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Sir Keir Starmer called for Boris Johnson to resign during a riotous Prime Minister’s Questions where Johnson faced a chorus of boos and jeers from opposition MPs. Tory MPs were, from the perspective of his survival or otherwise, ominously silent.
In his questions, the Labour leader branded the Prime Minister a “pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road” after he admitted he attended an illicit garden party during the first national lockdown. He also claimed that the public feel he is “lying through his teeth”, which Speaker Lindsay Hoyle allowed to go on-record despite complaints from the government front-bench The party is over for the PM, said Starmer.
A grovelling Johnson said he understands the public’s rage. The PM, who has previously described Starmer as “Captain Hindsight”, deployed hindsight himself when he said that he wished he and his team had handled things differently. He claimed that the gathering of up to 40 aides in Downing Street was a “work event” and that the garden at Number 10 was an extension of the office.
The Chamber was packed, but disgruntled Conservative backbenchers stayed mute throughout and looked on as their leader tried to deflect an onslaught of calls to quit. The Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford urged Tory MPs to “force him out the door”.
The situation for Johnson was so desperate that Alberto Costa, a Tory MP, asked a question about washing machine filters. It did not wash with the opposition who interrupted him with gales of laughter.
Under further questioning, Johnson repeated that he will not be commenting more until civil servant Sue Gray’s inquiry has concluded. The whole thing could be delayed by months if the Metropolitan Police launches a formal investigation, although the expectation now is that a robust Gray will not accept being blocked in this way.
Could Gray’s report when it lands as early as next week prove to be the end of Johnson? With reports that letters of no confidence are being sent to the 1922 Committee calling for a vote of no confidence the party may, indeed, be ending for the PM.
Here is the Prime Minister’s apology in full:
Mr Speaker, I want to apologise.
I know that millions of people across this country have made extraordinary sacrifices over the last 18 months.
I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love.
And I know the rage they feel with me or 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.
And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.
And I must take responsibility.
Number 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.
And when I went into that garden, just after six on the 20th of May, 202, to thank groups and staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later, to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.
But Mr Speaker, 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 are forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.
And 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.