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Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross calls for Boris Johnson to resign

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has added his voice to calls for Boris Johnson to resign, saying the prime minister’s position is “no longer tenable”.

It follows Johnson’s apology at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions for attending a “bring your own booze” gathering in the garden of No 10 in May 2020 while the country was in lockdown.

He insisted he believed it had been a “work event”, and told MPs that he attended the  gathering for around 25 minutes to “thank groups of staff” but “with hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside”.

Johnson faced calls to quit from opposition parties as well as some within his own party.

Ross said that, as the prime minister had now accepted he was at the event, he should step down.

Douglas Ross and Boris Johnson on the election campaign trail in 2019 (Pic: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AP/Shutterstock)

Ross, who is both an MP and MSP, told STV: “I said yesterday if the prime minister attended this gathering, party, event, in Downing Street on the 20th of May, then he could not continue as prime minister.

“So, regretfully, I have to say his position is no longer tenable.”

Ross said that he’d had a “difficult conversation” with Johnson on Wednesday afternoon and would be writing to the 1922 Committee to express his lack of confidence in the PM.

The Moray MP said: “There was one simple question to answer yesterday, indeed from Monday night when we saw this invitation which was to more than 100 people asking them to join others in the Downing Street garden and bring their own booze.

“If the prime minister was there, and he accepted today that he was then I felt he could not continue.

“What we also heard from the prime minister today was an apology and he said with hindsight he would have done things differently, which for me is an acceptance from the prime minister that it was wrong and therefore, I don’t want to be in this position, but I am in this position now, where I don’t think he can continue as leader of the Conservatives.”

He added: “I spoke to the prime minister this afternoon and I set down my reasons and I explained to him my position.”

Fellow Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said he fully supported his leader’s calls, tweeting: “I’m afraid the prime minister’s position is no longer tenable, he has lost public trust, and in the interests of the country and the Conservative Party he should step down.”

Jackson Carlaw, Tory MSP for Eastwood and leader of the Scottish Conservatives between February and July 2020, said he also agreed.

“People in Eastwood, and across the UK made enormous sacrifices to follow the rules,” he said on Twitter.

“Given that the PM has now confirmed he attended a rule breaking gathering, he has lost the confidence of the country, so I believe Douglas has made the right call & that the PM should stand down.”

Earlier today, Johnson acknowledged public anger, saying: “I know the rage they feel with me and with the Government I lead when they think in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.”

He said an inquiry was examining the situation but he had “learned enough to know there were things we simply did not get right and I must take responsibility”.

Downing Street refused to say whether his then fiancee Carrie Symonds had attended the gathering, if Johnson had noticed tables laden with food and drink or if he had brought a bottle of his own into the garden.

All such questions were a matter for senior official Sue Gray’s inquiry, the prime minister’s press secretary told reporters.

But she insisted Johnson had not been sent the invitation email from his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds encouraging colleagues to “bring your own booze” to the garden.

At just after 6pm on the day of the event, the time the invitation had specified for people to gather to “make the most of the lovely weather”, Johnson said he went into the garden to thank staff for their efforts and stayed or 25 minutes.

“I believed implicitly that this was a work event,” he said.

“With hindsight I should have sent everyone back inside.

“I should have found some other way to thank them.

“I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to fall within the guidance, there are millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way, people who have suffered terribly, people who were forbidden for meeting loved ones at all inside or outside, and to them and to this House I offer my heartfelt apologies.”

Johnson’s press secretary insisted that he was not a liar and “he is not resigning”.

Veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale said it was already clear that Johnson misled Parliament and that politically he was a “dead man walking” and it was either up to him to quit or be forced out by the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee.

Sir Roger told the PA news agency: “The prime minister has said what he has said at the despatch box: he spent 25 minutes at what he described as a work event.

“Well, I’m sorry, you don’t have ‘bring a bottle’ work events in Downing Street, so far as I’m aware.

“And you don’t have ‘bring a bottle’ work events that are advertised or invited by the prime minister’s private secretary.”

Sir Roger, a prominent critic of Mr Johnson, added: “I think the time has come for either the prime minister to go with dignity as his choice, or for the 1922 Committee to intervene.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the prime minister to resign.

“After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road,” Sir Keir said.

“His defence … that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public.”

He added: “The party’s over, prime minister.

“The only question is will the British public kick him out, will his party kick him out, or will he do the decent thing and resign?”

The embattled prime minister also faced calls to quit from the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey.

Hannah Brady, from the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said that, if Mr Johnson does not step down, then his MPs have a “moral duty” to remove him.

Her father Shaun Brady, 55, died just a few days before the “bring your own booze” event and his death certificate was signed on the day it was held.

The Commons chamber was packed in anticipation of Johnson’s first public response to the leaked email about the May 20 2020 event although Chancellor Rishi Sunak, viewed as a potential successor as Tory leader, was notably absent on a visit to Devon.