Caroline Nokes says Boris Johnson is 'damaging' Conservatives
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Earlier this week allegations surfaced of a separate Downing Street party which took place during the first nationwide lockdown. The development prompted Boris Johnson to issue a public apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday for the way he handled the event. Regardless, some senior Tories have heard enough and are now increasing pressure on the PM to quit.
During Wednesday’s session of Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Mr Johnson acknowledged his attendance at the gathering on May 20, 2020, for about 25 minutes, so that he could “thank groups of staff” for their hard work.
The PM said he “believed implicitly that this was a work event” in the Downing Street garden but added: “With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside”.
Mr Johnson’s apology led to highly charged scenes within the Commons and prompted some Tory MPs to afterwards urge him to step down from his position.
So, who were these individuals? What did they actually say?
Before the events that unfolded on Wednesday, the Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross had already called on the PM to go if he was found to have misled Parliament.
Mr Ross’ stance did not change after the PM’s apology and he said he had a “difficult conversation” with Mr Johnson following the end of PMQs.
To register his lack of confidence in the PM, he said he would write to the 1922 Committee – which organises Tory leadership contests.
He said: “He is the Prime Minister, it is his government that put these rules in place, and he has to be held to account for his actions.”
A leadership challenge will be triggered if 54 backbench Conservative MPs send letters to the 1922 committee.
William Wragg, a Tory backbencher, who chairs an influential select committee, said Mr Johnson’s position was “untenable”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I don’t think it should be left to the findings of a civil servant to determine the future of the Prime Minister and indeed who governs this country.”
Meanwhile, the Tory MP for Romsey and Southampton North, Caroline Nokes, encouraged the PM to step down as he was “damaging the entire Conservative brand”.
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Ms Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities Committee, told ITV’s Robert Peston: “Regretfully, he looks like a liability.
“And I think he either goes now, or he goes in three years’ time at a general election.”
Sir Roger Gale, who has been a Tory MP since 1983, also issued a call for Mr Johnson’s resignation.
He told Channel 4 News the PM’s apology was “too little and too late” and that “if you mislead the House of Commons, you seriously cannot stay in office”.
Despite calls for Mr Johnson to resign, cabinet ministers rallied to his defence, including Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.
Ministers have said it is important to allow Sue Gray – the senior civil servant who is investigating allegations of illegal Downing Street parties – to conclude her report before any decisions are made.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Chancellor Rishi Sunak – both tipped as potential successors to Mr Johnson as leader – also tweeted their support on Wednesday evening.
Ms Truss said she stood behind the PM “100 percent”, while Mr Sunak said Mr Johnson was “right to apologise”, adding he supported the PM’s call for “patience” while Ms Gray completed her investigation.
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