Scottish Tory leader urges Boris Johnson to quit over lockdown-breaking party

British PM apologises for attending Downing St gathering he ‘believed was a work event’

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has joined opposition leaders at Westminster in calling on Boris Johnson to resign after the prime minister admitted attending a lockdown-breaking party in May 2020.

Mr Ross said there was significant unrest and concern over the prime minister’s attendance at the event with about 40 other people in the Downing Street garden while lockdown rules allowed meetings with just one other person outdoors.

“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 told Sky News.

Mr Ross was joined by half of the Conservative members of the Scottish parliament and by his predecessor as Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson in calling for Mr Johnson to go. Two other Conservative MPs, Roger Gale and William Wragg, also said the prime minister should step down.

“This is simply going to be a continuing distraction to the good governance of the country and I’m particularly concerned as a Conservative MP with the interests of the country, my constituency and the Conservative party, that a series of unforced errors on matters of integrity are deeply damaging to the perception of my colleagues and the party, and that is deeply unfair to them,” Mr Wragg told the BBC.

Earlier, Mr Johnson apologised for his attendance at the event, to which his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds invited around 100 Downing Street staff, telling them to "bring your own booze". The prime minister told MPs that he acknowledged the sacrifices millions of people had made over the past 18 months.

“I know the anguish that they have been through, unable to mourn their relatives, unable to live their lives as they want or to do the things they love. And I know the rage they feel with me, with the government I lead, when they think that in Downing Street itself the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules,” he said.

Lockdown rules

Sue Gray, a senior civil servant at the cabinet, is preparing a report on the May 2020 party and a number of other events in Downing Street that may have broken lockdown rules. Mr Johnson said MPs should wait until Ms Gray concludes her investigation but he offered an explanation for his presence at the party.

“No 10 is a big department with the gardens as an extension of the office, which has been in constant use because of the role of fresh air in stopping the virus,” he said.

“And when I went into that garden, just after six on the 20th of May, to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believed implicitly that this was a work event. But with hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside. I should have found some other way to thank them. And I should have recognised that even if it could be said technically to be within the guidance, there would be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson's apology was worthless and that his explanation was an affront to the public after months of concealing the truth from them.

“His defence that he didn’t realise he was at a party is so ridiculous that it’s actually offensive to the British public. When the whole country was locked down he was holding boozy parties in Downing Street. Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?” he said.