Boris Johnson has defended his attendance at Number 10 going away parties during lockdown as ‘fair’ and ‘part of my job’. The Prime Minister has resisted calls to resign, despite Sue Gray’s damning report.
His report, published today, heavily criticized both the rallies that took place in Downing Street and Whitehall, and the leaders who allowed such shindigs to occur. It has led to polls suggesting that three in five Britons think the Prime Minister should leave.
Mr Johnson again apologized for his attendance at the events, but also insisted it was ‘part of my job’ to go. He made the comments during a televised press conference this afternoon.
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Mr Johnson said: ‘I tried to explain why I was at other events saying goodbye to valued colleagues. I know some people will think it was wrong to do that. I have to say I respectfully disagree, I think that was fair.
“When people who worked very hard, for very long hours, when they give up a lot to serve their country and move on to another part of government or leave government service altogether, I think it’s right to thank them I repeat what I said in the Commons earlier, I believe these were business events, part of my job, and that view seems to be supported by the fact that I don’t have not been fined for these events.
Sue Gray’s 60-page document also blasted how maintenance staff like security and cleaners were treated. On this point, the Prime Minister added: “For the rest, I just want to say that I appreciate that things did not go as I would have liked. Events then unfolded in a way that I certainly would not have wanted to see. What happened with the guards and cleaners was totally unacceptable and I apologize for that as I apologized to them personally.
Following the publication of the report, Labor MPs across Greater Manchester called on the Prime Minister to resign. In the Commons, Lucy Powell, sitting on the Labor bench, could be heard shouting ‘you’re inconvenient’ as Mr Johnson continued his statement.
Fellow Manchester MP Afzal Khan called on the Prime Minister to leave, he said: ‘The laws broken by the Prime Minister, Chancellor and others were not victimless crimes. Were not stupid rules and meaningless red tape, they were designed to protect lives.
“The doctors and nurses caring for my loved ones at North Manchester General Hospital weren’t clocking in for ‘wine hour on Friday’ so for the first time in his life will the Prime Minister do what must and will he resign?” Mr Johnson said: ‘No’.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labor leader, urged Conservative backbenchers to deliver letters of censure to Altrincham MP Sir Graham Brady, who heads the 1922 committee. He said: “Members of the opposing benches must now also show leadership.
“This Prime Minister is leading the country in the wrong direction. They can hide in the back, eyes covered, praying for a miracle or they can act. Stop this out of touch and out of control Prime Minister from leading Britain . towards disaster.”
It is understood Mr Johnson will address Tory MPs in a private meeting this evening.
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