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Two Tory MSPs in the Highlands and Islands have called on the Prime Minister to resign, following his apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday for attending a lockdown-busting ‘work’ booze party at No. 10 on 20 May 2020.
Boris Johnson is facing increasing calls to quit, from outside and inside his own Conservative party, as more Downing Street parties during strict Covid-19 restrictions come to light.
Jamie Halcro Johnston, a Highlands and Islands MSP for the Scottish Conservatives, said: ‘From my own experience of lockdown and being kept apart from my family and friends, I can fully understand the public reaction in recent days.
‘To allow me to meet my parliamentary responsibilities in Edinburgh, while avoiding putting my loved ones in Orkney at risk or bringing Covid into the islands, I was not able go home for nearly five months.
‘While I recognise the Prime Minister has acknowledged the palpable anger that is being felt across the country and apologised, tacking the Covid pandemic required everyone to follow the rules and do the right thing.’
‘That begins with those at the top. And that the Prime Minister hasn’t followed his own rules makes his position untenable.’
Donald Cameron, a fellow Scottish Conservative MSP in the Highlands and Islands, agreed: ‘The Prime Minister should step down. People are rightly angry that the rules that they were following were not being followed by those at the top of government.
‘While the Prime Minister made an apology, that was an acceptance that he was in the wrong and that makes his position untenable.’
Their calls echoed that of the leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross, an MSP and MP who told the PM directly on Wednesday that his position is no longer tenable.
It brings them in rare agreement with the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Angus MacNeil, who was in the Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, when Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all called Mr Johnson to resign.
In a bombshell email, marked ‘official sensitive, No10 only’, the PM’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds invited over 100 Downing Street staff to ‘bring your own booze’ to ‘socially distanced drinks in the No 10 garden’ after 6pm on 20 May 2020.
The Prime Minister began his speech to the House with an apology: ‘When I went into that garden just after six on May 20 2020, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event.’
At the time, social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.
Mr MacNeil said: ‘I have been contacted by constituents who are, quite rightly, angry at the actions of the Prime Minister.
‘At a time when there were challenges for everyone as we adapted our lives to abide by the strict rules with the aim of protecting the NHS and saving lives, it is beyond belief that this gathering was organised and went ahead.
‘There is no way back for Boris Johnson who has lost all public confidence and the only decent option for him is to resign.
‘The Investigation into the circumstances of the gathering at No.10 is to be carried out by Sue Gray, a Civil Servant appointed by the UK Government to investigate the UK Government. Essentially this is to find out if Boris Johnson knew that Boris Johnson was at a party in Boris Johnson’s garden. The Prime Minister is trying to make mugs of the public, but the public sees through him.’
Downing Street’s plan was to buy time waiting for an internal inquiry by Sue Gray, the Second Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office, but even that became untenable as Boris Johnson was forced to say sorry to the Commons and, on Friday, to the Queen.
Following further revelations on Thursday night, Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace for two further staff parties in No 10 the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral. Opposition parties contrasted the behaviour of No 10 staff with pictures of the Queen sitting alone at the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, due to Covid restrictions.