Boris Johnson has said he will not resign over lockdown parties in Downing Street but acknowledged that the ministerial code requiring ministers who mislead parliament to step down applies to him.
Speaking during prime minister's questions as MPs awaited the publication of a report into the parties by senior civil servant Sue Gray, Mr Johnson said Labour leader Keir Starmer wanted him to go for political reasons.
“Of course he wants me out of the way. He does, and – I will not deny it – for all sorts of reasons many people may want me out of the way, but the reason he wants me out of the way is that he knows that this government can be trusted to deliver, and we did. We delivered on Brexit. He voted 48 times to take this country back into the European Union. We delivered the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, and we will deliver on our plan to unite and level up across the whole of the UK,” he said.
Ms Gray is understood to have completed her report but was completing checks with lawyers, police and human resources officials before sending it to Downing Street. Mr Johnson has promised to make the report public as soon as practicable and to make a statement to the House of Commons.
The Metropolitan Police said this week that it would investigate a number of gatherings in Downing Street after information from Ms Gray suggested that serious breaches of coronavirus rules may have taken place. Conservative MP Mark Logan said Mr Johnson had shown real contrition and that if the prime minister had a “change of heart” he should remain in office.
“There has to be a huge change. There has to be a change of heart with the prime minister, there has to be a change of approach and a whole change to the infrastructure around the prime minister. But I believe if he digs – and when he digs deep – is that we can make that change and we can get over what has been a difficult couple of weeks for the government and for the country,” he told Sky News.
The prime minister faced fresh questions about his truthfulness on Wednesday when leaked foreign office emails appeared to contradict his denial last year that he personally authorised the evacuation of cats and dogs from Kabul ahead of people. Mr Johnson had described as “complete nonsense” reports that he had intervened on behalf of former royal marine Paul Farthing’s animal rescue charity Nowzad as British nationals and Afghans who had helped them were being evacuated.
But an email from the office of foreign office minister Zac Goldsmith dated August 25th last year said Mr Farthing’s charity had “received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated”.
A second email between foreign office officials the same day said another animal rescue charity was seeking similar treatment “in light of the PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity”.