” allegations, with 27% saying he should remain.
And a Savanta ComRes study found 66% of British adults thought he should quit as prime minister, with 24% saying he should stay.
Ministerial support absent
No government minister was made available for media interviews this morning, and Ms Rayner said it is “shameful” that the prime minister has so far avoided scrutiny about the latest Downing Street party allegations which have left the public “cheesed off”.
“I think it is shameful that Boris Johnson, over the last couple of days, hasn’t answered the central question – yes or no, were you at a party in 10 Downing Street when everyone else was in lockdown?,” she said.
“So I think it is not surprising today that no one would turn up to answer it because, quite frankly, to anyone who lost a loved one, who was not able to visit them and see them in their dying hours, it is pretty despicable to find that they were partying at Number 10.”
Ms Rayner added: “It shows that he has not only broken the rules, but he has lied to the British public and I think that makes his position completely untenable.”
Labour’s deputy leader said Conservative MPs “need to ask themselves the question ‘why are we propping up this man who has lied to the British people and who has broke the rules and broke the law?'”
Downing Street dodges ‘partygate’ questions
Downing Street has refused to say if Mr Johnson was present at the May event, but Sky News understands he and his now wife were among around 40 people to attend at a time when such gatherings were banned.
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 to determine what happened.
There was frustration among Tories at the failure of Mr Johnson to address the latest allegations on Tuesday by sending Paymaster General Michael Ellis to respond on his behalf to an emergency Commons question on the issue tabled by Labour.
Waning Conservative support
In a possible indication of waning support among Conservative MPs for their leader, the government’s own benches were sparsely populated.
Conservative MP Mr Ellwood told Kay Burley: “We have got to regroup, we have got to upgrade the Number 10 machine and rebuild trust with the nation – yet here we are going back over the same ground around the very same buoy, buoying, I am afraid, the very same tactics – don’t explain, don’t apologise, hoping it will blow over.
“It is not blowing over. And it is no longer just about the optics in how unfair all this looks, which we actually spinning into denial that there is nothing to see here – and that is just compounding matters.”
Mr Ellwood added: “I strongly urge the prime minister to act now, to apologise for Number 10’s poor judgement, show some contrition and to be committed to appropriately respond to Sue Gray’s findings when they come out. We can’t allow things to drift, that is not an option.”
Speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross demanded Mr Johnson “just answer the question” about whether he attended the ‘bring your own booze’ event in May 2020.
Scotland Yard has said it is in contact with the Cabinet Office about the latest allegation.