Newsnight: Tory MP backs Boris and says the rule-breaking party is disputable

Boris Johnson 'not worthy as Prime Minister' says Harper

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The MP for Bournemouth West spoke to Kirsty Wark on Newsnight on Wednesday as he was questioned over the future of Mr Johnson in Parliament after the resignations of multiple Tory staff members who broke coronavirus rules. Labour secured a vote in the Commons on Thursday that will decide if the Prime Minister should be investigated for misleading Parliament after Mr Johnson insisted he did not break the rules.

If the inquiry is voted for, Mr Johnson will be referred to the privileges committee that is made up of seven MPs who can sanction or suspend him. 

Despite this move by Labour and the backlash on Boris by some Conservative members of parliament, the inquiry is unlikely to be voted for as the majority of Tory MPs continue to stand behind the Prime Minister.

Mr Burns said on Newsnight: “I think what is going to emerge as this goes forward is some of the ‘parties’ we’re talking about, I think it is still disputable whether the event in the cabinet room was a party.

“The police are determined that it broke the rules.”

He added: “I accept it’s a breach of the rules, I accept it’s a breach of the rules with the numbers of people gathered there for those purposes, but in some of these events the Prime Minister wasn’t even present in the building.”

During Prime Minister’s Questions today in which Mr Johnson was lambasted by Keir Starmer, the PM continued to reiterate that he did not think he had broken the coronavirus rules at the time of the party.

Mr Starmer called the apology “a joke” and said that some members of the opposition “are gleefully playing the part the Prime Minister cast for them” and quoted a Minister who suggested that the partygate fine was equivalent to receiving a parking ticket.

The Labour leader added: “Don’t insult the public with this nonsense.”

Mr Burns claimed that “the Prime Minister has accepted [the breach of the rules] which is why he’s undertaken this fundamental overhaul of the operation to make sure that the culture changes, the processes change and this thing could not be allowed to happen in the future”.

Newsnight host Ms Wark asked at what point Mr Johnson will take personal responsibility for the fine and “at what point is it three strikes and you’re out? Or is it never that?”

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Mr Burns replied: “I think the Prime Minister was right to come today the first opportunity after the Easter recess to take questions from MPs, to make a very apologetic statement for what happened.

“We’ve got massive challenges as a country, and he has an agenda to deliver…an exciting agenda that delivers on the manifesto he was elected on and the biggest mandate since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.”

Meanwhile Tory MP Craig Whittaker for Calder Valley in West Yorkshire spoke to Newsnight and said: “I think the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, because he has been fined also, should do the right thing and resign.”

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