Watch: Boris Johnson admits he went to No10 party during lockdown
Boris Johnson has been defended by a handful of senior ministers despite growing anger among his own MPs at his humiliating admission that he attended a 'bring-your-own-booze' gathering in May 2020 while the country was in lockdown.
The PM is clinging on to his political life with some senior Tories calling on him to quit.
In a statement to a packed but silent House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, Johnson apologised for going to the event but said he believed it had been a “work event”. Downing Street has said he had never been sent an email encouraging staff to bring a bottle and “make the most of the lovely weather”.
But in a sign of mounting Tory anger, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called for him to quit while another MP, Sir Roger Gale, branded the Prime Minister a “dead man walking” and said his position was untenable.
Crucially, the vice-chairman of the powerful Tory 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, William Wragg, also said Johnson should stand down before the findings of investigation into a series of alleged parties at No 10 is made public. He also described Johnson's position as "untenable".
However, after a 48 hours in which public support from colleagues has been noticeably lacking, some senior ministers finally put their heads above the parapet, insisting the PM's apology was sufficient to save his skin.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, said Johnson had got things right "again and again and again".
He dismissed opinion polls suggesting Johnson should resign, saying Tory MPs who have called for the PM to go were “people who are always unhappy”.
He said: “They are people who have never really supported the Prime Minister, therefore you would expect them to be relatively grumpy, and so that’s not surprising.”
Nadine Dorries, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid also supported the apology on Twitter, while Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told broadcasters that Mr Johnson would be in post “for many years to come”.
Whether it will be enough to prevent enough letters of no-confidence in Johnson to be sent by MPs will be seen. Fifty-four MPs would need to write to the 1922 Committee to make a leadership challenge possible and it is believed a small number have already made submissions.
During the bruising Commons appearance, Johnson apologised in various forms 12 times over the party – using the word “apologies” once, “apologise” seven times and “regret” four times.
He told MPs he had spent 25 minutes in Number 10's garden with others after an email was sent by his principal private secretary Martin Reynolds inviting people to"bring their own booze".
He admitted there were things "we did not get right", but added he did not realise the event, thought to have been attended by around 30 people, was a party.
At the time of entering the party, Johnson said he "believed this was a work event," but added: “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.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has slammed the apology, calling it ridiculous" and "insulting", and calling on Johnson to resign.
He said: "There we have it. After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has finally run out of road.
"His defence that he didn't realise he was at a party is so offensive to the British public' 'is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?"
“All I ask is that Sue Gray be allowed to complete her inquiry into that day and several others so that the full facts can be established.”
Downing Street has refused to say whether his then fiancee Carrie Symonds had attended the gathering, if Mr Johnson had noticed tables laden with food and drink or if he had brought a bottle of his own into the garden.
Watch: Boris Johnson's previous claims he followed the rules at every step
An internal investigation has been set up into the event, with senior civil servant Sue Gray heading up the inquiry
On Monday, ITV News published an email sent by Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s private secretary, inviting 100 Downing Street workers — including the PM — to a gathering after work on May 20, 2020.
It asked them to "bring their own booze", but took place at a time when the UK was under strict rules which only allowed people to meet in pairs in an effort to drive down the spread of COVID-19.
About 30 people are said to been at the party - with Johnson and his wife Carrie said to be among those in attendance.
Just an hour before the the party was held, the then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden fronted a Downing Street press conference reminding people that gatherings were still banned.
Watch: Bereaved families react to Downing Street party allegations