Johnson appeals to Tory MPs for support after apology

MPs to vote on whether prime minister should face investigation over parties in lockdown

Boris Johnson on Tuesday night appealed to Conservative MPs to continue backing him after a former chief whip called for him to resign over lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

MPs will vote on Thursday on whether the prime minister should face an investigation by the privileges committee over his statements about the parties.

But he told a meeting of his parliamentary party at Westminster on Tuesday night that his government had "got the big calls right", telling them their choice was between him and a Labour government.

Earlier, he apologised “unreservedly” to the House of Commons for a breach of the rules that led to a police fine but he insisted that he had not deliberately misled MPs about a birthday celebration in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.

“It did not occur to me, then or subsequently, that a gathering in the Cabinet Room just before a vital meeting on Covid strategy could amount to a breach of the rules,” he said. “I repeat: that was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly.”

A number of Conservative backbenchers voiced support for the prime minister but former chief whip Mark Harper joined opposition parties in calling on Mr Johnson to resign.

Mr Harper, who was one of the leading backbench critics of the government’s pandemic lockdowns, has written to the chairman of the 1922 Committee expressing no confidence in the prime minister.

Conservative whips have told MPs they view Thursday’s motion on referring the prime minister to the privileges committee as a confidence vote and that anyone voting with Labour will lose the whip.

Labour leader Keir Starmer urged Conservatives to remove Mr Johnson from office, warning that the prime minister would otherwise bring them down with him. "He knows he's dishonest and incapable of changing. So he drags everybody else down with him," he said.

“The more people debase themselves, parroting his absurd defences, the more the public will believe all politicians are the same. All as bad as each other. And that suits this prime minister just fine.”