Boris Johnson will later meet the House of Commons under intense pressure from Conservative MPs and Tory donors – and in light of public anger – to answer questions about a “bring your own booze” event in Downing Street during the first COVID lockdown .
The prime minister, who has so far avoided questions about new allegations from a party that puts the lockdown at number 10, will appear before MPs from noon in what will become one of the most significant Commons moments of his political life.
Tory MPs have openly speculated that Mr Johnson should resign if it turns out that he has strictly violated coronavirus rules at the height of the UK’s first national lockdown.
And both Conservative and opposition MPs are demanding that the Prime Minister confirm whether he attended a drink in the Downing Street garden on 20 May 2020.
Sky News understands Mr Johnson and his wife Carrie were among approximately 40 in attendance at the event at the height of the UK’s first national shutdown.
So far, the Prime Minister and No. 10 officials have declined to comment on the May 20 event as a senior official, Sue Gray, continues her investigation into multiple allegations of violating coronavirus rules in Downing Street.
Johnson evaded an appearance in the House of Commons on Tuesday to answer questions about the new ‘partygate’ claims and instead sent a junior minister to MPs.
But there are mounting demands that the prime minister come forward with a full account of the May 20 event, which was reportedly organized by one of his key aides.
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Labor question ‘yes or no’ answer
Labor will try to use Mr Johnson’s performance during the Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday afternoon to get a “yes or no” answer as to whether he attended the May 20 event.
The party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “Boris Johnson must stop wasting everyone’s time and treating the British public like fools.
“He can’t hide anymore. He needs to finally clear up and answer the question: did he break the lockdown rules he told the rest of us. Yes or no?”
Ms Rayner replaced Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs last week after the Labor leader tested positive for COVID for the second time.
But Sir Keir could return to the House of Commons shipping box if, under new coronavirus guidelines, he gives the second of two negative lateral flow results on Wednesday morning, 24 hours apart.
Tories want answers too
There is also serious pressure from Mr Johnson’s own party to explain to him the May 20 event during PMQs, with some Tory MPs viewing the Prime Minister’s responses as crucial to his chances of political survival.
Douglas Ross, the Moray MP and leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described himself as “furious” at the new allegations and told Sky News that Mr Johnson “had to sort this out right now”.
He also urged Johnson to step down as prime minister if he was found to have broken COVID rules or misled parliament about the ‘party gate’ row.
Robbie Moore, Conservative MP for Keighley, said he was “outraged” by the appearance of an email from Martin Reynolds, Mr Johnson’s chief private secretary, inviting number 10 staff to “make the most of the nice weather” with “some socially distancing drinks” on May 20th.
At the time, Britons were only allowed to meet outside with one person from another household for a short time, as long as they stayed two meters apart. Mixing with multiple households was still prohibited.
Mr Moore said answers were “needed quickly”, while Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer described the new row as “humiliating” in a public apology to a voter.
Sorry. It’s humiliating and doesn’t reflect the majority of my colleagues who *at least try* and lead by example. Thank you for your sacrifice and your wife’s work. I will always represent you above all else. https://t.co/wkzvzP4K7s
— Johnny Mercer (@JohnnyMercerUK) January 11, 2022
Prime Minister ‘must consider his position’
In her own responses to the outraged voters, Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes wrote: “I have no words to adequately express how angry I am at the ‘don’t do what I do, do what I say’ attitude that seems to have prevailed. in Downing Street.”
Derek Thomas, Conservative MP for West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, warned that if Mrs Gray’s or the Metropolitan Police’s inquiry found that “the alleged activities were illegal and that the Prime Minister was aware of, or involved in , I think he has his position”.
Poole MP Sir Robert Syms tweeted Tuesday evening: “I agree these are serious allegations and I hope we get a full explanation from the Prime Minister tomorrow!”
There was also anger among Conservative donors, with Phones4U founder John Caudwell telling the Prime Minister: “Explain it, Boris, or step aside and let someone else figure it out so the Tories don’t get wiped out in the next election. “
Polls suggest the public is turning against PM
Two opinion polls on Tuesday suggested the public was turning against the prime minister.
A YouGov poll found that 56% of respondents believed Johnson should resign over the new “party gate” allegations, while 27% said he should stay.
And a Savanta ComRes survey found that 66% of UK adults thought he should quit as prime minister, while 24% said he should stay.
Johnson is also facing anger from the families of COVID victims, with Hannah Brady – whose father died of the coronavirus in May 2020 – writing to the Prime Minister telling him it was “just a matter of decency and respect” for him to to provide answers.