Yesterday in the Prime Minister’s Questions there were several very clear calls directed to Boris Johnson for him to resign and his response was simply for the nation and Parliament to wait for the answer from the inquiry by Sue Gray. Given his admission and indeed vague apology words it seems very strange that the assessment of what has happened in his setting by numerous people needs to be published before an action from him can take place. He began his session with “Mr Speaker, I want to apologise” and a few words later he stated
I know the rage [millions of people] feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.
Though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things that we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility. No. 10 is a big department, with the garden as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus. When I went into that garden just after 6 o’clock on 20 May 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event, but with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them, and I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way—people who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside—and to them, and to this House, I offer my heartfelt apologies. All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others, so that the full facts can be established. I will of course come back to this House and make a statement.
The starting point from Keir Starmer included these words
The Prime Minister’s defence that he did not realise that he was at a party is so ridiculous that it is actually offensive to the British public. He has finally been forced to admit what everyone knew—that when the whole country was locked down, he was hosting boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign? Hon. Members Resign!
And the a response from Johnson
I want to repeat that I thought it was a work event. I regret very much that we did not do things differently that evening, as I have said, and I take responsibility and I apologise. As for his political point, I do not think that he should pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry. He will have a further opportunity, I hope, to question me as soon as possible.
Later on another element from Keir Starmer was
When the Prime Minister’s former Health Secretary broke the rules, he resigned and the Prime Minister said he was right to do so. When the Prime Minister’s spokesperson laughed about the rules being broken, she resigned and the Prime Minister accepted that resignation. Why does the Prime Minister still think that the rules do not apply to him?
And then a bit later
So we have the Prime Minister attending Downing Street parties—a clear breach of the rules. We have the Prime Minister putting forward a series of ridiculous denials, which he knows are untrue—a clear breach of the ministerial code. That code says:
“Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation”.
The party is over, Prime Minister. The only question is: will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or he will he do the decent thing and resign?
There were a number of other people who followed the Keir Starmer comments and here are some of the words each of them used. Next was Ian Blackford of SNP
The Prime Minister cannot “get away with it” again. Will he Prime Minister finally do the decent thing and resign, or will his Tory MPs be forced to show him the door?
Trust has been lost; the public will not forgive or forget. If the Prime Minister has no sense of shame, the Tory Back Benchers must act to remove him. They know that the damage is done. This weak and contemptuous Prime Minister can no longer limp on.
The message from the public is clear: remove this unfit Prime Minister from office, and do it now.
Stephen Farry of Alliance in Northern Ireland
Today’s apology is too little, too late. If the Prime Minister were sincere, he could have apologised at any stage over the past 18 months, rather than waiting until he was found out.
For once, can the Prime Minister do the honourable thing and resign, for the sake of the public health message, and for standards in our democracy?
Steven Bonnar SNP
Figures released just last night show that 79% of people in Scotland think the Prime Minister should step down. Does he realise that it is now clear to all that, although he may not understand how to be socially distant from others, there is no doubt that he is morally distant from the rest of us across these nations, and that the best thing he can do now is to go? Resign, Prime Minister!
Toby Perkins Labour Chesterfield
We all know that the Prime Minister was sacked from two previous jobs for lying, so can he explain to the House why he believes that the great office of Prime Minister can be held to a lower standard than those previous jobs that he was sacked from?
Chris Bryant Labour Rhondda
The Prime Minister did not spot that he was at a social event. That is the excuse, isn’t it? Come off it. How stupid does he think the British people are? The worst of it is that he has already managed to completely destroy Allegra Stratton’s career and tarnished the reputation of Lord Geidt, and now he is making a fool of every single MP who cheered him earlier and everyone who goes on the radio and television to defend this shower of shenanigans. Would it not be absolutely despicable if, in the search for a scapegoat, some junior member of staff ended up losing their job while he kept his?
And the final person was Ed Davey as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party
After another shameful week for the Prime Minister’s Government, this has been a shameful attempt to apologise to the House today. Can the Prime Minister explain why the only person to have resigned so far following this scandal is Allegra Stratton, a woman, while he, the man who sanctioned and attended at least one party in 10 Downing Street, still sits in his place? Advisers advise and Ministers decide. So will the Prime Minister, for the good of the country, accept that the party is over and decide to resign?
And the response from Johnson for Ed Davey was consistent with his responses to all of the other MPs including Keir Starmer
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I respect the point he is making, but I must say I disagree. I would ask him to wait and see what the inquiry says. I will be very happy to talk to him then.