Mon, 23 May 2022

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Tory MPs Rallied By Boris Johnson Say He Doesn't Seem To Accept Wrongdoing In "Partygate"

Tory MPs Rallied By Boris Johnson Say He Doesn't Seem To Accept Wrongdoing In 'Partygate'
3 min read

Conservative MPs who have spoken to Boris Johnson about 'partygate' in recent days say the Prime Minister has given the impression that he does not believe he has done wrong.

Johnson has met with multiple Tory MPs in the last few days in a bid to shore up his under-pressure leadership ahead of the publication of the Sue Gray report into alleged lockdown parties in Downing Street and after the Met police announced it had decided to investigate the allegations.

But some MPs have come away from recent conversations feeling that the Prime Minister lacked genuine contrition for his part in the rule-breaking which took place in Downing Street while the country was under strict lockdown rules.

One senior backbencher told PoliticsHome that Johnson had used an "I haven't done anything wrong" line with Conservative MPs "which is not going down as well as he had hoped."

A junior minister who met the Prime Minister last week said he sought to reassure them that the scandal, which has resulted in the Conservatives plummeting in the polls and numerous Tory MPs submitting letters of no confidence, "would be over in six days."

Two weeks ago Johnson told the House of Commons that he wanted to apologise for the alleged rule breaking which took place in Downing Street and that is now being investigated, but that he himself had believed gatherings he's confirmed to have attended to be for work purposes.

"I have learned enough to know that there were things that we simply did not get right, and I must take responsibility," he told MPs. He added that he "implicitly" believed the Number 10 garden event on 20 May was a work event, not a party, and so was not in breach of the rules.

A former colleague of the Prime Minister said they were not surprised by accusations from Tory MPs that he has been reluctant to accept wrongdoing, saying "it's who he is through and through."

"You could have ten witnesses all saying he did X, Y, Z, plus fingerprints and CCTV to prove it, and he would still be in the dock insisting he did nothing wrong," they told PoliticsHome.

There have been multiple recent reports that while Johnson has expressed regret about the situation the government and Tory party find themselves in over the fallout from the string of revelations, he is reluctant to accept wrongdoing on his behalf about the allegations themselves.

The New Statesman said on Wednesday that as recently as the weekend Johnson and his wife Carrie did not believe they had done anything wrong, and considered people who attended parties in Downing Street during lockdown to be part of a household bubble.

Similarly, ITV's Anushka Asthana reported today that Johnson has been telling Tory MPs that the story is a "witchhunt" pursued by Labour and the media and that he would bounce back from it. 

A number of Conservative MPs who are mulling whether to push for a vote of no confidence say they are waiting for senior civil servant Gray's report to be released before making a decision.

There had been intense speculation that the government would publish the document today. However, at the time of writing it is considered unlikely to appear until Thursday at the earliest.

In Prime Minister's Questions earlier today, Johnson indicated that he would stick by a previous pledged to publish the Gray report in full. There had been suggestions that Downing Street would look to release a redacted version, while Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said this morning that "security issues" might prevent the document being published in full.

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