West Coast Tory MSPs urge Prime Minister to go over ‘partygate’

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The Highlands and Islands’ Tory MSPs want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to resign after he hosted a BYOB ‘work’ party at No 10 Downing Street during lockdown.

Mr Johnson is facing growing calls to quit from outside and inside his own party following his apology in the House of Commons last Wednesday for hosting a lockdown-busting ‘bring your own booze’ party in Downing Street on 20 May 2020 – which he insists he though was a ‘work event’.

At the time, social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place.

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 to 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, tackling the Covid pandemic required everyone to follow the rules and do the right thing.

‘That begins with those at the top. 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 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. It brings the Scottish Tories in rare agreement with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and SNP, who all urged Mr Johnson to resign.

Following further revelations, on Friday Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace for two further staff parties in No 10 on 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.

In Argyll and Bute Council, former Tory councillor Alastair Redman, a ‘campaign captain’ who backed Johnson to be Conservative leader in 2019, called the Prime Minister’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’.

The Kintyre and the Islands councillor, who was expelled from the Scottish Conservative party in 2021, now sits as an independent.

He said: ‘The Prime Minister’s actions have been unacceptable. To tell our nation to follow overzealous rules while failing to do the same is not the mark of good leadership. This is in stark contrast to the selfless leadership shown by our Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth during these trying times.

‘Our leaders, regardless of their political stripe, must lead by example.’

The council’s deputy leader and the region’s Conservative leader Councillor Gary Mulvaney, and its Provost, Conservative Councillor David Kinniburgh, have been contacted for their views.

Oban South and the Isles Conservative councillor Sir Jamie McGrigor, who served as a Highlands and Islands MSP for the party from 1999 until 2016, declined to comment.